The symphonies of Anton Bruckner are so large in orchestration and often so lengthy that it has taken a very long time for them to have anywhere near as permanent a place in the orchestral repertoire as those of Beethoven, Brahms, or Mahler. Of the nine numbered symphonies Bruckner composed, the Fourth (or "Romantic") is generally agreed to be the most popular. But its immediate successor, the Fifth, composed by Bruckner in 1878, seems to be reaching those heights now too.
This symphony highlights the hallmarks of Bruckner's symphonic style--the often grand pronouncements of the brass, mimicking the sounds of grand cathedral organs (Bruckner himself was a church organist); the shimmering string passages (redolent of the opening of the Beethoven Ninth), the vigorous scherzos, and the sometimes violent crescendos. Here, in this 1999 recording made by Deutsche Grammophon, the work is seemlessly performed, under the direction of the late Italian conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli, by the Dresden State Orchestra (Staatskapelle Dresden). The orchestra is one of the most qualified to handle Bruckner's massive symphonies, having recorded the complete set under Eugen Jochum between 1975 and 1982; and while Sinopoli may never have quite been able to reach Jochum's level with Bruckner, he still managed to achieve the best out of the orchestra and the symphony itself. The trombones and the tubas cleverly accentuate the organ-like passages of the score, and the rumbling timpani at the end of the first and fourth movements give the right sonic impact.
This is one of the best Bruckner recordings out there, and is highly recommended.