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Customer Reviews

A performance and recording to remember

Tilson-Thomas is steeped in Mahler and as for the orchestra's response, they do what he wants on nearly a Chicago Symphony level. (They can't match the Berlin Philharmonic's virtuosity, but then what other orchestra possibly could except God's own?) As a Bay Area native who rarely attends SFSO concerts, I was prepared to dismiss the orchestra's contribution as second-rate, and I was late to jump onto the Tilson-Thomas Mahler bandwagon. But when I did, his recordings confounded my prejudices -- and this one is no exception. A conductor whose name is practically synonymous with Mahler -- especially the 5th -- is Leonard Bernstein. Lenny is a conductor you have to hear, but personally I prefer a more literal approach, without infuriating agogic distortions. Let Mahler make his own points, don't bother with special pleading. Examples of more straightforward Mahler 5ths would be the (wonderful) recordings by Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado. Yet returning to Tilson-Thomas' disc after these reveals him to be "Bernstein lite," a conductor whose flexibility is noticeable but never annoying, always true to the score. Even in the famous Adagietto, which to my mind needs a clear-eyed "innocent" approach, MTT pulls it off. As a Mahler fanatic, I would hate to live without 5ths by Abbado, Bruno Walter, and perhaps others. Bernstein's Vienna Philharmonic 5th is also one I wouldn't be without. When you're talking about music on this level, no one performance can be "best." To my mind, MTT's 5th will delight both those who are new to this music and those who know it well. There's a sense of occasion and electricity about this 5th; in fact, I instinctively feel that it will still be remembered in 50 years, long after most others have been forgotten

Mahler Symphony Number 5, Tilson Thomas, San Francisco Sym

Michael Tilson Thomas' brilliant Mahler series continues with a propulsive performance of the Fifth Symphony. As in all of the previous installments of this cycle the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra performs with great virtuosity. The hushed opening sets the tone for a performance thst grows organically and is never less than gripping. Ultimately this is not my number one interpretation. That distinction remains with the very similar New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein Sony/Columbia performance from the 1960s--which displays similar virtuosity with just a bit deeper insight into Mahler's often tortured ideas. But this reading is noteable for its beautiful sound, great drive and for an exceptionally vivid reading of the triumphant finale. Tilson Thomas was Bernstein's most noteable protege (with the possible exception of Ozawa--and for my ears Thomas is the better conductor). His Mahler does well in honoring both the composer and Bernstein and this cycle continues the demonstrate the remarkable accomplishments of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra during his tenure as Music Director.


I have two other recordings of this symphony (my favourite Mahler), and I have to say that this has to be the best of them all: simply stunning. The interpretation by MTT is wonderful, but the recording engineers might have done the most stunning work on this project. This recording is a must for all Mahler lovers.


Born: December 21, 1944 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

With the titles music director of the San Francisco Symphony, artistic director of the New World Symphony, and principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas has built quite a reputation for himself in the music industry. He is internationally known as a composer and a conductor, combining his own eclectic style with various American music styles. During his career he has worked with such music greats as Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, and Aaron Copland. Michael...
Full Bio
Mahler: Symphony No. 5, Michael Tilson Thomas
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Classical, Music
  • Released: Oct 10, 2006

Customer Ratings