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Mahler: Symphony No. 5

Mahler: Symphony No. 5

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The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and its Music Director Rafael Payare make their Pentatone debut with Mahler’s 5th Symphony. The album is also the first recording under Payare’s tenure, and the beginning of a longer recording relationship with the label. For Payare, the Fifth is the last symphony that shows Mahler still looking forward to what the future might bring, unlike his subsequent, much darker and existential works. Despite that optimism, there is enough tragedy and struggle along the way, resonating with Mahler’s life at the time of creation. Payare’s proficiency in late-Romantic repertoire coupled with the matured, distinctive sound of the Montréal players make this a collaboration to look out for.


Throughout, Payare applies subtle but meaningful touches of rubato, creating a consistent feeling of tension and release. Everything holds together as one unit; every passage connected to what came before and what comes next. Expressively, what impressed me most is that the music does not come off as sectionalized. Orchestral execution is at a very high level as well.

-- Fanfare

This was, first and last, a superlative Mahler performance with the type of energy and spirit that caresses and screams with the same commitment, and moves easily between the two qualities. Beyond that, this was playing at the edge of control, something Mahler often demands and no more so than in this work.

Beyond Payare’s in-the-moment direction, his preparation came through in the excellent pace, dynamics, and balances within and through the orchestra. There are so many opportunities to pick and choose details to highlight, and the playing shone a spotlight on the wonderful wind colors in this orchestra, especially the unusually nasal double-reeds and a dark trumpet sound. The articulation of details in the strings, things like quick 16th-note rests toward the end of phrases and moments of portamento, were superb.

The tempest in the “Stúrmisch” second section melted away into a rich, dark interpretation of the cello line, no solace but only devastation. The extremes of light and dark with and across the forms were heightened. The first two sections alternately emotionally wrenching and fulfilling.

In the Scherzo, Payare had horn soloist Catherine Turner stand, and her playing was brilliant and unerring, and even more impressive was the perfect blend as she passed off her sustained, decaying notes to her seated stand-mate. The Adagietto was slow in the contemporary manner, almost nine minutes, but the internal pace and tempo modulations made it flow forward, leading directly into the finale.

-- New York Classical Review (Reviewing the 3/8/23 Carnegie Hall performance)

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    • UPC/Barcode: 8717306260671
    • Item Number: PTC5187067