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The Mahler Symphonies

A synoptic survey by Tony Duggan

 

Symphony No.10

Where would Mahler's music have gone had he lived longer than fifty years? A body of opinion has maintained he would have explored the same general routes as his younger contemporaries Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. But Mahler was such an important figure to these men one wonders if their paths would have been quite the same if had Mahler lived. That he would have remained a Mahler that we would all have recognised from previous work there is I believe no doubt. Creative artists are always themselves in the end, they can't change. But that Mahler would have changed with each subsequent work he produced to the same degree he did in previous works is also surely not in doubt either. There are passages in what he left us of the Tenth Symphony that he was working on when he died in 1911 that indicate "new-out-of-old" paths which also fascinatingly seem to become born out in composers he did subsequently exert an influence over. Berg, Hindemith, Shostakovich and Britten spring to mind. Even though these composers would not have been aware of what the Tenth Symphony contained for much of their working lives. So the Tenth Symphony material left by Mahler is of crucial importance at the very least to our perception of where he was going after the Ninth Symphony and perhaps a little after that. Had Mahler lived longer it would also have been into a world that would have seen him witness immense social change. Had he survived into the late 1920s or early 1930s he would have come face to face with Nazism and who knows what effect that would have had on his music, let alone on his personal life. In the end, all speculation is futile and we must concentrate on what we have and know of his life and work as it exists.

In the years when most of the Tenth Symphony material lay unheard any perception of it was incomplete. Nowadays with the material is before us in a number of forms we can reach our own impressions of this unfinished life's work. Of course, there was a time when opinions like the following were heard more often: "The author inclines to the view that precisely someone who senses the extraordinary scope of the conception of the Tenth ought to do without adaptations and performances. The case is similar with sketches of unfinished pictures by masters: anyone who understands them and can visualise how they might have been completed would prefer to file them away and contemplate them privately, rather than hang them all on the wall." Thus spake Theodor W. Adorno on Mahler's Tenth. I beg to differ. But those who are, like Adorno, against any attempts at producing "adaptations and performances" out of the material left by Mahler will not be interested in the recordings I am going to deal with here and need read no further. Those who believe the material should have been left alone, accessible only to a small coterie of scholars, would long ago have had the chance to make up their minds about this matter at the time of the first appearance of Deryck Cooke's first performing edition in 1964 after Mahler's widow had lifted her ban on performances.

For years the posthumous torso of the Tenth Symphony had been in Alma Mahler's hands. Many had come to believe it was in too fragmentary a state to make anything presentable to the public, let alone whether such a project was the right thing to do at all. In the 1920s the already fully scored first movement, along with the likewise-scored Purgatorio third movement, were published and performed. But hearing these two movements out of context, as you still do sometimes today, is a mistake since little sense can be made of where they fit. As Deryck Cooke said, imagine hearing only the first and Adagietto movements of the Fifth and realise how little you know of what else is contained in that work. Schoenberg was given a look and even Shostakovich was approached but nothing came of this. Much later Alma Mahler would allow publication of a facsimile of the whole material and then the cat was really out of the bag. It became possible, if not inevitable, for a number of people to try their hands at creating a score that could be performed in concert alongside all the other works in the Mahler canon. The late musicologist Deryck Cooke was the best known to produce a performing edition of these sketches, but there have been others. Joe Wheeler in England, Clinton Carpenter and Remo Mazzetti in the USA are also represented in the discography by recordings of versions of the Tenth they have produced and I will come to their versions later. But it's a version by Cooke you will hear most in the concert hall and see in the CD catalogues. Cooke's that has become and will, I believe, remain the "benchmark" edition.

In 1960 Deryck Cooke was on the staff at the BBC and preparing a booklet to accompany Mahler Centenary concerts in 1960. Believing that not dealing in detail with the whole of what was left of the Tenth would be to sell Mahler short, Cooke immersed himself in the facsimile. After a long process of work he produced first a radio feature containing a partial version of the work and then a complete performing edition that was premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in 1964.

Mahler composed the work itself in four staves from start to finish with no gaps at all. We know enough of his working techniques at that point in his life to know that, once he had set down that stage of a work, he never altered the basic structure. He then orchestrated the first movement and, to most intents and purposes, the tiny third movement. Only the beginning of the second movement was orchestrated and then the orchestration runs out. However, through the rest of the four staves there are indications, some more detailed than others, of his thoughts regarding possible orchestration, dynamics and tempi. It's these that have been worked on to arrive at what could be reckoned eighty-or-so percent of Mahler's wishes at that time. Deryck Cooke always pointed out that after arriving at the stage this "performing edition" partially represents Mahler would inevitably have further revised the work again and again - the form especially rather than the substance - and it is in those revisions that Mahler's own refinements would have come in and his unique sound emerged, a unique sound no one else would have got to. So Cooke never offered his work as a "completion" of the Tenth rather a performing version of the score as it stood at the point Mahler had reached.

So no version can be called a "completion" and it is very important to bear this in mind. Only Mahler would have been able to complete the work and we know from Mahler's lifelong working practice that it would have sounded different from all the various versions we have before us in a thousand ways. However, so long as we keep in our minds that what we have is a presentation of "work in progress" we ought to be able to keep a sense of perspective and gain a greater insight into Mahler's life and music than we would if we had rejected any realisation out of hand. As the American Mahler scholar Jack Diether put it: "It is much more important that what Mahler wrote should be heard than that which he did not write should not be heard." In this case, I prefer Diether's view to Adorno's.

