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Mahler: Symphony No 6; Strauss: Metamorphosen [CD]

Sir John Barbirolli Audio CD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
Price: £11.44 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Frequently Bought Together

Mahler: Symphony No 6; Strauss: Metamorphosen + Mahler: Symphony No. 5 + Mahler: Kindertotenlieder; Rückert-Lieder; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Price For All Three: £26.04

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Product details

  • Audio CD (8 Sep 2008)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: CD
  • Label: EMI
  • ASIN: B001BBZ994
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 150,529 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Metamorphosen - Study for 23 solo strings AV142 (2002 Digital Remaster)
2. I. Allegro energico, ma non troppo
Disc: 2
1. III. Andante
2. II. Scherzo (Wuchtig)
3. IV. Finale (Allegro moderato)

Product Description

2CD John Barbirolli

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It turns out to be even greater than I realised 18 Jun 2011
By enthusiast TOP 500 REVIEWER
Verified Purchase
It is funny how some performances "mature". And this may be especially true of Barbirolli's recordings. At the time that his Mahler 6 came out I think the general feeling was that it was interesting and had some good points but that ultimately it was fatally flawed. There were similar critical evaluations of other Barbirolli records - even his Elgar was seen as too indulgent in some quarters! - but this Mahler 6 was particularly rejected in favour of other conductors' offerings. Of course, we had all fallen in love with Barbirolli's seminal Mahler 5 (also with the NPO) so there was also the matter of whether this record lived up to the high standards of that account.

I always had a soft spot for this account. I had it out from my local library for months and months but I never bought myself a copy of it. My affections shifted to Karajan's version - a version I now think of as a bland compromise in the face of the work's difficulties. I guess that back then I hadn't understood quite how difficult this Symphony can be to bring off. And probably I had been looking for another Mahler 5 and had not really twigged how the Sixth is a much darker and more difficult conception.

Returning to Barbirolli's account of the Sixth has been a joy. I can understand now the huge gains that he reaps from his unusually slow, almost plodding speeds in the first movement and the scherzo - though they still shock and seem perverse! - and I am far better equipped to understand quite what a magnificent achievement his last movement is. It is interesting that this recording has the slow movement second and follows it with the scherzo. This had apparently been Barbirolli's intention all along but EMI had accidentally "corrected" the order by putting the scherzo second in their original vinyl issue.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great if unorthodox performance of Mahler's 6th 26 Oct 2009
These are two very robust performances, courtesy of John Barbirolli and the New Philharmonia Orchestra. The first bars of the first movement of Mahler's 6th Symphony crash in with a slow, grinding, even sluggish quality which many listeners find unusual, even shocking, compared to the faster tempos of Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, and (even more so) Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. But for me they only serve to bring out the wrenching power of this wrenchingly powerful symphony. When Alma's theme eventually emerges, it has much the same quality, which I found disappointing, because sharp changes of mood are for me a mark (perhaps the mark) of Mahler's symphonies. The lightness which Karajan brings to this theme, in contrast with the opener, is something I miss. But this remains a great performance, and if you're a fan of loud hammer blows, Barbirolli certainly delivers.

The Strauss is in many ways more of the same. I am not the world's greatest admirer of Strauss, however, so I not really the person to judge.

In summary, then: a great if idiosyncratic performance of Mahler's astonishing symphony, which belongs in every Mahlerian's collection. And, as a bonus, a very good performance of Strauss's Metamorphosen.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars blazing the way 20 Dec 2012
Barbirolli's Mahler 6th deserves its fame. This was one of the first really fine recordings to appear back in the 1960s, when this work was very much less well known than now. Back then, this recording held the field, along with the New York Philharmonic's searing account under Bernstein. Would JB have been astonished to discover just how many recordings of this darkest of all symphonies would be available 40 years on? Or did he expect even then that 'Mahler's time would come' so rapidly?

Others have said what a unique and eloquent recording this is, and they're right. Please hear it and buy it - BUT please don't keep it as your only version.

It's true that Sir John brings an almost Elgarian nobility and expressiveness to the first movement, but his slow, dragging tempo in the first theme disregards explicit requests in Mahler's score. Also, he omits the first movement's exposition repeat. Mahler doesn't often ask for this but in this symphony he does, and it is easy to hear why. It is a miracle that Mahler presents us with so much contrasting and intertwined thematic material in the first few minutes of the symphony - we deserve to hear it again before we go forward into the conflict-ridden and mysterious world of the development.

JB brought a unique intensity and elan to orchestral string music. Strauss's glorious Metamorphosen could have been written especially for him, and for the orchestras who played their hearts out for him in the mid-20th century.
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