This disc, well recorded in 1996, was bought as a sampler of the complete set having so far not found a fully satisfying version of this symphony. Barshai comes as close as any of the others and closer than many others that I have tried.
The performance could be described as being played 'straight' without any distortions of tempo. Points are not made aggressively and the music, which is certainly a powerful piece of writing, is allowed to communicate on its own terms. The playing of the orchestra is of a particularly high standard and is compelling as is Barshai's own vision of the work.
In general terms the tempi are kept on the move and the symphony does not suffer from any lapses of tension. The tempi of the fugal section for the strings in the first movement for example can only be described as hair-raisingly fast and, given the virtuosity of the string section, the result is gripping to say the least! Barshai brings to this score a personal knowledge of the composer and that added understanding comes over with authority.
This joins the Jarvi, Jansons (only when played at an increased playback level as it is cut very low) and a Gergiev BBC 'live proms' recording (not the Philips disc) as the most successful that I have heard so far.
I would suggest that the box set is likely to be even more attractive than this single disc if this is typical of the whole set.