Manfred Honeck / Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 5

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Advances in multichannel technology have brought a resurgence of interest in composers of big orchestral showcases, and one who has benefited greatly is Gustav Mahler, whose colorful and expansive symphonies have been presented in the hybrid SACD format many times, usually to critical acclaim. Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra have contributed a number of Mahler performances to the audiophile listings, and they appear to have taken full advantage of super audio's potential, not merely in producing vibrant sonorities in a spacious sound environment, but also for presenting every aspect of Mahler's symphonies in a transparent way that makes them feel organic and whole. Their live 2011 recording of the Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor for Exton is a fine example of Honeck's fine interpretive skills, the orchestra's precise and powerful playing, and the label's excellence in sound engineering. Honeck gets almost everything right in this Fifth, and if this tempo or that articulation may seem arbitrary when heard in isolation, or strange if it's a detail that's seldom highlighted, it all makes sense when the performance is heard as a totality. Honeck and the PSO give everything, and being meticulous doesn't interfere with their commitment to giving a truly spontaneous and glorious reading. Exton's reproduction is uncannily lifelike and detailed, so the illusion of sitting in the audience (without hearing the usual audience noises) is quite convincing. This superb recording is highly recommended for first-time listeners and experienced Mahlerians, because it's almost as good as it gets.

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