Author Topic: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th  (Read 22105 times)

Offline John Kim

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D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« on: September 10, 2008, 10:00:05 PM »
Having enjoyed David Zinman's Mahler cycle to date, I came to this release with high expectations. What a disappointment! This is a lame, undercharacterized performance. It has one thing going for it: a nice clarity to the string counterpoint (and this work has lots of it), but this is a purely technical issue since emotional expression seems not to be high on Zinman's list of priorities. The opening funeral march is about as flat-footed as they come. Its two big outbursts don't so much climax as simply fizzle. This "wet noodle" approach positively kills the second movement. Could anyone call the opening "vehement", as Mahler demands, or is it simply neat as a pin? At nearly 19 minutes the scherzo sags badly well before its quiet central section. The adagietto is pretty (when is it not?), and the finale has the most string counterpoint and so bounces along reasonably well; but the final chorale has the weakest brass playing on disc combined with a tempo that starts off too fast but winds up too slow. The ample acoustic further blunts the music's impact. The most dangerous thing about this whole production is the cover (possibly the first full-frontal male nude to grace a Mahler symphony album).


--David Hurwitz


Dave, are you sure on this? ??? :-[

John,




michaelw

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2008, 05:13:28 AM »
I can only agree with Dave Hurwitz’ review.
Right after the release of the CD at the end of June I was very curious and purchased a cheap WMA download, prepared to buy SACD soon. Since then I have given it several tries and always the same word “lame” came to my mind. In addition there is some stop&go and artificial excitement in the first movements. For example, the first outburst is (in my opinion) overemphasized as if to redeem in a few seconds what is missing in the minutes before. But it's not working.

When the first release of this cycle came out, there was an interesting interview with David Zinman in FonoForum, where he stated that the emotional approach to Mahler (he mentioned Bernstein as one example) is not his thing. It seems that his approach may work out nicely for some Mahler symphonies, but apparently not for this M5.

Meanwhile another review has been published by Attila Csampai in FonoForum. He not only has a similar opinion on the performance itself, but even complains about the sound philosophy of the recording.


Michael

Polarius T

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2008, 05:32:34 AM »
...emotional expression seems not to be high on Zinman's list of priorities.

What are the "Reference Recordings" leading the pack, etc., as the preferred formulation goes: the usual "Mahler with Everything" and the "Mahler with Extra Cheese"?

I.e., the taste makers?

 :)

And why do we care, again?

-pt
« Last Edit: September 11, 2008, 05:51:18 AM by Polarius T »

Offline Dave H

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2008, 05:57:00 AM »
John:

I'm REALLY sure. This performance is a decently played non-happening. Nothing more. Let me make one thing clear--"emotional expression" does not always mean "Bernstein"--it's not a function of slow tempos or self-evidently moulded phrasing (though it can be). Bernstein, in any case, really is neither of those things. Kubelik, for example, is always extremely expressive and usually very swift and "non-interventionist." So is Levine (one of my reference versions). I see it more as a question of proportion--does the conductor realize the music's range of contrasts, its climaxes and important moments (both loud and soft), and the architecture of each movement?

Zinman's handling of the final chorale is a case in point. It is both badly played AND badly conducted. Leading into it, the tempo is very swift, the brass (which have the tune, let us not forget) buried in a welter of string figurations. These may be interesting to hear, but as I point out in another review of very different music running shortly, it's like wearing your internal organs on the outside of your body. Interesting, perhaps, but appealing or comfortable? No. Then, at the climax, everyone blasts in for a bar or two--it's nicely explosive, but it comes out of nowhere. It's not the natural result of the build-up in the preceeding bars, and then it vanishes as quickly as it came. Remember, this music is a reprise of what happened at the end of the second movement--it's needs to have a sense of inevitability; the entire hour and ten minutes of the symphony has been heading for just this moment. It's not a difficult effect to achieve. Like everything in Mahler it's very well stage-managed, but Zinman misses it completely. Then, after the chorale, when the music should take off in an exciting rush to the final pages, Zinman largely ignores Mahlers very, very clear "Allegro molto and speeding up through the end" directive. Remember, this acellerando STARTS at "allegro molto." All Zinman had to do was pay attention to what Mahler asks. This is only one moment of many that are misjudged, underplayed, or undercharacterized, and the result, as with most of the performance, is expressively flat.

