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Mahler Symphony No.5.

The Hungarian conductor/ composer/ opera director Ivan Fischer was one of my musicians-of-the-year

In Budapest, he conducted the premiere of his opera The Red Heifer, which focused on a 19th-century Hungarian case of “blood libel” (false accusation of Jews of ritual murder of a Gentile child); he intended it as a rebuke against the “growing tolerance for anti-Semitism” he sees in his homeland. In New York, he conducted my favorite opera, Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” and also directed it, in what was apparently the best production in years. And among his 2013 recordings, I’ll give the nod to his new recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Fischer regards the Fifth as the “most Jewish” of Mahler’s symphonies – in the first movement’s funeral march, for example, he hears the lament-music of his ancestors (his grandfather lived in the same kind of Jewish Hapsburg village that Mahler came from). Moreover, he and his players perform this work more polyphonically than some (that is, the melody is often less dominant while the other lines are more “equal”) and the feeling is in some places darker.

(Channel Classics 34213)


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