Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|New Philharmonia Orchestra, Barbirolli|
Symphony No. 6
By the time of this BBC Henry Wood Proms performance in August 1967, Sir John Barbirolli's grasp of Mahler's powerful sixth symphony was complete. The result is a performance of electrifying insight and interpretative mast... more »
By the time of this BBC Henry Wood Proms performance in August 1967, Sir John Barbirolli's grasp of Mahler's powerful sixth symphony was complete. The result is a performance of electrifying insight and interpretative mastery, displaying the New Philharmonia Orchestra at its very best. Barbirolli's EMI recording of the work (made within a few days of this live, previously unreleased version) is not as consistently impressive. This live performance is not only demonstrably superior in several respects to the studio version, it is also living proof of Barbirolli's greatness, his intensity and sensitivity, as a Mahler interpreter.
A superb Barbirolli Mahler sixth from the vaults
L. Johan Modée | Earth | 11/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Barbirolli's famous studio recording of the Mahler sixth for EMI (Mahler: Symphony No. 6; Richard Strauss; Metamorphosen) has for a long time been a standard recommendation, even if controversially so. This Testament incarnates a live, Royal Albert Hall 1967 stereo broadcast of the same work, performed a few days before the studio recording. Apparently it is taken "from the vaults" - I don't know if there has been any earlier edition.
This live performance is more or less the same interpretation, with similar typical features such as the very slow introduction to the first movement (less violent here, however), no exposition repeat in the first movement, the andante movement placed second, and the shockingly powerful hammerblows of the finale. But, as noted by the previous reviewer, this live performance is marginally faster. Here are the differences:
First movement. EMI: 21.20. Testament: 19.08
Second movement. EMI: 16.03. Testament: 14.00
Third movement. EMI: 13.59. Testament: 12.08
Fourth movement. EMI: 32.48. Testament: 29.23
This makes the Testament performance to one of the fastest on record, together with Kubelik's (Mahler: Symphony No. 6). In contrast to Kubelik's "classicist" view of the work (which I admire), however, Barbirolli's approach is consistently darker and heavier. This means that the overall impression is not that things are light and swift here (which could be the impression of Kubelik's interpretation). As usual, the truth is that timings don't give the whole picture.
Comparing the two stereo Barbirolli editions (ignoring the fine Berlin live, in mono sound: Mahler: Symphony No. 6), the present Testament CD presents a more vivid, passionate view of the symphony, apparently fuelled by the live occasion. The orchestra is also inspired, and plays marvellously even if there are a few minor mistakes here and there. As an interpretation, this live unpatched performance from one single concert is also more consistent (as the timings above also suggest). It is a powerful, passionate, deeply felt and memorable reading which now will be one of my prime recommendations, together with Mitropoulos (Great Conductors of the 20th Century: Dimitri Mitropoulos) and Horenstein (Mahler - Symphony No. 6 [RARE] or Horenstein Conducts Rossini, Mahler & Nielsen).
Considering the fact that this is a live London performance, a city famous for its persistent concert coughers in the 1960s (cf. Shostakovich: Symphony 8, for a worst case scenario), the audience behaves very well on this recording. Sound is BBC stereo broadcast, in Testament remastering. Not the best sound, but not the worst either. Climaxes are a bit fuzzy, however, which is somewhat irritating.
Nonetheless, despite this sound issue, highest possible recommendation!