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Gustav Mahler: Symphony #5

4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 21, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Considered one of the greatest orchestras in the world, The Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra is led by an equally illustrious conductor, Maestro Yuri Temirkanov. This CD presents the very first recording of a Mahler symphony done by this orchestra with Temirkanov, and it's also the very first recording of this orchestra done in Russia by an American record company. This was recorded during a concert performance at the Great Hall in Saint Petersburg which is renowned for its acoustics.

Product Details

  • Performer: Yuri Temirkanov, St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Audio CD (June 21, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Water Lily Acoustics
  • ASIN: B0009PLM1W
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #364,842 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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The lead review is right on both counts, I think. This Mahler Fifth could only have come from a great conductor, and it must be endured in bad sound. It's become a cliche to divide the history of Mahler performance in two - the first era is Before Bernstein, the second After Bernstein, dating from 1960 onward. Temirkanov seems to have no inkling of this. His style owes nothing to Bernstein's high emotion and charisma. At the same time, t doesn't track with the interpretation of the Fifth by Bruno Walter with the NY Phil., the most famous recording in the mono era.

How to describe it? With no Mahler tradition to speak of in Russia, Temirkanov rethinks every bar. It is quite startling to hear the first movement played gently and mournfully, with very soft contours and an overflow of tenderness. The funeral march rhythm doesn't pound away; accents are minimal, although he does make Mahler's sudden eruptions of sound count. This gentler mood sets the tone for the whole performance, which might imply a certain sleepiness. But Temirkanov is wide awake and alert to every change of mood and pace. He takes me back almost to the extreme rubato of Mengelberg; the only difference is that Temirkanov's rubato feels truer to the score, less arbitrary and imposed (not that Mengelberg wasn't a great pioneer of Mahler in the twentieth century).

the simplest thing to say is that where other Fifths grind along, this one soars at every opportunity. The Adagietto is so natural and touching, it seems miraculous that every conductor can't see do clearly into it. The problematic finale is as joyous as everything else; its ebb and flow has the same naturalness. Perhaps my favorite movement, however, is the Scherzo, which sails into another dimension.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dmitri on February 9, 2011
Format: Audio CD
The performance of this Mahler 5th is great from what I can make of it. Temirkanov makes himself known in this recording as one of the greatest living conductors today. There is something of the Russian Soul as someone said in the Mahler 5th which is brought out so well. Yet Water Lily Acoustics and their technology in the early 21st century seemed to have ruined what would otherwise be a great CD.

I am giving this CD five stars because I do believe in the performance so strongly. Just as long as you know about my caveat that it is one of the worst sounding modern recordings that I've ever heard. The sound is diffuse and weak and ill-defined. I think that there are some MONO recordings that may sound better with the exception of the tape hiss from those recordings. The whole concept behind the engineering was well-intentioned. It was to fiddle very little with a lot of microphones and processing machines. Unfortunately, I guess, you don't get well recorded sound this way.

The St. Petersburg Orchestra is generally pretty strong. For a long time the former Leningrad city had one of the premiere orchestras of the U.S.S.R.. As legend has it the Russians were paid very little for the work they did and had poorer instruments than the West. They remain a strong ensemble, but I am always critical when I hear them because they were from Shostakovich's hometown.

If anything this is a conductor's CD. It mostly showcases Temirkanov's talent to interpret Mahler. I like his interpretation. It isn't corny like Bernstein's VPO effort. It is rather serious and dark or maybe even stark. The Adagietto is beautiful, but so is the rest of the symphony.

So beware this CD sounds bad literally speaking, but the interpretation of the music is phenomenal. A technical lead zeppelin, but a stratospheric reading.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By darreen on January 9, 2007
Format: Audio CD
I do esteem Mr. Temirkanov, in fact I regard him as the finest living Russian conductor, and his artistical insight into the late-romanticism repertoire is second to none. However this particular performance is below satisfying. Though a close-to-perfect rendition of Adagietto (certainly among the best that I ever heard), and the whole thing actually sounds better after several listening, I still expect a finer output from the St. Petersburg group.

The St. Petersburg brass players were sort of off form. They could even seem to be out of tune at times, and the playing is faulty too. E.g., the trumpet diminished unexpectedly at 12'14", which was a rather odd phrasing, and the horn player apparently hiccuped at 6'00" during the scherzo (though comparatively, he did an overall decent job for this movement). The finale was half-destroyed by the disturbing brass sound, I'd say. And the ear-piercing brass passage during the last couple of minutes made the rest of the orchestra essentially inaudible.

Second, this living recording sounds embarrassingly "living". Not to mention those everlasting coughing. I respect Water Lilly's efforts in making this record, yet I'm left questioning the renown of Shostakovich Hall. The orchestra playing is surprisingly distant and two-dimensional. The overall vague texture might suggest some depth, I don't know. The brass keeps pinching one's right ear, with the low string roaring some miles ahead (and extremely muddy, too). (The SACD sound might be better, I'm yet to find out).

Though this might have been the engineers' goal to achieve, a real "living" experience as if you were in the hall, it is somehow uncomfortable.
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