Mahler - Symphony No.5
Gürzenich Orchester Köln; Markus Stenz
Oehms Classics OC650
Founded in 1857, Cologne’s Gürzenich Orchestra gave the first performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony in 1904 under the composer’s baton. A century after the premiere the orchestra elected Markus Stenz as their music director and committed itself to recording the complete symphonies of Mahler under his direction. The cycle appropriately enough commences with the Fifth Symphony. This is actually Stenz’s second recording of this work following an earlier critically acclaimed though poorly distributed account during his leadership of the Melbourne (Australia) Symphony. Stenz drives the symphony ahead relentlessly, avoiding the self-aggrandizing expressive distortions so often employed by many another conductor. Some may find this no-nonsense approach a bit one-dimensional, and there are indeed moments such as the triumphant brass peroration at the close of the second movement that clearly benefit from just a bit more grandeur. However Stenz’s tempi in the first movement follow quite closely the outlines of Mahler’s own impromptu performance preserved on a Welte piano roll and his straightforward yet supple account of the famous Adagietto is, as it should be, more romance than lament. The skilful playing, sensitive dynamic nuances and total involvement of the excellent Gürzenich ensemble is well represented in a nicely balanced studio recording which includes an SACD layer.