Like Peter Clark above I have very fond memories of the Decca Bruckner cycle on LP - Abbado's 1st, Horst Stein's 2nd and 6th, Bohm's 3rd and 4th symphony are all magnificent recordings. I remember liking the Maazel 5th a lot and listening to it again in the Eloquence reissue I am surprised how much I still like it. Maazel can be a very uneven conductor but he was often at his best in Vienna, as in his fine Sibelius cycle. Maazel gets the VPO to provide a lot of fine detail often lost in other recordings. The tempo changes within this great synphony are well - controlled and there are none of the egocentric mannerisms that some conductors indulge in. Maazel seems to strike a balance between being flexible and providing a sense of structure and there is a strong sense of line throughout the symphony leading to a great cumulative power in the last movement. There is little of the sense of striving for a mystical experience that can seem selfconcious with several other conductors. I was surprised to find that in listening to Maazel and the VPO again everything seemed natural and unforced. The recording quality is full bodied and up to the highest standards of the classic Decca Sofiensaal period. The best performance of this symphony that I have heard live was with Abbado and the Gustav Mahler Jugend Orchester at the Proms in 1993. Abbado's VPO recording is good but this Eloquence recording seems more natural and with greater detail. Haitink's Concertgebouw recording is also excellent but with less good recording quality. This is a fine recording for repeated listening. Highly recommended.
One still bemoans the lack of a VPO/Bruckner cycle and the closest they've come is the recording of 1-9 with a motley crew of conductors back in the '60s and '70s - Solti, Bohm, Stein, Mehta and for No.5, Maazel. You notice the question mark in my review title: it's harder to make that assessment for the VPO because there are more live/studio recordings of them than of the Berliners (a mere 4). I haven't got around to the likes of Klemperer, Schuricht or Harnoncourt, none of which are my speed, but Maazel's reissue was so cheap I thought I'd take a punt, just as with Barenboim the other day.
A couple of minutes difference, a warmer and more easygoing confidence to the Viennese, but apart from that it's much the same kind of result; not that Maazel and Barenboim have the same ideas (they don't) but both are on the outside looking in, overlaying a kind of programme of their own, and the major joy in either case is the sumptuous sound and playing. Both orchestras were off-base to some extent, the BPO in the Schauspielhaus, Maazel's team and the Decca engineers in the Sofiensaal. Maybe some good came of that. We have excellent analogue stereo with a touch or two of spotlighting, both engineered and in the sense that Maazel is adding little emphases of his own. Tarting up Bruckner is of course anathema, and my only previous experience of Lorin was the scherzo of the 8th from London whose radio relay I switched off in a huff. Judging by the timings for the latter day BRSO concert the reading got baggier as the years began to toll, but on this occasion his reading is very fine and more my kind of Bruckner than Barenboim's relentlessness. He certainly channels the strings' tonal allure at key points. But maybe there is a touch of coarseness to the brass playing in Vienna; Karajan said that in the 70s they had too many bad days, and whilst I keep my distance from Karl Bohm I lately read that his sessions for Nos.7 & 8 have their occasional blemishes to depress the listener. The Berliners' corporate excellence does rather dazzle, so it's fair to say that while Barenboim's impresses, Maazel's pleases.
For a variety of reasons, my first Bruckners were on Decca, (4 and then 3 with Karl Bohm and VPO) and then this came out; we are talking vinyl days by the way. It was released as a double album, no breaks in movements. It was a superb example of the Decca/Sofiensaal/XXX/VPO, where XXX was pretty much any conductor. Decca had a permanent recording setup there in Vienna, and the VPO was more or less the house band! Maazel can handle these majestic works; I think he's an under-rated conductor and far more adventurous than some of the usual suspects, so to find this finally released by Eloquence makes it worth buying whether you have others or not. The sound is superb, natural, detailed and the performance has no "idiosyncracies" (like one in particular of said usual suspects, HvK/BPO, which is unlistenable! It's a sound effects record). Jochum/Dresden/EMI is highly regarded, but only available in the complete set, (very good) or paired with #6, which is the weak link of that set. If you are just venturing into Brucknerland, then this Maazel or Tintner on Naxos would be a good choice. I also play the Inbal/RSOF/Teldec-Warner quite a lot as well, but if you like that "Decca sound" then get this Maazel.