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Mahler Symphony No.5.

channelclassics.com
Budapest Festival Orchestra, Iván Fischer (cond.)
Channel Classics CCS SA 34213 (1 SACD)

A wonderful recording teaches something new with pieces we thought we knew well. In Mahler’s Fifth, the second movement often follows as an elaboration or development of the tightly wound first movement. Here Fischer paces the Trauermarsch as if it’s a wholly complete statement. When the Stürmisch bewegt kicks in, it’s an impetuous and angry afterthought, which produces goosebumps when the sunlight arrives at 12:06. Fischer provides an overall arc, from funereal bleakness towards light. Passing moments in the first two movements recall the Third’s naïve melodies and the Fourth’s innocence, demonstrating a capacity for gentleness well before the Adagietto. The large Scherzo can be a meandering slog; these 19:40 minutes are extraordinarily clear.

Fischer’s notes suggest this is the most Jewish of all Mahler’s symphonies. I have never thought of it that way. The First could be the primary candidate with its explicit Klezmer interruption, and it intrigues to explore the Fifth in relation to the Resurrection and the Humanist Eighth. The Rondo-Finale is joyous and light, not too fussy with Mahler’s clumsy fuguing – we’ve made it through to sanctuary.