This Fifth Symphony faces one big problem, the continued presence in the
catalogue of Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic from 1969. The Karajan is
almost as well recorded, considerably better played and directed with an ear
for overall structure that Gergiev does not match. All recordings are up
against Karajan's version with its drama and lyricism as well as the
astounding virtuosity of the Berliners at the top of their game.
The recording information on the present issue suggests it was recorded
live at one single concert during the Moscow Easter Festival 2012. The first
movement should have a grand line but here it is broken by countless little
moments where details are lovingly moulded at the cost of momentum. The coda
seems rushed and has not a fraction of the grandeur Karajan achieves. The
tick-tock quality of the Allegro Marcato
second movement is
overdone though it is supposed to be 'marcato',
'stressed'. Gergiev gives us an extreme contrast in the slow
central section but the music is under-characterised and suffers again in
comparison with Karajan and also with Rozhdestvensky and the Moscow Radio
Symphony and indeed Järvi and the Scottish National. The Adagio
third movement seems rather too slow, possibly because the pulse slackens
after the first few measures. Nothing in the score indicates that it should.
The big tune is much less romantic than elsewhere. The central section has
always seemed like a slow march, here it is unstable and this makes for
disturbing listening. The Finale too is disrupted by many small tempo
changes as if the conductor cannot leave things alone. Were this recorded
over several performances it might be put down to editing but this is
presented as a single performance. That said the coda is exciting enough.
The engineers have given us a fine, though rather low level, recording which
benefits from being in surround. However sound alone is not enough to put
this ahead of the other recordings noted.
Denis Matsuev makes a good job of the concerto, which is particularly well
recorded with a convincing balance of piano and orchestra. Again more volume
is needed. I increased the setting by around 4dB which is quite a lot.
Timings are very much the same as the classic Argerich/Abbado disc on DG.
Matsuev plays with great gusto but possibly not Argerich's rhythmic
crispness. She is more thrillingly precise in all the decorative runs. The
finale is excitingly done here so overall this is satisfying listening.
Previous review: Gwyn Parry-Jones
Masterwork Index: Prokofiev