Very often reviews key on the conductor and hardly mention the orchestra and the recording engineer! How important is the engineer? The engineer can make a homely girl look very desirable and a good looking girl look plain. Some of us could do a very passable Bruckner performance with the right engineers and with orchestras of the caliber of the Berlin Phil or the Vienna Phil, etc. The venue's acoustics plays a great role as well.
I have Solti's Bruckner 4th with the Chicago Symphony, Barenboim's entire 1973 to 1981 boxed set Bruckner Cycle on LP with the Chicago Symphony and Giulini's Bruckner 9th (1977) with the Chicago Symphony. I do not care who was in front of that orchestra back then. Before the game started the conductor was 4 or 5 runs up just because the CSO had one of the best, if not THE best, orchestral brass sections in the world.
I like Wand's Bruckner 5th DVD because the orchestra plays wonderfully and has a great brass section. Wand had a long association with the orchestra and they work well together. The venue for the 5th (a concert hall with great acoustics) is much better than the Cathedral where the 4th was recorded about 1990.
A big issue for me with all classical recordings is how well recorded are the low db line volume sections. I do not have a $30,000 stereo that would more than compensate for poorly recorded lows, nor do I have a high end stereo in my car. The low sections can and do get lost especially if they are under recorded.
I have been recording Barenboim's Bruckner cycle into my computer. Symphonies 0 to 4 were wonderfully recorded. The 5th symphony is another story. Bruckner's 5th symphony 1st movement is about 21 minutes long and has close to 7 minutes of low to very low volume music. It starts off with a one minute very low section. There is also a 3 plus minute low section starting about 4.5 minutes into the movement. Barenboim's Bruckner 5th symphony 1st movement lows are way too much under recorded. This was true even though I had the vu meter set to the max without distorting (into the red) the highs. If I increased the levels, the highs would have distorted. I had to re-master the first movement. This can be done manually by boosting the levels during the lows and lowering them during the highs or my software does it with a leveler feature that will moderately boost the lows and not touch the highs. The software also has a limiter feature that lets me record the music in the red for the highs (they get limited) and thus get more oomph for the lows.
Just for comparison, I loaded Haitink's Bruckner 5th into my wav editor program. Haitink does a better job over Barenboim with the lows in the first movement. I also recorded the DVD audio out from my DVD player from Wand's Bruckner 4th and 5th symphonies into my computer. By far, the audio on these DVDs smokes both Barenboim and Haitink. I do not have to do anything to be able to hear and enjoy the 1st movement. The lows are just right. The second movement adagio too is wonderfully recorded! After fussing with Barenboim's 5th for half a day to get the recording right, I was just tickled pink at how wonderful Wand's 5th sounds and the quality recording job done by the engineers. I was ready for a slam dunk.
Wand is 7 or 8 years older on the 5th verses the 4th and does not seem as lively on stage. But the playing is anything but lethargic. The timing on the movements is comparable to the much younger Barenboim's 1973 to 1981 cycle. I enjoy the 4th and the 5th by Wand and would grade them equal, except the Cathedral acoustics do not measure up to the concert hall.
I will not affirm that this 5th is the next best thing since sliced bread. There are many well done 5th recordings, including my now remastered Barenboim CSO 5th. It probably is up towards the top for DVDs. It is done well with decent camera work and I always enjoy SEEING the performance over merely listening. From this series, I like the 4th, 9th, and 6th the best.