Cast in five movements the Tenth Symphony, even in the state it was left by Mahler, emerges with an extraordinary sense of structural balance. More so than that of the Ninth. Two Adagios frame two Scherzos, which themselves frame a strange, tiny, achingly descriptive intermezzo marked "Purgatorio" at the very centre. We walk with death-haunted nostalgia in the first movement. Then through rather forced happiness in the second movement. On to Purgatorial unease in the third and tragic bitterness in the Fourth movement. At last we arrive at a series of "death knell" drum strokes ushering in the remarkable last movement. Here the work's darker elements are reviewed and explored until terror from the first movement is recalled before serenity and heart's ease is won at last. Deryck Cooke had this to say about the work in general and why it is vitally important we consider it in the form it was left: "It shows clearly that Mahler, far from plunging further into preoccupation with death, was moving towards a more vitally creative attitude... there was still plenty of life in him when death claimed him... the Ninth Symphony had been a phase, like the Sixth, which he had faced and overcome." So the Tenth Symphony gives us a further chapter in the autobiographical "novel" in music that was Mahler' life's work. What is being mapped in this work is Mahler's own state of mind. Especially under the pressure in 1910 from his tempestuous marriage which, at that particular time, was under the greatest strain of its short life. Exclamations of his torments litter the score's pages.

Most conductors of Mahler's music at the time of the first publication and performances of Cooke's version and subsequently, have disapproved of the score and any others like it. Walter, Kubelik, Horenstein, Barbirolli, Solti, Haitink, Abbado - the list of those who have had nothing to do with a Tenth performing edition is large. Leonard Bernstein even ventured some cock-eyed rubbish about Mahler never being able to complete the Tenth even if he had lived! According to him he "had said it all in the Ninth". Yet some of the above conductors have been perfectly happy to perform the Adagio first movement on its own, which is surely giving Mahler's intentions even less consideration. The eventual conductor of the first performance of Cooke's score in London in 1964 was the composer Berthold Goldschmidt who was also a collaborator in the project and would have a part to play in the years that followed. Eugene Ormandy then conducted the first performance in the USA with the Philadelphia Orchestra, at Alma Mahler's insistence, and their subsequent 1964 studio recording can still be heard on Sony. Ormandy's recording uses the score Deryck Cooke first published in 1964. In the years that followed, Cooke would submit his score to an important revision. Indeed, even his own revision would itself have one more slight re-working following his death by his later assistants Colin and David Matthews, and also Berthold Goldschmidt bringing some final thoughts. But more of that later. For now, the fact that Ormandy's 1964 recording on Sony (which may currently be out of the catalogue) represents the first complete Cooke edition rather than the second for me largely rules it out of consideration. But let us deal with it as it does have many virtues as it stands. The point is that it both suffers and benefits from the fact that it is very nearly a first performance. It suffers because there is no performing tradition to call on and the conductor and orchestra must feel their way. It benefits from the fact that feeling their way they does bring a sense of wonder and discovery and I think you really can sense their missionary zeal in this recording. It must also be said that the playing of the Philadelphia orchestra is superb in every department. Ormandy adopts a very challenging tempo for Adagio material and I think, in the last analysis, he therefore misses a lot of the "searching" quality other conductors really plug into. There is no denying the superlative string playing which sears into the mind, though. Notice how the cellos really dig into the strings in the way no other version does and the wonderful woodwind choir in the Development too. Then in the subsequent Recapitulation Ormandy's determined line brings an astringency to the music I am not sure is entirely appropriate. The movement's central crisis is where a searing brass chorale is followed by a shattering dissonance crowned by the long note on the solo trumpet that pierces the symphony like a hypodermic full of poison. From then on the symphony's world-view is never the same again. Here Mahler is almost mapping his own and Europe's psychic landscape at one and the same time. Under Ormandy this doesn't have the really hysterical power it can have, but the clean and cultured brass outburst that initiates it is impressively delivered. Even though I do find Ormandy's overall tempo in this movement too quick, it must be added that the relationships between the different tempi work well.

The orchestra negotiates the metrical changes in the difficult second movement Scherzo with supreme ease. Again this is one of the best-played recordings before us. I also think that, whether by design or accident, Ormandy does bring out the lighter, happier quality in this movement that Mahler once referred to. However, when you subsequently here the revision Deryck Cooke brought to this movement in his second edition you realise Ormandy's version sounds rather "thin" at times. The same applies to an even greater extent in the third movement's second Scherzo. The sense of particular Mahlerian colouring that is more apparent in other versions is rather lacking. However, Ormandy and the orchestra do give their best in the "new" music but cannot get anywhere near the "earthiness" that infests this music as it winds down to the extraordinary close because here we reach perhaps the most famous passage in any realised Mahler Tenth. It is when the composer recalls for us the moment that the funeral of a serving fireman paused beneath his hotel window in New York in 1910 and a drum was struck in commemoration. It's the moment in this work when you know that the horrors have at last taken over the house. There is some dispute as to what exactly Mahler heard that day in 1910 and therefore what he would have intended us to here in the symphony. Was it a single stroke on a drum, or was it, as has recently been researched by Jerry Bruck, a short tattoo? Should it be a bass drum as in Joe Wheeler's edition, or a muffled military drum as in Cooke's? There is further dispute as to how hard it should be struck. For myself I believe the more recent trend of getting the percussionist to hit his drum as hard as possible is quite mistaken. These drum strokes sound well in Ormandy's recording, however. Again in this movement, Cooke's first version is itself an example of "work in progress" so once you get the chance to compare this version of Cooke's score with his own revision you see the subtle qualities Cooke was later to bring out. The wonderful passage between bars 30-71, with the famous flute solo climbing out the depth of despair, emerges cool and chaste but a steadier tempo on Ormandy's part would have been more moving. There is no questioning the stunning power of the Philadelphia strings in the closing pages of the work but there is something missing, something that has to do with personal involvement by the conductor. Ormandy was never a great Mahlerian but he was a great conductor and this version of the Tenth is a fine example of his art.

