Neue Philharmonie Westfalen / Heiko Mathias Förster / Marcus Schleich

Mahler: Symphony No. 5

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Heiko Mathias Förster and the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia are still relatively new to recording, with only a handful of albums to their credit since they began working together. They recorded Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 in July 2010, which was ostensibly only their second Mahler session following their 2006 recording of the Symphony No. 1. One might attribute a degree of caution to Förster's handing of the orchestra, as well as to his interpretation of the score, for this is a clean and meticulous reading that shows a painstaking attempt to get everything right. While this performance is presented on a conventional CD, unlike the super audio format used for the First, there seems to have been a considerable effort put into making the instruments sound distinctive and clear, and to make every passage have a transparency that would withstand an audiophile's scrutiny. The cost of this is a slight slackening of the pace and a deliberate pulling back in the tempo in some spots to allow the instruments adequate space to sound out their parts without being crowded. Fortunately, this allows horn soloist Markus Schleich sufficient room to be heard in the Scherzo, and the other myriad solo and contrapuntal lines in the rest of the orchestra receive their due, with nothing lost in any chaotic pile-up of hurried notes. While this is not the most inspired Fifth on the market, and it will be difficult for this performance to compete with the many great recordings that are available, the care and competence that Förster and his musicians bring to this rendition make it worthwhile and a pleasure to hear.

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