- Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor
Marred by a few sound problems and a less than ideal transfer from analog, Rafael Kubelik's 1981 performance of Mahler's "Symphony No. 5" with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra cannot be recommended as a first choice. Even so, Kubelik's fans and students of this piece may want to give it a serious hearing, for the conductor draws an enthusiastic response from his players, and this performance has more merits than flaws. The brass are especially commendable, displaying an impressive range of timbres that are undiminished by the live concert's ambience or the limitations of the recording. The woodwinds and strings fare less well and sound unclear, and their playing is not fully conveyed in the softer passages of the "Trauermarsch" and the second movement. However, the entire orchestra rises to the occasion in the Scherzo and its colors remain distinctive and vivid for the symphony's remaining movements. Kubelik gives the Adagietto a slight movendo pacing, though the breadth of this ardent movement is convincingly sustained through the strings' smooth, unbroken lines. The Rondo-Finale is the high point of this disc, and Mahler's contrapuntal tour de force is delivered with clarity and vitality. Particularly thrilling is the climactic chorale, which matches any major recording for brilliance and excitement.