The differences between Cooke's original version of 1964 and then his revision of 1972 affect the second, fourth and fifth movements and a desire for greater clarity and a more Mahlerian sound palette. Triple woodwinds become quadruple and so remove the need for un-Mahlerian doubling of woodwind and strings by dividing off the "harder-sounding" woodwind instruments. In the second movement "filling out" elements that Cooke had thought were needed to make a proper texture went also. In came some retouching to get rid of what Cooke called "the effect of a rehearsal for violins and brass alone". In the fourth movement Cooke also reduced the dynamic levels in places to allow climaxes to stand out better and the same applies in the last movement. There are other changes that add to the greater vividness and greater Mahlerness of the score.

The first performance of this second version by Cooke was given in London by the New Philharmonia Orchestra under Wyn Morris in 1972 and recorded by them for Philips the same year. Apart from the fact that this is an important document in the history of this work it is also, in my opinion, a superbly played and recorded interpretation and it is good to see that it has been reissued on CD in a coupling with the classic Eduard Flipse "live" recording of the Eighth Symphony. Scribendum (SC010)


One of the first conductors to take up the second Cooke version after Wyn Morris, perhaps the most distinguished conductor to adopt a "performing edition" of the Tenth at all, was Kurt Sanderling. He made a recording of the work in the old East Berlin in 1979 with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra that is hard to find but well worth the effort if you can. It appeared on the Ars Vivendi label and also in Japan on Deutsche Schallplatten but what we really need is an easily available re-issue and I have hopes Berlin Classics will come up with one to go with his excellent Das Lied Von Der Erde. Interestingly, Sanderling makes changes of his own to Cooke's revised score and it could be argued that, with the original material itself in such an "unfinished" state, conductors can be allowed some freedom. Whether one agrees with some of those changes Sanderling makes is another matter. His changes did have consequences I will come to below, but let me deal with this recording since I do admire it and you may be able to obtain it if you look hard enough. [I believe this to be the disc on the HMV Japan website - LM]

In the first movement note the expressive quality of the string playing and what appears a well nigh perfect judgement of tempi. The main Adagio contrasts beautifully with that of the opening Andante, for example. I also admire the way Sanderling brings a real emotional peak into what is very nearly a repeat of the Exposition material. In the Development he is acutely aware of Mahler's late style with its chamber-like textures and brings with it an undeniable "grieving" quality that is most affecting. The movement's central climax seems embedded into the structure with every fragment carefully attended to by Sanderling as crucially part of what is around us. Then in the coda he maintains a sharpness of vision that too slow and languid a performance can take us back to the days when this movement was performed alone. In the second movement Mahler takes the ideas of the shifting, changing metres encountered in the Sixth Symphony's scherzo to an extreme and I think Sanderling sets an admirable "framework" to cope with this. His approach also brings reminders of the Ninth's Scherzo and he shows himself the master of all its demands and encourages his orchestra to playing of great character. The change of mood that comes in the "Trio" sections see some of the slight re-touchings made to the orchestration by Sanderling himself and, to me, they sound discreet and natural. More importantly here, Sanderling conveys genuine world-weariness. This might not have been what Mahler had in mind but it's impressive for all that. This is also a good movement in which to admire the natural analogue recording that presents few problems whilst not being the equal of Rattle's, for example.

Sanderling's account of the short Purgatorio fourth movement shows that he fully realises the importance of this in the scheme. Then in the fourth movement's Scherzo II the key to what Sanderling seems to be doing is to home in on the juxtaposition of "Danse Macabre" with merry waltz. Here as ever Mahler treats his material like shuffling a pack of cards and Sanderling is clearly aware of that in the way the kaleidoscope this movement is seems to go past us. As in the second movement, Sanderling's own adjustments sound right again and in the winding down towards the drum strokes he is good at the creepy end of the music, the muted brass especially memorable. As with other recordings, I found Sanderling's drum strokes at the start of the last movement too loud for what they are meant to depict. But he is unquestioningly trying to convey desolation and despair and does succeed. This means the noble adagio music that climbs out from this pit of despair, led by the solo flute, is more moving and consoling than ever. Indeed I was reminded of the arrival of the Shepherd's Thanksgiving after the storm in Beethoven's Pastoral. The quicker conflict material in the centre of the movement where the work finds resolution can catch out the best orchestras but these Berlin players have clearly been well prepared. Sanderling also adds some extra percussion at the return of the first movement's central climax here in the last. You can argue that the whole point of such a return of this crisis material is that it is and should sound the same. But Mahler seldom repeated himself and might he have added such an extra weight to the sound had he lived? There is a lot to the Tenth that is a clutch of "might have beens" so there must be some latitude allowed for, I suppose. On the whole, I prefer the passage without the extra percussion, but make up your own minds. In fact, Sanderling appears to add more percussion here than Simon Rattle (who is on the record as taking his cue from Sanderling) subsequently did in both his recordings. There is under Sanderling the hint of the scaffold from Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. Then in the closing pages there is sweetness and serenity, but depth of feeling too and a rare life-affirming quality: elegy turned into deliverance. Make no mistake, Sanderling's recording is a magnificent one and really deserves to be better available.


