12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Exhilarating, memorable Mahler from Abbado, full of personality,
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.5 (Audio CD)
I don't think any orchestra can play Mahler with more individuality than the Berlin Philharmonic. They've been gifted with great Mahlerians, Abbado and now the present day Rattle. This Mahler 5th is played with stunning power, with the Berliners giving their all. This was recorded just a few years after Abbado's takeover at Berlin, but Abbado's mark has already been left. Abbado's Berlin plays with more freedom of expression than with Karajan. (That's not necessarily to say that Karajan's Berlin is inferior to Abbado's; Karajan boasted visionary gifts and could achieve supernatural concentration.) Yet Abbado doesn't just let things roll by or become infatuated with the sound to his orchestra to the point of letting it become an end in itself. Abbado doesn't let a minute pass by without placing a firm stamp of individuality on the music.
Abbado's orchestra was lighter and fleeter in texture than either Karajan's or Rattle's. This could have worked against Abbado when he interpreted the composer who demands such power and depth. But it didn't, as Abbado used his Berliners' new-found freedom of playing to unleash his own personality and vision. The Berliners set the music on fire, making for a dazzling display of orchestral virtuosity. Clarity is present to the highest degree, with every note and phrase being articulated with astonishing agility. One of Abbado's greatest strengths as a musician is that he rarely struggles with overstatement, which means that even when he's at his most inspired the music will never become bombastic or overblown. (One can't say the same thing about Karajan.) When he's caught full of ideas, like on this disc, the music making is wonderfully infectious. Under his direction the Berliners play with marvelous beauty of tone, enabling them to deliver the ravishing melodies Mahler incorporated into his score without a care in the world. This is pure music making with no fluff.
Comparing this to Rattle's later recording of this piece with the same orchestra, Abbado comes out on top, as he allows himself to be entirely taken up with the music, whereas Rattle can sound more mannered. DG's sonics for Abbado are wonderful, but EMI was still getting adjusted to the Philharmonie's acoustics when they recorded the Rattle. For those trying to decide between the two, Abbado is the better choice, although the Rattle is certainly a success.
In closing, this is a phenomenal disc that showcases a wonderful conductor and orchestra at the height of their powers. Please buy it and enjoy.