SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony 5 – Haitink
Both recordings are impressive with thrilling clarity and presence but the Decca is a clear winner in terms of detail. The latter justifies all the claims made on behalf of the new medium and is in much the same class if not actually superior to the Daphnis et Chloe of Dutoit (Decca 400 055-2, 3/83), and even though it is transcribed at a higher level than the LP and so makes a deceptively powerful impact, adjustment of the controls still reveals greater presence, range and body when parity is achieved. The LP, undeniably a demonstration disc, sounds like a carbon copy by comparison! I am not altogether sure that Bernard Haitink's reading will remain forever unsurpassed as I would have welcomed greater poetic intensity in the slow movement but at present it is a first recommendation artistically and is way out ahead in terms of sheer sound.
In any event it comes as a breath of fresh air after Rostropovich's DG account which I discussed at some length last month ( ''Quarterly Reptrospect'', page 227). This, too, brings some very impressive playing from the Washington orchestra and there is no doubt as to the intensity of feeling that Rostropovich brings to this score. But this very intensity often disturbs the natural musical flow in favour of expressive point making. No one playing this recording in its CD format can fail to be impressed for the sound has an imposing clarity and depth but play the Scherzo in this version and follow it with the Haitink, and there is no question of the superiority of the latter. Those who see eye-to-eye with Rostropovich in the various interpretative decisions he makes need not hesitate but for most collectors Haitink's sane and finely-shaped account will be the one to have.'