Fabio Luisi

Mahler: Symphony No. 5

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Many modern conductors seem to compete to make their recordings of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 as similar as possible, but Fabio Luisi's take on this warhorse is decidedly eccentric and could not be mistaken for any other rendition. On the negative side, his uneven pacing, irregular tempos, and toleration of scrappy playing indicate a certain looseness in his handling of the symphony, and it isn't clear that Luisi feels the drive that's needed to push it forward. To be sure, he gets the orchestra to play fast when it needs to, but it's without vehemence or violence. Instead, at the nearest opportunity, the tension slackens, rubato takes over, and whatever propulsion that has been built up seems to fizzle out. Yet Luisi really seems to be exploring the symphony for a personal expression, and when it appears that he is lost, his is actually delving into quieter and more secretive places for signs of true emotion hidden underneath the displays of storm and stress. This is not a Fifth that can be recommended to newcomers because there are too many quirks in Luisi's quixotic reading for it to make sense. But experienced listeners who know the symphony well might be willing to try out Luisi's interpretation. They may not find a great performance here, but with some patience, they might discover something authentic and human in the music.

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