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  Mahler: Symphony No. 5 - RPO/Shipway
  Mahler: Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Frank Shipway (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 2

Reviews: 2

Review by prometheus August 22, 2005 (12 of 13 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
When a "Desert Island Disc" makes it on to multichannel SACD, and at 'super-bargain' price, it's time for a "hallelujah". This performance was one of the latter releases on the (London) RPO's own label from the mid-1990s:way ahead, then, of SFSO or LSO. They seem not to have sold particularly well--despite some rave reviews in "Gramophone" and entries in their 'Recommended' handbooks--and were soon licensed off to bargain CD outfits in Europe and the US. Scarcely of interest then? Not a bit of it. This orchestra was going through a 'purple patch', courtesy of a new Principal Conductor--Ashkenazy--a new American Concertmaster, and was being strengthened by the importation of some players from continental Europe. The recordings were of basic symphonic and chamber staples--no expensive days of rehearsal, therefore--and recorded more or less 'live' in some of the capital's premier recording locations (Wembley, Watford, St. Augustine's Kilburn) by freelance engineers celebrated at the helms of Decca, Philips, Hyperion and the like. Once again for cost reasons, the conductors chosen were scarcely household names but most had long-term relationships with the players; in particular, much of the Russian repertoire was handled by the experienced--and often inspired and inspiring Yuri Simonov.The recordings were intentionally future-proof at 20-bit, subsequently mixed and mastered at 32-bit. To these ears--aside from HDCD releases from Reference Recordings and some higher resolution to RB conversions from Telarc and Delos--they represented a quantum leap in what CD could offer.

Now we can hear them via the sort of high resolution medium for which they were created. I started with my favorite: a Mahler 5 conducted by the generally-unknown Frank Shipway. A pupil of Barbirolli and of Karajan--who took him under his wing while the apprentice conductor was serving as Maazel's assistant at the RIAS, Berlin Symphony--Shipway has worked without much honour in his English native land but with increasingly responsible and visible chief-conductohips in Turin, Lisbon, Brussels,and now Zagreb. More interestingly, he headed for many years an amateur North London Orchestra which--on concert days--was leavened with stellar Principals from the London professional orchestras such as Jack Brymer and Alan Civil. They gave London some incandescent Mahler performances in the Seventies.

Among the fifteen CD Mahler 5s accumulated over the years, it remains my favorite. With a total timing of 73:41, tempi are generally on the slower side of the norm.I have more usually prefered a more brisk reading emphasising both the military side of Mahler's musical personality and a sweeping, driven reading of its dance rhythms: such as we get from Dohnanyi or Neumann (Leipzig, not CPO). But at no time--save the one caveat below--does Shipway seem slow, labored or emotionally flatulant--the keen sense of structural relationships, of inevitability, of inexorable momentum make the tempi seem well judged--they are remarkably close to all of Karajan and most of Barbirolli. The exception is the fabled Adagietto: if you want this as a luxuriant, romantic-tragic wallow, (at 12' or more) then Shipway will take you almost as far as Bernstein. But if you want a testosterone-fuelled declaration of passion and love--a song without words, indeed-- then go elsewhere: to Walter, Wyn Morris, Anton Nanut or those other rare birds with a quicker-than-9' timing.Shipway also most persuasively relates the Fifth to the Sixth (second movement) and to the Seventh (third movement after the horn rhetoric has given way to chamber-like textures). And very often he reveals and revels in the forward-looking (Schonberg, Berg, Zemlinsky, even Schreker)moments within the orchestration.

While the first violins could arguably have been strengthened by the first two desks of the Berlin or Vienna Philharmonics,the orchestral playing is as fine as ever I have heard from a British or American band. The playing of brass, wind (wondrous horns!)and lower strings is indisputably world-class. The recording indeed gives those valved instruments and the percussion a due degree of prominence:think of Reiner/Living Stereo. And the multichannel is no synthesised fake but possesses much more than hall ambience/reverberation in the Rears, giving an ideal (IMVHO)arc of sound coming well for'ard of the left and right Fronts and beautifully blended with the Center. The sound packs much, much more punch than some DSDs I could--but won't for safety's sake--dare to mention!

But beware: jpc's shipping charges are fixed so you pay the same for shipping ten discs as for one.So long as you don't fall into my trap and order this disc alone--thereby adding $16 to the disc's cost of $4.54--then this is an astounding bargain!

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Review by jeffreybehr August 28, 2006 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I have NO idea who Frank Shipway is, but if I find any more RPOs by him, I'm buying. This is the overall-best M5 I've ever heard*. It's JUST right in tempos and phrasing, and the Adagietto, the MOST-IMPORTANT movement in the work for me, is played JUST rightly--slowly (but not disjointedly) and with GREAT emphasis on the down-going strings at the end. The recording is medium-distant (as I like my MC recordings of orchestras) but perhaps a LITTLE too distant, as the harmonics of the strings seem subdued. However, a distinct benefit to this recording style, here at least, is that the harmonics of the trumpets and trombones don't drill holes in my eardrums...they sound JUST right to me. The imaging is a little 'swimmy', with instruments NOT well anchored on stage. My MC system is based on an excellent 2-channel base that images and soundstages VERY well and sounds, overall, quite large and spacious. 3.1 more channels make it sound even-more spacious.**

The hall sounds quite nice to me--spacious, not too small or large. Violins are divided which makes the locations of the 4 sections of violins, violas, and cellos more vague. However, the sounds of the violins on the left AND right stay left and right and do not blend monofonically. Overall, a very nice MC recording and an EXCELLENT performance--HIGHLY recommended.

* Gustav is my favorite composer, and I like my Mahler played somewhat slowly and rather strongly.
** My surround-channels sound is diffuse rather than specific.

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Works: 1  

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor