Classical Music classical CDs reviewed New CD reviews every day latest Classical CD releases Buy your CDs of the classics here

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

DVD Review

Symphony No 5 in C sharp minor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim
Arthaus Musik 100 032, 75 minutes.


Daniel Barenboim is not the most natural of Mahler conductors, but this Chicago performance, caught on camera during the orchestra's visit to Cologne, is actually very fine. The five movements are held together convincingly (although the adagietto is far too slow for my tastes) and there is a real sense of the symphony's grandeur. Brass chorales are given plenty of throttle, and there is some gorgeous phrasing from the strings.

Although this is by no means a slow reading, there are moments when the excitement seems to drag (at the close of the first movement, for example). A Proms performance Barenboim gave a couple of years ago generated more tension, but this Cologne version is by no means totally lacking in that department. The closing bars of the Rondo-Finale, for example, are spellbinding and quite thrilling (although not quite in the Bernstein class).

The advantage of being able to see a great orchestra in action (as opposed to just hearing it) brings its own benefits, most notably in how the personnel are divided. American orchestras nowadays seem very happy to recruit more women players than their European counterparts. At a recent performance of Mahler's Ninth with the New York Philharmonic I noticed that the entire flute section was female. Barenboim's Chicago Symphony Orchestra employs six horns for this Mahler 5, half of which are women. You will look in vain for a similar distribution in any British or European orchestra. Musical purists who defend the Viennese practice of disempowering female musicians will find no support for their arguments here - for the power of the Chicago brass (horns in particular) is any thing but underwhelming.

And for those of you who have never seen Barenboim conduct live, the vision of this rather conservative man throwing himself around the podium, with gestures big enough to embrace the planets, will either fascinate or repel. I have seen greater conductors achieve considerably more in terms of dynamics from virtual stasis on the podium than the energetic Barenboim, and lesser conductors with even more graphic gestures achieve virtually nothing for their efforts. It will unquestionably be a matter of taste whether you can watch his style of conducting with any comfort.

The sound on this disc is wonderful - undoubtedly helped by the acoustics of the Cologne hall. However, watching this performance will make people who have been to the RFH weep. Seeing an audience sat in seats spaced out like first class on a jumbo jet will cause envy for those of us who have sat huddled together in seats less comfortable than on a London bus. It is, perhaps, the only depressing thing about this disc. 


Marc Bridle 



Marc Bridle 

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers : - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit

Return to Index