I have mentioned Simon Rattle in connection with Sanderling's recording. Rattle has performed this work more times than any other conductor. In many ways it's become his signature work. So it's appropriate it turned out to be this he conducted with the Berlin Philharmonic in his first appearance with them after being named Chief Conductor and also for EMI to record both performances from last year's Berlin Festival to use for CD issue (CDC5 569 72 2). I will declare now that I believe this Berlin recording by Rattle to be the first choice among the available recordings of the Cooke score by quite a long way. No other conductor matches Rattle and even those that come close are hard or impossible to buy. As I have said, Rattle was much influenced by Sanderling. But he was also influenced by his contact with Berthold Goldschmidt,
Cooke's first conductor and someone Cooke counted as collaborator. When Rattle came to make his first recording of the Cooke second edition with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for EMI in 1980 (CDC 7 54406 2) he incorporated some of the changes Sanderling made and some suggested by Goldschmidt and the Matthews brothers. In 1989, thirteen years after the death of Deryck Cooke, Colin and David Matthews brought out a final revision of Cooke's score which incorporates some of those changes that are included in Rattle's Bournemouth recording and it this third and final version of Deryck Cooke's score that is available to conductors now and which is used by Rattle in Berlin.

Rattle sees the first movement Adagio in one breath. An arch-like structure and evidence of his familiarity and conviction. The opening figure on violas is very spare sounding and then the adagio proper presents us with a cultured string tone. This is something of a disappointment, let me say. Comparison with the earlier Bournemouth recording shows more bloom and rapture in their strings in a recording which, in sound terms, is generally more atmospheric. In the Development section, however, the excellence of the Berliners' playing is clear to all. The woodwind contributions, for example, are especially fine in music where Mahler's chamber-like textures are explored in detail and where only the best players will do. What we hear then is an excellent delivery of an aspect of Mahler's later style and the Berliners respond. In the movement's central crisis notice the organ-like quality of the massed brass and then the refining fire Rattle charges into the music with the high violins throwing an arc over the landscape. In the aftermath Rattle then splendidly conveys the feeling of stoically carrying on in spite of the terror just experienced. Nowhere does Rattle really let the music rest. Always there is the undercurrent that the holding on is fingertip thin.

One of the most striking aspects of the second movement, the first of the work's two scherzos, is, as we have seen, the frequent metrical changes that carry to a logical extreme similar metrical changes in the Sixth Symphony's scherzo. In this music Mahler places himself among the new music of the century exploding all around him but here allowing it to illustrate his troubled state of mind. This music holds no fears for the Berliners and Rattle seems to revel in throwing every challenge at them and hearing them respond with sure precision. He strides forward too, pressing on in a way I don't think he quite did in Bournemouth. The sharp, analytical recording means we hear everything as well. The tiny Purgatorio third movement that follows is light and exposes the lighter bass end of this sound picture. I mention this because I notice it, but don't let it be a determining factor in whether you buy this excellent recording or not.

In the second Scherzo Rattle understands perfectly that this is conflict music, once again a map of Mahler's state of mind, contrasting demonic scherzo material with a happy waltz, pulling one way, then another, setting up an inner dynamic. Notice the volatility Rattle causes to come over the music as the dark coda approaches and the drum strokes beckon. In Rattle's Bournemouth recording this "percussion event" and its subsequent repetition in the last movement was too loud: a cannonade against which the listener had to steal himself and surely not what Mahler had in mind. Here in Berlin Rattle has reined back the sound and what we hear is much more a part of the texture and for that change I praise him. Another stroke on the drum should open the last movement but Rattle always cuts this so as not to make any break between the last two movements and I think this is correct. Indeed, some people who have examined the manuscript believe Mahler was thinking that way also. Rattle then climbs out from the pit of despair to a delivery of the melody on the solo flute that moves and impresses with each subsequent hearing. There is also some superb string playing, the Berliners delivering rapt pianissimi. As I indicated when dealing with the Sanderling recording, in the movement's central crisis, a reprise of the central crisis from the first movement, Rattle reinforces with extra percussion to ram home climactic power. A practice he inherits from Sanderling but which is not carried in any of the Cooke editions. The sentiments I expressed about this when dealing with Sanderling apply here.

The coda is one of the most consoling and profound passages in all Mahler. All of the editors of the symphony rise to the occasion perhaps compelled by the shade of Mahler himself to deliver what he surely meant us to hear. The playing of the Berlin orchestra under Rattle is a model of poise. The Bournemouth Orchestra played well but the Berliners have a greater, more complete grasp on the music in the end and Rattle too has moved on. He is here, as always, the most compelling guide to this work of any conductor who has recorded it and the Berliners are now clearly his to command. His total identification with this score is remarkable and this new recording must be the first choice of the score that itself must remain first choice.


The third Cooke version is also the one used on a superb "live" recording by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Mark Wigglesworth and given away "free" as a cover disc on an edition of "BBC Music Magazine". Sometimes you can pick this up on its own and I advise you to do so if you ever see it. Better still would be a new recording of this work by Mark Wigglesworth since he really penetrates deeply into this work as few others do.
[ Back copies: BBC Music Magazine, PO Box 279, Sittingbourne, Kent ME9 8DF, UK (+44) 01795 414555 bbcmusic@galleon.co.uk £4.95- LM]

The differences between Cooke's second and third editions are quite slight, by the way. Nowhere near as profound as between Cooke's first and second editions, in fact. To tell the difference between Cooke II and Cooke III use the following guide:

1) Just before the end of the 2nd movement (bar 521) there is a cymbal crash in Cooke III whereas Cooke II does not have this. (To be strictly accurate, Wigglesworth's "live" concert recording already referred to doesn't do so either. Conducting Mahler's Tenth is never an exact science, I'm afraid.)

