Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 03/31/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This budget-priced CD from the Sony Essential Classics series of Bruckner's 5th Symphony performed by Eugene Ormandy & the Philadelphia Orchestra is simply brilliant. Before I start I guess I should mention that I own no other recordings of this symphony (this seems to be a necessary disclaimer for some). However, I do own a half-dozen symphony titles by the composer, including Szell's recording of the 3rd and 8th on the same label, Klemperer's recording of the 6th on EMI, Wand's performance of the 9th on RCA, and two versions of the 4th -- Salonen's 1998 release on Sony and Jochum's classic on DG Originals. So while I may not be a Bruckner expert, I think I know what I'm listening for in a good Bruckner symphony performance. And on this title, Ormandy has outdone himself yet again. The thing I love about Ormandy as a conductor is he has the talent and ability to handle a repertoire as vast and differing as Mozart, Bizet, Hindemith, Ives and Bruckner, and yet he always manages to pinpoint the composer's original intentions, and without drawing much attention to his own presence (and ego). This 5th Symphony overflows with radiant strings, massive brass, powerful surges, and multiple climaxes, and the Philadelphia Orchestra has never sounded better. There may be other great discs of Bruckner's Symphony No. 5, but I can't imagine one better than Ormandy's. Throw in the inexpensive price and you have an essential purchase to go along with classic performance."
A Great Fifth
Timothy Dougal | Madison, Wi United States | 03/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is my favorite Bruckner Fifth symphony. It's big, well and dramatically paced, the sound is tremendous, and the interpretation delivers all the sentiment, brutality and visionary uplift the music has to offer. Wow!"
There's a much better alternative
Ivan Weiser | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/08/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The other three reviewers loved this recording, but my own personal response was surprisingly negative (for a great conductor like Ormandy). I just plain didn't like it, and because of it - it was the only recording I had - I didn't really appreciate the symphony either. I *did* learn to love this great symphony when I heard the Eugen Jochum 1964 recording with the the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Obviously, this is not a music review from an informed critic, but if there is someone out there whose response to the Ormandy was as lukewarm as mine, I cannot recommend the Jochum more highly: it is luminous and wonderful. Get it!"
Geers | Netherlands | 12/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Allthough the sound and ambiance is tremendous, i am still doubting this is my favoroutie. Thatis because of the 7th. The tension is around in this music, and there are some climaxes. Bruckner surely meant this, but the symphonie is long. Never a dull moment though. The orchestra from Philadelphia is flawless, the director will probalby have his saying in that. I own by the way some more performances under the batron of Ormandy, and they are not always simple. Each time they are great though. I do not see this director as avoiding a temptation or difficulty in music."
Ormandy, Philadelphia: Bruckner Sym 5: An Alternative View -
Dan Fee | Berkeley, CA USA | 06/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a fan of this composer, I've stayed away from Eugene Ormandy doing Bruckner, even with the top-notch band of his tenure. When I did keep an Ormandy reading, it tended to be Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, and hardly ever Beethoven, Brahms, .... you get the drift.
Then I got my first super audio player, and was madly looking through the catalog for super audio discs to test drive the new format. As it happened, the Ormandy reading of the Verdi Requiem was one of the smallish SACD catalog then available; so I took a chance. Wow. There sure was a lot more on that master tape than home listeners had ever, ever, ever been privileged to hear before. Yes, the SACD remastering had to limit itself to stereo, since the original master simply was tinned so long before anybody even dreamed of multiple channels. But that SACD remaster in two channels puts most of the multiple channels readings in proper perspective. Given the absolutely stunning sound of that disc, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, there might be a lot more to Ormandy readings than we have so far heard on red book discs.
Now, this disc is red book, not super audio. But after hearing it through on headphones, I think I am being converted to Ormandy yet again.
I'm quite picky about my Bruckner. I do love the grand, solemn approach. My keeper shelf fifth symphonies tilt towards a Japanese super audio multiple channel remaster of the Gunter Wand reading with Berlin; or the aspiring zen-master-ed timelessness of Celibidache in Munich. I think I also scrounged around to find SACD remasterings of a fifth by Osaka Philharmonic under their revered Japanese leader, Takashi Asahina. There's a Franz Welser-Most reading with London Philharmonic on EMI in there, somewhere. Also, more recent discs have stayed put on the shelf, most notably an import of Dutch rising star Jaap van Zweden with the Netherlands Radio, the Telarc disc with Benjamin Zander and London Philharmonia, and the most unexpected sleep surprise of all, the Herreweghe just released on period instruments (Harmonia Mundi). All of these to some degree or other occupy the going solemn-grand-mystical schools of Bruckner interpretation.
