SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 – Budapest Festival Orch./ Ivan Fischer – Channel Classics

A reference performance and recording of one of the great Mahler Symphonies.

Published on January 9, 2014

MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 – Budapest Festival Orch./ Ivan Fischer – Channel Classics

MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 – Budapest Festival Orch./ Ivan Fischer – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 34213, 55:45 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] TT: 74:12 (12/10/13) *****:

The Fifth is Mahler’s most conventional symphony, but it is far from mundane. Composed in 1901-02 at the composer’s summer cottage, it is a work of towering emotion and dynamics.

That makes the symphony a perfect candidate for a high resolution recording from Channel Classics, and the result is a musical and technical triumph. So often a great recording is musically mediocre. Not here. Ivan Fischer leads the Budapest Symphony Orchestra in a powerful performance while the DSD SACD sounds better than any recording of the Fifth than any I have heard, including the Bernstein, Rattle and Abbado.

From the opening trumpet solo and thundering crescendo to the rondo in the fifth movement the recording never strains and never fails to sound musical. Instruments are clearly defined, yet the  sound of the Palace of Arts in Budapest comes through without blurring the orchestral forces. The recording, engineered by the illustrious team of Hein Dekker and Jared Sacks simply can’t be faulted. This same team of artists and technicians have recorded other Mahler symphonies, and when the project is complete I think this will be the reference for both performance and recording quality. So far we have the Mahler 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th. 

Perhaps the most performed Mahler compositions, the Adagietto, is the fourth movement of the work. It’s often separated from the rest of the symphony in concert, and has served as the background music for movies and even ice skaters. It’s well performed here, and while not as sonically dynamic as other parts of the symphony, it is a sublime listen.

Mahler’s music seems an especially good fit for high resolution recording, and hearing a combination of the distinctive Channel Classic sound and this memorable performance is just more than a music lover could ask for.

Channel Classic sells this music in a variety of formats. I auditioned the SACD disc, which offers a multi-channel 5.0 surround version, plus a standard CD layer. Channel Classics also offers downloads of the multichannel and stereo versions.

—Mel Martin




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