Mahler is often thought of as the epitome of the turn-of-the-century Viennese composer, but his birth in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) belies that stereotype, while the three years he spent in Budapest from 1888 to 1891 as director of the Royal Opera forged a special bond with Hungarian musicians that continues to this day. Among the many fine Mahler interpreters to hail from that country, none has shinier credentials that Iván Fischer whose Budapest Festival Orchestra has recorded an outstanding set of the symphonies (all but the Eighth, which Fischer says he won’t perform) for Channel Classics. This appearance, as part of Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series, was a chance to experience live what all the fuss is about, and such a thrilling account of Mahler’s game changing Fifth Symphony would most certainly be hard to beat.

Budapest Festival Orchestra & Iván Fischer. Photo © Richard Termine

Preceding the symphony, German contralto Gerhild Romberger was the affecting soloist in Kindertotenlieder, Mahler’s unsettling song cycle to poems by Friedrich Rückert on the death of children. Rückert, who had lost two of his...

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