2) The snare drum and xylophone parts were deleted in Cooke III, but are used in Cooke II. Snare drum references in the 4th movement are bars 1, 111, 170, 380 etc.

3) At bars 451-62 Cooke II has the melody given to Violas, while Cooke III gives it to the Cor anglais.

So there is and always will be significant areas of doubt. Often these seem to centre on too often trying to hear or present what is on all the recordings in this survey as though it was "Mahler's Tenth Symphony". What we have, not just from Deryck Cooke but from all the editors, is not that. To give them their due none of the editors of the performing editions themselves claim it to be so. Deryck Cooke puts it best in the Foreword to the published version of his second edition: "Mahler himself, in bringing it to its final form, would have revised the draft - elaborated, refined and perfected it in a thousand ways; he would also, no doubt, have expanded, contracted, redisposed, added, or cancelled a passage here and there (especially in the second movement); and he would finally, of course, have embodied the result in his own incomparable orchestration. Obviously, he alone could have done all this: the idea that someone else can now reconstruct the process is pure illusion." I'm content to listen and gain from what I hear and find. If I keep a part of my mind on those words of Cooke's, far from having my enjoyment spoilt it is enhanced. I sometimes try to imagine what I'm not hearing rather than paying all attention to what I am hearing. Trying to bring to mind the "pure illusion" Deryck Cooke speaks of. It is the case that, when the mind becomes exercised on a specific point, it leads it deeper into the work.

I like to think of the various editions of the Tenth that have been produced down the years as exhibitions of "work in progress" and that caveat leads me to welcome the fact that Remo Mazzetti entered the field in the 1980s. This material can only be enhanced when different sensibilities, opinions, skills and outlooks are brought to bear. But I also think it was high time there was an edition of the material of Mahler's Tenth for performance from the generation that has absorbed Mahler's music in the light of more recent years. I think also that the evidence in the recording by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on BMG/RCA (09026 68190-2) of Mazzetti's skills, allied to his obvious love of Mahler's music, convinces me we are fortunate he has decided to do so. I hope this puts what follows into perspective because I want Remo Mazzetti to succeed in bringing his edition of the material to the point at which he is satisfied with it. This leads me to point out that the Mazzetti version, as represented in the recording by Slatkin, is Mazzetti's first and that he has since published a new version which has been recorded and awaits release later in 2000 and which I have been unable to deal with here. When it is published no doubt another layer of debate will be added. Until then I can deal only with Mazzetti's first version since it remains current and available to CD collectors.

In the first movement I like the timpani parts added by Mazzetti at key points. These are in keeping with what I believe Mahler would have done once he got the piece into the concert hall since they underpin moments of emotional power. I do feel when we get to the second movement, though, that the timpani at 163 where the music falls into the first landler is distracting and blunts the sudden arrival of this late expression of Mahler's favourite dance. However, I do like the cymbals between about 253-279 as they bring to mind the Scherzo of the Ninth and that seems appropriate. I disagree in part with Remo Mazzetti's scoring of the Purgatorio third movement. There's too much going on for what should surely be a nagging, troubled, insidious little movement. With instruments "handing" themes one to another and back again like this the attention gets distracted where it should be held. This is one part of the symphony where Mahler did leave behind more for the editor to know what he had in mind. I think, for example, that the "whoop" at 68 and the trills and upward "scoop" at 103-4 are too florid. In the latter case I'm reminded of the Scherzo of the Seventh where the effect Mahler is aiming at is entirely different. There is an aspect of Mazzetti's version of the Purgatorio I do agree with, though. This is the variegating of the orchestration after 126. At 126 the material left by Mahler runs out, he inserts "Da capo" and the staves go blank. Deryck Cooke writes of this: "It is highly unlikely that Mahler intended an exact repetition of bars 7-34 (he has already contracted and varied bars 1-6 and bars 122-125), but in the absence of sketch material for bars 126-153 a Performing Version can do no more than this. Different orchestration would be presumptuous, when Mahler's own orchestration of bars 7-28 is available for bars 126-147 and implicit in Mahler's Short Score bars 29-34 for bars 148-153." I'm sure Cooke is right to say it is "unlikely" Mahler intended an exact repetition of orchestration. Mahler was, after all, a master of continuous variation. So I can't see why Cooke then goes on to say it would be "presumptuous" to make a difference in the orchestration from 126 and proceed to adhere to his own stricture in both his versions. So I think Mazzetti is justified in making the "presumption" and varying the orchestration even though, as I explained, I have problems with the orchestration decisions he reaches.

In the fourth movement I think the percussion is used too much. The first flourish on the side drum at the start, for example, but also in other parts. Mahler never over-scored percussion and even had to take steps with the revision of the Fifth when he felt he did. At 73 in both Cooke versions I've always liked the prominent oboe. The "thicker" scoring Mazzetti adopts here has the effect of covering this and is indicative of other similar passages where a solo effort may be blunted. However, at 100-105 there is a passage that has always troubled me in both Cooke versions to the extent that I've often wondered whether Mahler wouldn't have later excised it. It seems, to me, out of place. Interestingly, the most successful rendition of this moment is by Sanderling who adds some woodwind figuration to Cooke's solution. Here, in Mazzetti's version, the slightly more substantial attention paid to it also made me feel this passage is more part of the movement.

