This disc came as a total surprise. To be honest, when I came across it, I had just finished listening to another very nice Bruckner 5th by Janowski, and my desire of acquiring this one was its sheer cheapness (mid-price for an SACD), or maybe a little of curiosity.
For all his experience and credentials as an eminent conductor, Neeme Järvi has recorded Bruckner symphony only once, the 8th. It did not leave a special impression on me, and in fact mine is pretty dim now.
I had waited for a couple of weeks after getting this CD before playing it because I thought I'd had too much of Bruckner 5th recently and needed a "washout" period.
When I listened to it the other day, I was amused. The introduction in the first movement is a little brisk, but as the movement unfolds, it is quite obvious that both the conductor and orchestra enjoy the playing very much. I'd say Järvi the fathter is wearing his heart on his sleeves here. Then comes the Adagio. Oh is it really an adagio? Does it not sound more like an andante? It must be the shortest Adagio of Bruckner Symphony No. 5 in recorded history, clocking in at a little more than 11 minutes. That is less than half of Celibidache's timing. But the wonderful thing is however brisk it is, it never sounds headlong or overdriven. I can immediately sense that someone must frown on this treatment, as all the anguish, uncertainties and sufferings in this "great" Adagio has been replaced by a simple pulse of happiness. It's never occurred to me that this Bruckner Adagio can sound so joyful. This symphony has been transformed by Järvi from a "complicated" experiencing, questioning, and then affirmation of faith to a simple hymn to God, a singing of joy. How wonderful!
The recording sound is excellent. The mellow orchestral palette goes very well with the happy mood throughout.
Life is really full of surprises. And this CD proves it once more. It may just be an acquired taste, however.
P.S.(23 Apr) Although his tempo is fast, you don't feel that it is fast. Instead it only feels lively. His basic pulse is stable and doesn't wander around like some other conductors who adopted a brisk tempo. This stability and consistency can be appreciated when different themes of the first three movements recur in the Finale, and their tempo is virtually the same as when they first appear in their respective movements. Thus the tempo for the theme from the Adagio is faster than that of the theme from the opening movement, which is so amusing. It makes you rethink.