Dave H

Offline barry guerrero

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2008, 07:51:59 AM »
Hey, it's not a crime. There are a very few cycles - almost none - where the conductor/orchestra combination score a 10/10 on every outing. Neither should we expect that. I love the Bertini cycle (EMI), but his 5th isn't anything to write home about either (I understand a remake was better). My prediction is that Zinman will be better with the 6th and 7th, and then will give us a very musical 8th.

I think that there are a surprisingly large number of M5's that are rather flat-footed; competent and little else: Segerstam; Gielen (sorry, does absolute nothing for me); Abbado (both of his); Haitink (none of his impress me much);  even Bernstein strikes me as a tad bit disappointing on both of his.

Obviously, I haven't heard Zinman's M5 yet. It's not available in the U.S., and I'm not about to spend the big bucks to get it. But I did listen to some brief samples at some website (forgot where), and I did notice that the start of the second movement sounded waaaaay under tempo. As Dave points out, where is the "vehemence"? It sounds like Zinman was trying to do the right thing at the climax of the finale's brass chorale, but it just simply misfired. Hey, I'll tell you what:  I'll take what Dave describes over DePreist/LSO, where DePriest slows down waaay, waaaaay, WAAAAAAAAY before reaching the start of the brass chorale (he slows down greatly where the trombones do their unison descending line, and the horns begin doing their ascending fanfare-like figures). His is the worst conducting decision I've ever heard at that spot.

I don't mind middle movement sherzos that are 19 minutes in duration, as long as there's some sense of swing or lilt to the rhythms and phrasing. As much as I'm not always crazy about Barbirolli's Mahler, he manages to achieve just that in M5/III. The horns also have to be very impressive. Otherwise, speed it up to about 16.5 or 17 minutes. I love Karajan's scherzo, and I think he's closer to 17 minutes (maybe 18?).

My "benchmark" M5's remain Karajan and Baribirolli, but my personal favorite of any is the Marcus Stenz one from ABC Classics. David gave that a 10/10 rating, and I thoroughly second his enthusiasm for it. DeWaart is surprisingly good with M5 too (I saw his conduct a great one in S.F.).

.    .    .   and I won't even listen to the  MTT/SFSO one. No way.

Barry
« Last Edit: September 11, 2008, 07:56:18 AM by barry guerrero »

Offline John Kim

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2008, 08:31:58 AM »
Ditto! :D

de Waart/NRPO/RCA M5th has quickly become one of my favorites.

It is dark and slow, with terrific base lines including tam tam smashes in I. & II.

A very solid Mahler Fifth indeed.

John,

Offline Dave H

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2008, 06:28:58 PM »
I also like De Waart very much in the Fifth. Interestingly, his timings are almost identical to Zinman's (right down to the slow scherzo), but the performance has so much more sharpness of focus and life to it. There are many performances in this cycle that are seriously underrated--only the 6th and 9th to my mind disappoint somewhat.

Dave

Offline vvrinc

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2008, 11:05:33 PM »
Sorry to make an entrance to this site with a negative post but D.H. is absolutely right. This has to rank as one of the most soporific interpretations of this score, ever. I've been collecting all previous issues in this cycle and have been rather pleased with the performances and the sound. This 5th has left me wondering what in the world was Zinman trying to prove. Anyway, Hurwitz has described the carnage better that I could so pay attention before you buy this turkey.

I also recently acquired the MTT 5th and was equally disappointed. The "Boy with Manicured Eyebrows Lunching at the Ritz" covers of these releases pretty much tells you what you are going to hear. The San Francisco orchestra--who must be complemented for some outstanding orchestral playing throughout this series and respected for not collectively jumping out of their seats during the concerts and beating the living crap out of their conductor--is a magnificent orchestra. They follow every nip-and-tuck of the embalmer with admirable accuracy. I have heard all except the 1st and 9th and probably won't unless I get them as gifts.

I'll end on a positive note and tell you that the 2 Pretre/Vienna Symphony releases--Mahler 5 & 6 (available from HMV.jp)--are sensational. After listening to the walking-dead above, I put on the Pretre Fifth and was brought back to Mahler's world of light-dark, sweet-sour, up-down, etc. There are a few fluffs (they are both one-nighters with no editing) but never of Horensteinian proportions. Pretre conducts, and the orchestra plays, with all the energy and passion one would desire but without pummeling the score. The last movement of No. 5, in particular, is one of the greatest performances I've ever heard. I've read that there may be more Mahler/Pretre on the way. If it's true, I look forwad to hearing them all.