I've always been uneasy at the use by Cooke of the bass tuba at the start of the fifth movement. It sounds too Wagnerian - as if Fafner has woken late - so I'm glad Mazzetti scored this in the way he did with a solo double bass. The effect of the string base seems right: a fine solution. I do think, though, that the flute alone should emerge out of the "darkness" and at 34 carry on unsupported. The counterpoint from Mazzetti is tasteful but I just think the flute alone with its purity is emotionally what Mahler had in mind and the facsimile seems to support that. When the Allegro gets underway following the return of the bass drum thwacks (too loud in Slatkin's recording) I feel, as in the fourth movement, Mazzetti has "over-egged the pudding" with orchestral detail once more. The brass is given too much to do, for example. Though the extra "da-da-dah" at 183 didn't bother me too much. I also liked the chattering woodwinds before the onslaught of the recapitulation of the first movement crisis putting me in mind of the interlude in the Rondo Burleske of the Ninth. At 282 Mazzetti has decided to add the extra weight of percussion too. As I said when dealing with the Sanderling and Rattle recordings, it could be said the power of this passage lies in the fact that it's like the first movement crisis and nothing should be done to alter that. Following this final crisis there's much to admire in what Mazzetti has done, not least the string solos at 381-394 where the effect is of an ebbing away, not unlike the end of the Ninth Symphony. However, I really don't like the timpani at 395 after the strings rear up for the last great statement in the movement before the long dying away. The effect is too grandiose and shifts the balance of the work's conclusion. We have had the clinching climax in the recapitulation of the first movement crisis at 282. To make this moment rival it not only undermines the former passage and gives this passage too much energy. That Mahler still retains "passion" at this point is undeniable, but all his energy has gone and the music, already winding down, should reflect this in being less powerful.

Since Slatkin's is the only available recording of the first Mazzetti edition discussion of it as a performance of the symphony is less relevant. If you want this version of the score you have no choice but to buy this recording of it. Since it is clear I would not in the final analysis recommend this version of the score over Cooke's second or third versions the fact that I find Slatkin's contribution to the performance somewhat lacking in character and depth is largely irrelevant. In fact, I would go further and say that were it not for the fact that this recording is the only recording of the first Mazzetti version I would not have included mention of it. Mazzetti's latest version, on the other hand, has been recorded by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under Jesus Lopez-Cobos who has proved himself a Mahler conductor of considerable experience, so I look forward very much to hearing both his performance and Mazzetti's new thoughts and reserve judgement.


This is the place to deal briefly with the version of the score prepared by the American scholar Clinton Carpenter. By beginning work on his version as early as 1946 Carpenter was, in fact, the first person in the field. It would be 1966 before he completed his work's first edition, 1983 before he received a first performance by Gordon Peters and Chicago Civic Orchestra, and 1995 before he received a recording by Harold Faberman and the Philharmonia Hungarica on a little-known label called Golden String. This recording is an intense disappointment and, as with the Slatkin of the first Mazzetti, were it not for the fact that it represents the only recording ever made of the Carpenter score I wouldn't mention it here. Conducted in a perfunctory, cavalier fashion, the tone-starved, lacklustre ensemble seems barely interested in the work and the recording is only adequate. Faberman's principal fault is the fast tempi he adopts, robbing the music of most of its emotional power. Clinton Carpenter deserves so much more than this and I do hope one day he receives his due in the recording studio. The CD is hard to find but, if you are curious to hear this version of this score, by all means try to look because it is full of interesting things. It is not an edition that I could live with since it goes a lot further than the others do in trying to "second guess" what Mahler would have done had he lived rather than merely presenting what we have been left with in performance form. Clinton Carpenter is a very clever man of the highest integrity but I think he presumes a little too much.

There is one other name to be dealt with in the story of Mahler's Tenth as it applies to available recordings of "performing versions" and that is Joe Wheeler. Wheeler was an Englishman born in 1927. Apart from National Service in the Royal Air Force he was a Civil Servant for most of his life, a Mathematician, a ballroom dancer, a brass player, a composer and a Mahler enthusiast from a time when that was unusual. It was in 1953 that he began work in earnest on the Tenth Symphony material, six years before Deryck Cooke. He had done so following a meeting in London in 1945 with the scholar Jack Diether where the two kindred souls were at an early British performance of the Fifth Symphony. From then on they began a detailed correspondence that would last until Wheeler's death in 1977. Diether encouraged Wheeler to work on the Tenth and he would produce four versions in all. The last, the one represented in a "live" recording by the Colorado Mahlerfest Orchestra under Robert Olson in 1997, was completed in 1966 and premiered in New York by the Orchestra of the Manhattan School of Music conducted by Jonel Perlea.

The liner notes in the Mahlerfest recording (MF 10), available direct from the Colorado Mahlerfest: http://www.mahlerfest.org/CDOrderform.htm , contain articles detailing the history of Wheeler's edition and the work that had to be done to bring it to "race trim" for the live performance in Boulder, Colorado. They also make mention of the other editions. In fact Clinton Carpenter and Remo Mazzetti played no small part, along with conductor Robert Olson, in bringing Wheeler's edition to life for this recording, proving the sense of fellowship that exists in the Mahler community. The short article in the notes by Mazzetti is exemplary in scholarship and also modesty regarding his own contribution to the Tenth Symphony's performing history while Olson's part is dealt with in the notes by the conductor himself. He is modest on this too but one suspects it was greater than he admits. This does suggest that what we have before us is not a pure rendition of Wheeler's final version but, in a work that stands or falls on the acceptance of the concept of "work in progress" in the first place, this should not concern us too much. Especially since Olson is expected to record the work again with a fully professional orchestra. The Colorado Mahlerfest Orchestra forms for two performances of one Mahler symphony every year at the festival in Boulder. Many of the players come from the Colorado Front Range and others come from elsewhere - professionals, semi-professionals and amateurs - but this is the only time they play together as this orchestra. The drawback is that they don't have the kind of corporate elan found in the metropolitan bands or the whipcrack solidity of ensemble great Mahler playing really needs. Neither can they draw on experience of playing other composers. It's a tribute to them and their conductor that they play as well as this with a near note-perfect performance taped live. But there is no doubt a few allowances have to be made if perfection in orchestral playing and tonal splendour is important. On the other hand there's no doubting their enthusiasm and the sense that they share their conductor's missionary zeal. Olson is a direct and punctilious Mahlerian, a man with a mission to adhere to the score though some might say at the expense of passion and emotion.

