Junge Deutsche Philharmonie conducted by Rudolf Barshai
CD No: LAUREL RECORD LR-905 Duration: Reviewed: December 2001
Mahler Symphony No.5 - Laurel Records
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
This CDs iconoclastic status was initiated by enthusiastic opinions first appearing on classical music websites; one such claims Barshais Mahler 5 as the finest ever.
Performed on 9 September 1997, in Berlin or Cologne (the booklet note is confused), the recording is designated ADD. The sound is decent enough albeit the acoustic is rather cavernous balance is variable, textures are inflated and tuttis attract glare. Microphone placing could be questioned one wonders if Barshai intended the gong stroke at 1327 in the second movement to be as enveloping as this.
I question whether this is a single rendition. All-too-audible editing, different hiss levels and changes of ambience betray a rough-and-ready job with the scissors perhaps the dress rehearsal has been spliced into the actual performance.
Barshais structure-conscious, no-nonsense interpretation has a welcome seriousness of purpose; meticulous rehearsing informs the musicians skill, energy and commitment. Barshais lucidity Is dotted, Ts crossed is negated by a perfunctory finale, which is denied the pertinent characterisation of the opening movements. The 817 Adagietto is pleasingly kept moving surely what Mahler intended; as this movement closes, black hole editing introduces the finale with faint left-channel whistle and empty-of-audience ambience.
This is distracting, and compromises, as does the tonally and dynamically limited reproduction, the merits of a reading undoubtedly interesting to seasoned Mahlerians. Ultimately, Barshais strictness inhibits the musics scope one thinks first not of a probing interpretation but poor production values. The evident hard work of conductor and orchestra warranted better presentation.