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Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor (1901-1904)
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Václav Neumann
rec. Leipzig, November 1967. ADD
BERLIN CLASSICS 0185502BC and 0014332BC; BRILLIANT CLASSICS 93278 [65:41]







Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor (1901-1904) [70:38]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jaap van Zweden
rec. Royal Festival Hall, London, 16 January 2008. DDD
LPO-0033 [70:38]


Experience Classicsonline

In any good performance of a Mahler Fifth Symphony - no matter the sound quality - there should be moments where you are taken by the lapels and your concentration held at least episodically if not for the entire duration.

You’ll find plenty of those moments in Václav Neumann’s first, 1967 recording with the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester on Berlin Classics. Taking the symphony at a wonderfully unsentimental clip, Neumann finishes in under 66 minutes and is exemplary for his natural style, colorful woodwinds, and driven passion. The Adagietto, a definite highlight in the Czech conductor’s hands, is not cloying in the least and therefore uncommonly beautiful. 

Slight distortions at the climax of the last movement notwithstanding, the sound is good. There is no documentation that comes with the three recent super-budget issues I have seen: one on “Basics”, another on “Schätze der Klassik”, and most recently on Brilliant Classics 93278. On the other hand, Mahler veterans won’t really need it and Mahler neophytes will seek it out on their own after hearing it. A dark horse Fifth-of-Choice. 

Jaap van Zweden and the London Philharmonic have added to the glut of Mahler Fifths in the catalog on their LPO Live label. Another new recording of an orchestra that isn’t in the highest tier, under a conductor who isn’t widely - though apparently locally - known for his Mahler. What a happy surprise then to find it such a solid performance, bordering excellence. Nothing outrageous or exotic in this interpretation; it’s simply well and passionately played, with tasteful choices and measured tempos exhibited throughout. 

The opening trumpets’ crescendos could be more forcefully staggered, the first tutti more impressive. Why does Kubelik still remain unmatched here, 58 and 38 years after his first two recordings? The second movement — “Boisterous. With the utmost vehemence” — is particularly successful, with the gripping momentum van Zweden builds up. The sound doesn’t compare to the best (Levi, Chailly), nor the interpretation to the most compelling (Boulez, Bernstein), but it’s a Fifth that anyone could live with happily. For anyone who particularly cherishes the artists involved, it’s an easy recommendation.

Jens F. Laurson

Read Tony Duggan’s survey of Mahler Fifth Symphonies here

A list of other reviews of this symphony on MusicWeb International can be found here




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