Under Olson the performance of the first movement is notable for its structural integrity. There's the sense of each episode here delivering an unfolding story as each return of the main adagio material is played with a little more urgency each time. There is a subtle, consistent undertow drawing us on. I also like Olson's sense of a strict dichotomy between the warm, noble music and the spikily dissonant passages. Presented like this we are aware the music of this symphony presents vulnerability always trying, and ultimately failing, to keep away terrors. This prepares us for the confirmation of this idea at the great brass chorale blaze and trumpet dissonance. It's vitally important we never forget this moment and under Olson we don't. However, there is a clean, almost clinical feel to this passage as played here that puts me in mind of Ormandy in that it lacks some of the raw emotional power others bring and the impression is of purgation rather than wounding. It's an interesting, refreshing impression, though.

It is from the second movement on that listeners familiar with the versions by Deryck Cooke will notice the differences between that and Wheeler's. There's a great deal of evidence to suggest Mahler was viewing this as a bipartite symphony with the first and second movements forming Part I and I think Olson is aware of this because there seems a clear idea of presenting "the other side of the coin" to the one we have heard in the first movement. The contrast between them couldn't be greater whilst there is still the vestige of an idea that the two are symbiotically connected. With all that in mind I enjoyed the idiomatic treatment of the "Trios" this first scherzo almost "falls into" in the course of this movement. Just as in the first movement there is alternation between two specific kinds of material (the symbiotic relationship between them surely) here in the second movement the idea is carried many steps further with the awkward, asymmetrical main material alternating with the nostalgically charged Trios. Under Olson these keep moving a little faster than usual and there is opinion to suggest a greater slowing down was a misunderstanding of the source material on Cooke's part corrected by Wheeler. Though I'm told Olson felt the music naturally suggested a slowing down so this is what emerged in rehearsal for the concert here recorded. Olson's sense of proportion and the Wheeler version's much clearer wind lines help produce what I think is a more Mahlerian sound - though with the caveats to follow below. I also couldn't help noticing a kinship between passages in these Trios and their counterparts in the second movement of the Fourth Symphony. I'm unsure as to whether this is a case of the Wheeler edition or Olson's interpretation of it, or both, but I found it illuminating. It is certainly the case that Wheeler's score is from now on a tougher sound than Cooke's, less cushioned, more febrile, more worrying.

In his liner notes article, Remo Mazzetti writes: "Whereas Cooke and I imitated the textures of the middle period symphonies (5,6 & 7) and Carpenter tried to re-create the dense polyphony of the Ninth, Wheeler alone allowed Mahler's own leaner textures to come through clearly. In this, Wheeler's final version is closer to Das Lied Von Der Erde than any of the other versions, not because Wheeler thought that this should be so, but because Mahler's own orchestration of the first half of the symphony strongly suggested this." I'm glad Mazzetti uses the word "closer" regarding relationships between the sound of the Wheeler version and Das Lied Von der Erde rather than "close". There is a whole world of difference between what we hear in this Tenth version and that other masterpiece from Mahler's final triptych, particularly the translucency Mahler manages to obtain from his chamber-like textures in Das Lied. But Mazzetti's point is to be born in mind. Wheeler does indeed make the case for a new sound palette being explored within a recognisable line of descent that claims parentage to Das Lied Von der Erde rather than any other work in the Mahler canon. It has often been said Wheeler is the least "interventionist" of the various editors. Compared with Clinton Carpenter he certainly is, but it is a lot more complex than that, as Remo Mazzetti argues. This is all born out most strongly in the fourth movement, the second scherzo. This has always been the problem movement for me when listening to the Cooke version. I have never been especially moved, or completely convinced, by Cooke's versions here. Always feeling in this movement I was the furthest away from Mahler, not really feeling that the music suits the scribbled exclamations Mahler left in his score at this point: "Madness, seize me, the accursed!" "Destroy me so that I may forget that I exist!" etc. Of course, like all Mahlerites, I have been lost in admiration for Cooke's work and gratitude for the fact that we have always had it to hear when we might have had nothing. But there is no doubt in my mind that it's in this movement Wheeler's version really comes into its own. The immediate aspect one notices is that Wheeler is freer than Cooke in his use of percussion. In fact he was even freer than is represented here since this is one area of the orchestration Robert Olson admits to having adjusted down. Nevertheless, the percussion, and then, as the music progresses, those starker, clearer wind lines and the greater "openness" of the orchestration I referred to, (with correspondingly less use of strings as cushion), make this the movement where, as Mahler writes in his sketches "The Devil Dances it with me". It is in this movement as rendered here that Mahler's nightmare visions, the one's that have threatened chaos right through, actually seem to be winning. Olson helps by not rushing the music and knowing when to slow down even more to mark the rhythmic effects, grinding the music into our minds. With this in mind the orchestral quotation from the first song in "Das Lied Von der Erde" emerges with more bitterness and abandon. So too do the dance-like elements where Olson judges the snap of the "gallumphing" gaits to perfection and is helped considerably by Wheeler's more astringent sound. He is also able to accentuate more dissonance to a degree I have not been aware of to quite this extent. This is an uncomfortable ride.

