Dimitri Mitropoulos / New York Philharmonic

Mahler: Symphony No. 6 in A minor

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Fans of conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos and aficionados of historic recordings may derive pleasure from this live 1955 mono recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 6 in A minor, but all others should be aware of the limitations of the performance and sound quality. This concert rendition has a number of problems, not least of which is the fairly sloppy playing of the New York Philharmonic. The standards for playing Mahler's works rose dramatically in the 1960s and '70s, so it's difficult for modern listeners to remember when the symphonies were performed less accurately and often with a carelessness that bordered on contempt. Mahler was not yet fully accepted in the canon, though Mitropoulos must be honored for his attempts to do justice to the composer, and his interpretation is passionate and committed despite the ragged execution by the musicians. In terms of the reproduction, the audio is quite compressed and foggy sounding, so it is only marginally better than most live recordings of its vintage, due mainly to Archipel's mastering and restoration. Those who love this symphony will be interested to know that Mitropoulos placed the Andante moderato before the Scherzo, following Mahler's late practice and anticipating the ordering many conductors use today. With these points in mind, this recording is certainly worthwhile for Mahlerians to hear, and once one is immersed in the music, many of the defects are easy to ignore. However, newcomers to this work should try a modern, all-digital recording before giving this historic disc a spin.

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