Perhaps the most underestimated of the great conductors, Michael Gielen (1927-2019) here leads an uncompromising/penetrating account of Mahler 6, not the only way of interpreting this mighty score, and it wasn’t Gielen’s only way either. Pejoratively, not everyone will appreciate Gielen’s analytical approach (on this Salzburg occasion), even though so much is opened up; however, for me, the first movement is spot-on in terms of tempo: the marked energico equating not to speed (cf Bernstein, Karajan) but more to a programmatic dogged determination to take-on the elements and win; and anyway it’s at much the same tempo as on Barbirolli’s HMV studio recording, the movement only longer in timing given MG observes the lengthy exposition repeat, whereas JB does not. From Gielen the slow movement (placed second, it’s third on his Hänssler recording, see below) is rapt and paradisal, although the following Scherzo does plod somewhat. With the hammer-blows Finale, Gielen and his well-schooled SWR Orchestra are back to individual and illuminating form; compelling listening.
Below, Rob Cowan has interesting words relating to Gielen, they met, and includes his remarks on this Mahler 6.