MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



cover image

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Gustav MAHLER (1860–1911) Symphony No. 5 (1901-2) [70:57]
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov
rec. in concert, St. Petersburg Philharmonia Great Hall, September 2003

Experience Classicsonline

"Italians play music emphasizing its melodic flow; Germans find weight in the harmonies."

"French composers and conductors favor a reedy orchestral balance."

Listeners and commentators alike rely on these and other such generalizations - one might call them stereotypes - to help classify and describe performances and sounds. As with most generalizations, there's a kernel of truth to them: there are, in fact, national styles and traditions of performance, passed on among musicians from one generation to the next, which have evolved over the years in response to music's perceived requirements. Still, every performance is unique, and won't necessarily conform to our preconceived ideas.

Thus, the prevailing expectations for Russian string playing - and, perhaps, for Russian understanding of the Mahler style - might have portended a dreadful Adagietto movement here: thick in tone and texture, burdened with a throbbing vibrato, weighted down with heavy sentiment. In fact, the Adagietto proves the best movement in Temirkanov's concert recording. The conductor plays the movement spaciously, but he draws the string lines clearly, without sentimentalizing them. The contrasting middle section stays in tempo; at 5:06, the players use very little vibrato, making for an anticipatory stillness. The return of the main theme is gently wistful. The bass pizzicatos during the ritard at 8:30, while soft enough, unfortunately land with a heavy "thunk".

For much of its duration, particularly early on, Temirkanov's finale is nearly on this level. After the opening fragments, the horn launches the first theme-group forthrightly. The low strings are as resonant as you'd expect from Russian players, but their little dotted figure at 1:06 really dances. The fugue that follows moves at a nice clip, but with good control; it doesn't match the unbuttoned, rustic joy of Tennstedt (on the EMI analog recording), but it's enjoyable on its own terms. I particularly enjoyed the in-tempo, undulating treatment of the Grazioso passages, at 3:48 and again at 6:48, which retro-fit a theme from the Adagietto into the Finale's rhythm and motion, though lumbering basses mar the start of the second one. On the down side, numerous, brief moments of imprecise co-ordination; unimportant in themselves, take a cumulative toll on the players' concentration, as do some of Temirkanov's clumsy rhetorical touches, so ensemble becomes increasingly skittish. In the coda - where the conductor favors the trombones in the balance in a cheap, applause-courting way - the strings' last big downward run is a cloudy, ill co-ordinated rumble.

The funeral march that begins the symphony is rather interesting, not because of Temirkanov's propensity for unmarked tenutos on upbeats, applied so regularly as to devolve into an irrelevant mannerism, but because of its pervasive melancholy (as opposed to sombre or elegiac) tone - a distinctly "Russian" take on the music. The Scherzo, after an iffy start, with horn and clarinets diverging on the little upward scale, has many lovely things in it: the conductor draws the various episodes, especially the more lightly scored ones, with a nice plasticity and feeling for instrumental color, eliciting plenty of character.

The second movement, admittedly problematic in any case, misfires, and not because of considerations of style, idiomatic or otherwise. Temirkanov's inconsistent recorded work - I've not seen him conduct in the flesh - leaves the impression of an imaginative interpreter whose stick technique isn't up to his conceptions. His wholesale rubato in the Rachmaninov Second Symphony (EMI) was compelling, a Scheherazade with the New York Philharmonic (RCA) hard-edged but imposing. Conversely, the Symphonie fantastique (RCA) was a string of ensemble disasters, beginning with the first bar, where the winds come unstuck during the ritard.

Such control issues - the sort of thing to which I've alluded in passing elsewhere in the performance - unfortunately end up dominating the second movement. The opening bass gestures, an imprecise, indiscriminate rumble - you can't really make out their rhythm or shape - set the tone for the following turbulent tutti and, indeed, for most of what follows. The violins are slurry and far from incisive at 0:44; the cellos want to run the quarter notes all through the Bedeutend langsamer second theme, with blurry definition; and nervous co-ordination lapses abound. Even when Temirkanov's feel for color comes into play - note the dusky, woodsy cellos at 4:12 - the effect is emotionally reticent. Only in a few isolated moments - the mournful horns at 5:20; the insinuation of the woodwinds into the texture at 10:30 - does the conductor manage effectively to project mood.

In ordinary frontal stereo - I didn't hear the Super Audio layer - headphone listening reproduces masses of sound from the brass choir with a thrilling brilliance and depth. Over speakers, however, the effect is less marked, and one becomes aware that the strings, whether in the mix-down or in the actual playing, are backwardly balanced.

Temirkanov's performances are never boring, but this one won't wear well. Stick with your own favorites, mine being Mehta (Decca or Warner/Teldec), Barbirolli (various EMI issues), Solti's analog (Decca), and the aforementioned Tennstedt.

Steve Vasta



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.