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COMPOSERS: Mahler/Strauss
WORKS: Symphony No. 6; Metamorphosen
PERFORMER: New Philharmonia Orchestra/John Barbirolli
CATALOGUE NO: CZS 7 67816 2 ADD (1967)
Arriving at a time when Mahler’s status was still being pondered afresh, this astonishingly wilful interpretation could have damaged the Sixth Symphony’s reputation (fortunately, it was virtually eclipsed by Bernstein’s swiftly theatrical argument, also recorded in 1967). Consistent in his dogged slow marching – though rewarded for his audibly vocal pains by playing that maintains considerable tension between the lines – Barbirolli has no chance of keeping the dramatic flame burning through the finale’s half-hour-plus span (and, uniquely, has to cut the first movement’s exposition repeat, essential in any other context). The clean, bright recording buckles under the weight of climaxes. Metamorphosen has more sweep at times, but sags dangerously in the middle. For masochists only. David Nice