Vienna Philharmonic / Leonard Bernstein; DG 423608-2 Some like the old Karajan/Berlin on DG Originals at a budget price.
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Many new ones have come out in last couple years, my primary recommendation is 1988 Bernstein/DG like Sugarbrie, a live recording that is very compelling, also own 1969 Barbirolli/EMI. The new 1998 Chailly/Decca has been very positively reviewed recently. Sugarbrie we are waiting for you to weigh in on the Mahler 3rd thread
In the mid-70's, when Haitink and the Concertgebouw were at the height of their popularity, they recorded all the Mahler Symphonies for Philips. The labels sonics weren't the best and Haitink had his detractors but the performances were inspiring: first-rate string ensemble playing, the brass section that the Concertgebouw venue flattered, and excellent choral and vocal work. I found the second and eigth at Amazon as Philips cd re-issues, no mention of the fifth.
I second Karajan's analog DG Originals, as a very intense, charged reading. I do not agree with those who like the Bernstein/DG. It has the same excesses, oddities & eccentricities of his other later recordings & it never moved me. Solti's London analog 70's 5th is very exciting & dynamic. I have always enjoyed listening to it, & it should not be overlooked. Chailly's reading is ok, but lacks the power & artistry of the above-mentioned recordings.
Kevziek is correct that Bernstein has some excesses and idiosyncrasies, not the least of which is on good system you can hear him humming to himself on occasion. I have always wondered since Mahler was very concerned with religion, and his music often conveys religious ideals, if a jewish conductor like Bernstein has special insights into Mahlers music?
I own six different Mahler's Fifth, and my favorite is Solti's Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1970 (London). Very emotionally involving. You need a good system to play it. Try playing it on a so-so system and the sound just falls apart. The bass tympanis at the end of Movement 1 (Trauermarsch) just become distorted noise. On a highly resolved system, the impact is entirely different. Highly recommended.
I second the recommendations for both the Solti and Haitink. I've often thought old Bernard didn't get the critical acclaim I feel he deserves less because of the Concertgebouw and his work and more because he wasn't idiosyncratic enough, i.e., too conventional. (His Bruckner cycle is also very, very good.)