Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Semyon Bychkov
REFINED RENDITION OF AN ENIGMATIC SYMPHONY
After their critically-acclaimed recording of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, the Czech Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov continue their Pentatone Mahler cycle with a rendition of the composer’s Fifth. The Fifth Symphony marks an important turning point in Mahler’s symphonic output, away from the prominence of vocal movements in his previous symphonies. And whereas the Fifth seems to follow a teleology from darkness to light like its predecessors, the trajectory is much less straightforward, and full of enigmatic turns. Bychkov’s exceptional eye for detail and pacing make him an ideal guide through this work, while the Czech Philharmonic is capable of letting all the colours of Mahler’s score shine. The Czech Philharmonic is one of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras, with a rich tradition of performing Czech masters and music from Central Europe. Semyon Bychkov has led the greatest orchestras of the world, and is Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic as of the 2018/2019 season. Orchestra and maestro made their Pentatone debut with a recording of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony (2022), kicking off a complete Mahler cycle.
Bychkov is careful to keep the strings’ lyric funeral-marches objective, and it ’s fascinating how the Adagietto sounds otherworldly until the cellos bring in a richly portamentoed human warmth...the brass both individually and collectively play their parts in underlining that this is still very much one of the world’s great orchestras.
The real pleasure here lies with the Czech Philharmonic – something individual, characterful and homespun in a world dominated by the supersonic.
Continuing their cycle of Mahler symphonies, they achieve a fine balance in this visionary work, a musical universe of dreams and prophecies in which Bychkov matches intelligent pacing with great-hearted warmth, and sonic opulence with textural clarity.
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