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Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor (1901-02)
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio/Vladimir Fedoseyev
Recorded live at the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Aug 30, Sept 2/3 2000
RELIEF CR 991070 [71.12]

Fedoseyev’s Mahler 5 is a perfectly respectable one but as with other releases from this series that I’ve heard it’s rather let down by the recording. The dry acoustic and lack of warmth certainly act against the playing and of more concern are those moments of muffled percussion and occlusion of string lines. This is the case throughout but of concern in the first movement where cello and viola lines become muffled and sometimes indistinct. Otherwise the performance is marked by a certain degree of briskness. The opening trumpet statement is formal, straight, clean limbed and unheroic and the curve of the music generally is untouched by much incipient tragedy. There are moments in the opening movement as well when tension fractionally slackens; the grip and the rise and crest of the greatest performances are somewhat missing here. Nevertheless there are fine things, not least sectional discipline in this live performance culled from what were apparently three performances (or maybe live performances augmented by patching – the notes aren’t quite clear).

In the second movement Fedoseyev tends to cultivate a rather bleaker sonority than, say, Kubelík; the Russian performance is commensurately lither though the orchestral sound is less complex – the acoustic perspective is flattened and clarinets and triangle sometimes equally audible. In the Scherzo, where Kubelík was inclined rather to italicise the opening horn call, Fedoseyev replicates the clarity and sang froid of the opening of the work whilst in general he tends to lack the Czech conductor’s evocative verdancy or vivacity, even given that this wasn’t necessarily the most consistently inspired recording from Kubelík’s cycle. And despite the obvious excitement of the work’s end and the technical prowess of the orchestra, the Adagietto is dry-eyed (though certainly not over brisk) and the impression as a whole one of a certain restraint. As such it clearly represents a more austere approach, but its relative coolness is hindered by the recording.

Jonathan Woolf



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