There have been many recordings of Mahler's Fifth and many still available. I can't claim to have heard them all or anywhere near so I can only speak as I find with this version. Quality varies greatly but the almost schizophrenic nature of the piece must make it a nightmare for conductors to interpret.
Reasons to Recommend: 1. Firstly a remarkable budget price - but this is no bargain basement recording; 2. Superb live recording quality - ok you hear the odd polite cough but this only adds to the sense of being at an event and not a sanitised studio. I'm glad they weren't edited out and the sound is detailed and spacious anyway. 3. Interpretation - this is the main reason to purchase because this is a very well-paced version that never drags but never sounds strained either. There is no sense of this being an emotionally restrained version, which is a key point because it tracks a journey from darkness to light. Barenboim traces this difficult journey without resorting to histrionics or melodrama. That's not to say the more heated versions by Frank Shipway or Leonard Bernstein don't have a lot to recommend them. Having said all that; he certainly doesn't have the feel for this music in the way, say, that Klaus Tennstedt has.
Reasons Not to Recommend: 1. If you don't like live recordings or the odd cough. 2. Orchestral Playing: The CSO is a fine orchestra with a famed brass section but both the brass and strings often sound stiff, harsh and unyielding. Orchestras that are more familiar with this work make it sing, dance and sigh in a way that the CSO doesn't manage here.
Sorry that's all I've got. I am, overall, quite impressed with this but I'll not pretend it is the best when there are so many alternatives available: At this price though you can afford this and to try others.
This is a bargain price recording of a performance of Mahler 5 which is anything but bargain bnasement. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra are on superb form for the maestro. Recording quality is first class.