Altogether in this movement Wheeler and Olson seem to take us further into the century than Cooke and giving us a newly tantalising "might have been" glimpse of where Mahler could have gone. Is that modern urban life I hear as the music starts to wind down? Perspectives shifting even more profoundly than usual, dynamic contrasts, sharp percussion more prominent? Tram cars, trains and motors, the buzzes and clicks of the telegraph - the "Victorian Internet"? Mahler the precursor of Varese rather than Webern? Maybe, and maybe that's too programmatic for a composer who rejected programmes. But I cannot stress too highly my admiration for the fourth movement as recorded here. It is something genuinely new and very important and makes us ask questions of the music we may not have asked before. It's worth adding that, with the bipartite structure in mind, the opening movement of "Part II", the tiny but profoundly important third movement Purgatorio prepares the ground perfectly for the fourth movement with a crepuscular, wind-dominated and more sour-sounding piece than with Cooke.

So to the drum strokes that open the last movement. As to volume, Olson is of the more restrained persuasion, though even he might have instructed his player not to strike with quite so much enthusiasm as this. What someone familiar with the Cooke version will notice most about the Wheeler version's opening of the last movement is the fact that the ascending figure that accompanies the drum strokes is given to the double bass section rather than the solo tuba with Cooke or a string bass solo with Mazzetti, and that it is delivered at a quicker tempo. A pure presentation of the Wheeler material may have had this taken even faster and I think Olson exercised some creative interpretation here, but the difference is still telling as it has the effect of integrating this crucial passage more into the general tableaux of the work, knitting it back into the previous movement and forward to what is to come. I also liked the feeling of a small military band procession in one of the contributions from the woodwind choir. This is idiomatically Mahlerian to an extent Cooke isn't quite as much. As the drum falls silent the music climbs once again and we are in the presence of the solo flute passage that so impressed those who heard Cooke's score for the first time in 1964. Wheeler leaves the flute playing alone rather, as Mazzetti, hands the material around the section and he is surely correct. In the subsequent quicker passages of the movement Olson's sense of the architecture of the work doesn't fail him. All the references back to the Purgatorio and to the two scherzos come off, as too does the greater sense of dynamic contrasts that were so telling in the fourth movement. The final, clinching dissonance, the recall of the key piercing high trumpet passage from back in the first movement, carries the same purging quality and a sense of "full circle" is achieved. This is such a consistently "thought through" performance, symphonic.

The final section, where Mahler reaches a peace and resignation like no others in any of his works is in keeping with Olson's treatment of the first movement: pure, direct, without self-indulgence or excess, but built up unerringly if a little "four-squarely". Others might prefer more passion. I wouldn't disagree, but as a presentation of the score you could not really ask for more. I liked the cymbal crash Wheeler puts into the score at one moment of resolution too.

This is a release of importance to the Mahler discography and is worthy of joining it since, unlike Slatkin's recording of the Mazzetti and especially of Faberman's of the Carpenter, Olson's performance of the symphony deserves its place here in spite of the fact that it is, at the moment, the only recording we have of the Wheeler. The availability of Wheeler's edition does not, I think, herald a replacement for Deryck Cooke's latter two but is a compliment to it as are those by Clinton Carpenter and Remo Mazzetti also. To broadly characterise each of the editors from the most to conservative to the most adventurous would be in the order of Wheeler, Cooke, Mazzetti and Carpenter.

As things stand at the moment I regard the Wheeler score, as represented in the Olson recording, the first alternative to those by Cooke. But Deryck Cooke's final versions remain, at the moment, the paramount guide to the Tenth Symphony as it stood at Mahler's death. I'm aware of all the scholarly disagreements that statement entails but I think I have a duty to state my position. Of those conductors who have taken this best-known version up it is Simon Rattle who reigns supreme with Kurt Sanderling close behind. Rattle's second recording in Berlin is the one against which all others should be measured even though I have the highest regard for the hard to find Sanderling in spite of the changes he makes. Those recordings by Wigglesworth and Morris already mentioned run these close but they are even harder or impossible to find. There are two other recordings of the second Cooke version of the Tenth. One of these is by Ricardo Chailly and the Berlin Radio Symphony on Decca. It's a fine version though not, I think, the equal of the ones already dealt with. More importantly this was made earlier in Chailly's career before his more recent Mahler recordings with the Royal Concertgebouw and his performance of the Tenth has matured greatly. I very much hope he will re-record the work soon. I do await a new recording of the Wheeler version by Robert Olson too. Not just for the fact that it will be with a better orchestra than the one on his present recording, but also that it might offer us a version of Wheeler's score a touch more faithful to the original. Even though this will not lessen my admiration for the Colorado version.

This survey is, by the nature of the work under discussion, very much an "interim report". With Mazzetti's second version imminent for release by a fine Mahler conductor, an entirely new version of the work rumoured to be in the wings from another well-known conductor, and the propensity of still other conductors to make their own adjustments to the versions that already exist, how could it be anything else?

Rattle Berlin Philharmonic  CDC5569722  Crotchet  Amazon US

Rattle Bournemouth SO  CDC7544062  Crotchet  Amazon US

Slatkin  St Louis SO  09026 68190-2   Amazon US

see also Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor (1901-2)
Symphony No.10 in F sharp minor (1910) Reconstruction and instrumentation after Mahlerís sketches by Rudolf Barshai Junge Deutsche Philharmonie/Rudolf Barshai

Tony Duggan



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