The de Waart cycle is one of the finest group of recordings NOT available. It's also a shame that the Segerstam and Svetlanov cycles are deleted. The last two are big personalities on the podium and they always give you an opinion.

Congratulations and thanks to those responsible for this wonderful site. I came late to Mahler's music but now can't seem to listen to anything else. Well, not true. Along with Mahler, I've also found my "Brucknerian Heel." (I'll attempt to fall for a three-symphony composer next so as not to enter my old age penniless.)

I voted for Bertini as my favorite boxed set. For Bruckner, I am rather fond of the Skrowaczweski/Saarbrücken and Wand's 3-9 with NDR (the RCA/Japan remasters).

Offline barry guerrero

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2008, 11:53:58 PM »
Me Five-Star Chief Mahler Nut like 'em new Brave Newbie-On-The-Block   :D. Brave Newbie speak like Sage Mahler Medicine Man. I pronounce him Brave Golden Ears - golden beyond his years.

Hey, I'm hoping that Pretre's M8 (VSO) from Wien's Konzerthaus gets released someday. I heard that on a radio broadcast, and it sounded awesome. The Konzerthaus is Vienna's bigger concert hall, the one with THE "killer" organ. You can hear that thing ROAR on Chailly's VPO "Glagolitic Mass" (Janacek) on Decca. Remember, an M8 without organ is like an M8 without organ.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2008, 12:04:11 AM by barry guerrero »

Offline sperlsco

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2008, 01:45:00 PM »
(In my most sarcastic voice) Thanks a bunch for finally posting this review.  Couldn't you have posted it 2 days earlier?  I just ordered it from Amazon earlier this week!   >:(
Scott

Offline Dave H

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2008, 03:01:00 PM »
Yikes! Well, there's always the chance you may love the performance. If it makes you feel any better, I did not receive a promotional copy for review. Major labels used to get product to us in advance. How, it's usually much later after the release date, if at all. I bought mine on Amazon.com, so we're in the same boat.

Dave H

Offline sbugala

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2008, 07:58:44 PM »
Well, you steered me away from it in time. I was waiting until the end of the month.  If it drops in price, I may get it, but we'll have to see. Bummer! His 3rd is one of my many favorites (along with Nagano, both Bernsteins, and the Bertini.)


  Maybe things will rebound with the M6.

Offline Dave H

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2008, 08:46:10 PM »
I really liked the Third too. A wonderfully fresh and colorful performance. But no one is equally strong in every work in a complete cycle. I do have a live Mahler 6 with Zinman that was issued on the Baltimore Symphony's private label--it's a quick, exciting performance that features some sort of electronic nuclear detonation noise for the hammer blows that's just insane. I'm very curious to see if he uses the same effect in his new recordings!

Dave H

Offline barry guerrero

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2008, 08:54:56 PM »
www.goingagainstfate.com

Dave,

Check out this film about Zinman/Tonhalle Zurich doing Mahler 6. It'll eventually be available on DVD. Apparently, it's being shown at some movie house in Zurich. It appears that there won't be any additional mojo to the hammer strokes. Nor does it appear that there would be any need to embellish them (you'll see!).

Barry
« Last Edit: September 13, 2008, 11:15:27 PM by barry guerrero »

Offline sbugala

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Re: D.H. gives 5/8 rating for Zinman/Tonhalle Orch./RCA M5th
« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2008, 10:02:28 PM »
I really liked the Third too. A wonderfully fresh and colorful performance. But no one is equally strong in every work in a complete cycle. I do have a live Mahler 6 with Zinman that was issued on the Baltimore Symphony's private label--it's a quick, exciting performance that features some sort of electronic nuclear detonation noise for the hammer blows that's just insane. I'm very curious to see if he uses the same effect in his new recordings!

Dave H

My friend attended the Peabody Conservatory when Zinman did that performance. He called them "Praxis" Hammerblows, in tribute to a planet that gets destroyed in a Star Trek film, (causing a giant shockwave.) I never grasped what he was talking about until I finally heard that set!