MAHLER, Claudio Abbado, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor
1 Trauermarsch. In gemessenem Schritt. Streng. Wie ein Kondukt 12:54
2 Sturmisch bewegt. Mit grosser Vehemenz 15:17
3 Scherzo. Kraftig, nicht zu schnell 17:40
4 Adagietto. Sehr Langsam 11:55
5 Rondo - Finale. Allegro - Allegro giocoso. Frisch 14:40
- Claudio Abbado - conductor
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra - orchestra
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As with just about all the Mahler symphonies, Abbado has made multiple recordings of the Fifth, but this, his first, remains his finest, and an exceptional performance by any standard. It has all of the famed Chicago virtuosity but also a welcome attention to detail and willingness to savor a phrase that you almost never find with Solti’s Chicago Mahler. It’s great to hear a coda to the second movement that for once does not sound anti-climactic. We expect the horn playing in the scherzo to be stunning, and so it is, but the music also has grace, charm, and plenty of atmosphere at an appropriately relaxed basic tempo that, as you can hear, leaves plenty of space for the big moments to expand.
The one controversial element in this performance, at least by today’s standards, is the very, very slow tempo for the Adagietto: a bit more than twelve minutes. It’s gorgeously played and beautifully sustained. I don’t consider it to be too slow. Within the context of the performance it fits, particularly when the finale has so much contrasting energy and freshness. Sonically, too, this was probably the best of Abbado’s Chicago Mahler recordings, a fine analog effort that was eclipsed by the subsequent rise of mostly awful sounding early digital productions. DG seems to have stopped using SPARS codes on its discs, at least for this reissue, hiding the fact that this is not an original digital production, but that’s all to the good. Surely one of the great Mahler Fifths, this performance represents one of the rare times that Abbado lived up to his potential in a Mahler symphony.
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