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MAHLER: Symphony #5 – Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra – BIS 

Mahler Symphony #5 – Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra – BIS  5.0 Hybrid SACD BIS 2226 – TT:75:30 (8/4/17) *** (performance) **** (sonics):

An out of the mainstream interpretation with fine sonics

This new recording of the Mahler 5th is the beginning of a projected Mahler series from BIS, the Minnesota Orchestra and conductor Osmo Vanska.

There are plenty of fine Mahler Fifths around, including my favorite by Bernstein recorded in the 80s, as well as those of Chailly and Dudamel, for whom I have an affinity

For this new recording I’m honestly a bit conflicted. I find the first movement detailed but slow. I can’t say it is lifeless, but I think it lacks energy. The remaining four movements recover some, but overall this enthralling symphony doesn’t enthrall me in this performance. Some reviewers have been quite taken with this disc, but it’s not an interpretation that would cause me to abandon my favorites.

No complaints about the Minnesota Orchestra. It’s a fine ensemble that has been underrated for years. This Mahler is a difficult piece to perform, and the Minnesotans are in fine form.

My conflict arises from the quality of the recording. It’s marvelous, revealing details in this symphony I haven’t heard in other recordings. The highs sparkle, and the bass is prodigious when it needs to be. I auditioned the SACD 5.0 layer, and from an audiophile standpoint, the recording left nothing to be desired. The orchestra image is solid, surrounds provide the sonic fingerprint of the recording venue, which was Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.

For Mahler lovers, this is an eccentric interpretation that some will appreciate. If you are on the fence, I think this disc is a worthwhile purchase for the sound alone. The orchestra is great, but not everyone will love the rendition on offer.

—Mel Martin

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