About the album
Adam Fischer on Mahler’s Fifth Symphony
What does Mahler’s Fifth mean personally to you? Unlike certain other Mahler symphonies, I have no personal story I associate with the Fifth. This
doesn’t imply that it is not just as close to me as the other ones; it is just more difficult to express the connection in words.
In 1905, Mahler recorded his own interpretation of this symphony’s first movement on a Welte-Mignon piano roll. Does such a historical document have an influence on you? Certainly. We should try to grasp Mahler’s intentions, but we should not apply them without using our own discretion. The Welte-Mignon recording is an important document to help us learn how to deal with Mahler’s tempo indications. There are those well-known indications of the length of his own orchestral performances: they show, for instance, that the Adagietto, in particular, should be played much more rapidly than we think. Incredibly fast runtimes were clocked in Saint Petersburg and also at the Concertgebouw: when we compare them with the movement runtimes as performed by famous conductors of the 1950s and 1960s, we can tell that “slow”, for Mahler, does not mean “dragging”.
Most of all – this is my fundamental conviction, and here I find it confirmed – slow and fast aren’t just metronome values. You can play faster while sounding slower, and vice-versa. It does not just have to do with maintaining a slow tempo, but with managing the accents so that it also sounds slower.
Sounding slower is more important than merely being slower. You can hear this in the Welte-Mignon recording: Mahler treats his own music in a thoroughly rhapsodic way.
11Symphony No. 5 in C Sharp Minor I. Trauermarsch (In gemessenem Schritt. Streng. Wie ein Kondukt - Plötzlich schneller. Leidenschaftlich. Wild - Tempo I)
12Symphony No. 5 in C Sharp Minor II. Stürmisch bewegt. Mit größter Vehemenz - Bedeutend langsamer - Tempo I subito
13Symphony No. 5 in C Sharp Minor III. Scherzo (Kräftig, nicht zu schnell)
14Symphony No. 5 in C Sharp Minor IV. Adagietto (Sehr langsam)
15Symphony No. 5 in C Sharp Minor V. Rondo-Finale (Allegro)