Václav Neumann / Members of Gewandhausorchester, Leipzig / Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 5

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To be clear, this reissue of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor is the first of two recordings Václav Neumann made of the work and must be distinguished from the 1977 recording he made with the Czech Philharmonic for Supraphon, which was issued in a set of the complete symphonies. Even though this 1965 recording with the Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig might appear a bit old hat from its numerous reissues and may seem to have been superseded by the later recording, it is still a worthwhile rendition that shouldn't be dismissed out of hand for its age or budget status. Standing in its favor are its seriousness, directness, and lack of self-indulgence, remarkable for a time when some conductors delivered this symphony with little expressive restraint, and it is quite straightforward in pacing and phrasing without abuses of rubato or exaggerated tempos. Excusing some slightly inaccurate attacks here and there, this is a by-the-book performance that would be quite practical for studying the symphony with a score. Also worth considering is the fine analog sound quality, which still holds up well after decades and seems to have been expertly mastered to the digital format. On the downside, this is unlikely to be any well-informed listener's favorite recording of the Fifth considering the wealth of choices available, from Walter to Solti, or Abbado to Tilson Thomas, and any number of great competitors in between. Neumann's recording will certainly satisfy a need for a good, solid recording and has much to recommend it, but for the sake of finding a deeply moving performance, one must look elsewhere.

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