Now comes Eugene Ormandy. In his first movement we get a very strong, plain, warm reading which puts Bruckner much closer to the linage of Beethoven to Schubert. Each famous department of the immensely gifted and ready old Philadelphia Orchestra is vividly involved. There is no fussing about with phrasing, tempos, or underling for epic musical emphasis. The music clearly is still big sized, but maybe different; in the same way that Schubert's ninth symphony sounds big, big, big. Now taking a more Schubertian way with the composer is something of a newish strategy, or so I thought. But this Ormandy disc from 1967 (CD mastered, 1992) shows that Ormandy was already going there, for whatever reasons. If we are seeking nothing but the more customary Brucknerian ethos, this first movement will disappoint, maybe like Bernstein's Sibelius disappoints by failing to capture the last chilled Northern Lights ounce of Nordic-Finland North Sea mystique. (Go to Vanska, Berglund, Blomdstedt, Segerstam, or Oramo for that, in Sibelius spades.) If you don't dismiss the first movement out of hand for being so indebted to Schubert, keep listening.
In the second movement, Ormandy and the band just keep delivering. They stick near enough to the score that the example of Beethoven's model, (variations in an extended slow movement) in the slow movement of the ninth symphony, patently shows through. Bruckner has his own sense of the model, as he structures typical Bruckner textures, and contrasts massed orchestral groups, and contrasts the vigor of those huge orchestral gatherings with lyrical-pastoral passages. Ormandy is making Bruckner sound out strongly, as an heir to Beethoven.
The third Scherzo movement sounds really odd, really strange. Not because Ormandy is doing anything particularly eccentric with phrasing, tempo, or music; but because, well, this scherzo is truly a very strange bird of a movement. No fuss, no muss, Ormandy and the band again let it all shine right out, clear as Szell or any other conductor of a no-nonsense, strict-musical-constructionist persuasion. Perhaps one reason this scherzo rings with so many odd touches is that it follows a first movement that has strong Schubert associations, followed by a second slow movement that walks in giant musical steps along the variations pathways we hear so masterfully in Beethoven. Come to the scherzo, then, and these associations drop farther into the background. It's easier to imagine how his contemporaries found Bruckner to be so incomprehensible, so mad, yet so supposedly derivative. The outer limits aspects of this movement even suggest to me, passing hints of modernisms yet to be made explicit - hints of Scriabin, Szymanowski, even Martinu. I'm amazed that Ormandy should be the one to draw back the curtain through his plain leadership manners, and by getting out of the way, end up calling such effective attention to Bruckner's inimitable meld of rococo-baroque with Late Romantic dissolving into modernity.
The last movement is also no-nonsense. It's opening reminds us of Beethoven's ninth, as the major themes are introduced and reviewed before the music takes off to find its innovative closing paths. Those great fugue sections would quickly bring Bach and Beethoven to high mind again, except that the vigorous fugue paragraphs are characteristically delayed and back-lighted through those recurring Bruckner melody paragraphs. We know we are not just repeating Bach or Beethoven, because as the movement grows, we get hints of Bruckner's intentions to wrap up with one of the largest triple fugues ever written - if not the only triple fugue ever written into a symphony on such a grand, massive musical scale. This brings home the Schubert sense of big symphony, again.
Well this symphony must have left everybody puzzling. And indeed, we are still puzzling. I haven't heard an alternative reading of this symphony that made such a strong case for its understandings, since hearing a live concert with Herbert Blomstedt leading San Francisco. (Blomstedt is emeritus) He went even further than Ormandy in revealing the Schubert roots, and in that concert, the last movement triple fugue transformed amazingly into an extended intertwining of Schubert dances. I really couldn't believe my ears. Bruckner's fifth, light on its feet, Schubertian warm, and dancing.
Okay then. I do hope Sony or somebody gets around to some diligent super audio remasterings of all those old Sony CBS heroes - Walter, Szell, and even Ormandy. We ain't heard nothing yet, if those old master tapes are as good as I suspect. If you are looking for a more Schubertian grasp of Bruckner that, nevertheless, remains true enough to Bruckner to sound recognizable; Ormandy should be on your short list. If you dislike even the barest mention of such Schubert possibilities in Bruckner, probably better steer clear of this disc. I'm giving it - five, alternative, Bruckner stars. To the keeper shelf."