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Symphony No.10 in F sharp minor
Revised performing version (1997) by Remo Mazzetti, Jr.

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Jesus Lopez-Cobos
Telarc 80565 [72.54]

Mahler left the Tenth Symphony complete on four staves. The first and third movements were also orchestrated to almost final stage and in the rest are indications in varying density as to what the rest of the orchestration might be. We now have available on record and in the concert hall performing editions of this material prepared by four men. So long as we keep in mind that what they have come up with represents "work in progress" we should be able to keep a sense of perspective and gain insights into Mahler's music at this point in his life. No version can be called a "completion", though. Only Mahler would have been able to complete the work and we know from his working practice that it would have sounded different from the various performing versions in a thousand ways. The best known is by Deryck Cooke whose final version is the most recorded and performed of all. But there are also versions by Clinton Carpenter, Joe Wheeler and Remo Mazzetti for the conductor to champion. Carpenter goes a lot further than anyone does in trying to fill out what Mahler might have done had he lived. Wheeler is like Cooke in being more conservative, more concerned with bringing to life the work as it stood at the time of Mahler's death. Though there are recordings available of Carpenter's and Wheeler's final versions you should wait for more easily available and better-performed versions due out soon before adding those to your collections. (Andrew Litton will conduct the Carpenter version on Delos and Robert Olson the Wheeler version on Naxos.) What Cooke, Carpenter and Wheeler had in common was that they arrived at their versions independently. Remo Mazzetti, on the other hand, whose second version of the work is recorded here, is different from the others in that he began work after they had finished and, in the case of Wheeler and Cooke, after both men had died.

Mazzetti has always been straightforward about his relationship to the three men's work. He assisted Carpenter in preparing the first performance of his final edition after which he produced his own first version subsequently recorded by Leonard Slatkin on RCA in 1994. Not surprisingly this shares a lot of the characteristics of Carpenter's in being much more elaborately scored and richer in contrapuntal detail than Cooke's or Wheeler's. But Mazzetti then underwent a profound change of view that led him to produce this second version which has now been recorded by Jesus Lopez-Cobos on Telarc. After assisting in a Colorado presentation of the final Wheeler version he wrote in notes to the subsequent recording of it: "the final version by Joe Wheeler embodies the most authentic-sounding and unique realisation of Mahler's last will and testament." All of which raises questions. Are we now to assume Mazzetti's first version is withdrawn? If not its continuing existence and circulation in Slatkin's recording must cast doubts as to Mazzetti's intentions as it is very different from his second version recorded here. Secondly, if Mazzetti is sincere in believing Wheeler's final version "embodies the most authentic-sounding and unique realisation of Mahler's last will and testament" how are we to view this second version? Why does he feel the need to produce one at all if there is another that is "the most authentic-sounding and unique"? Why not do as another tiller in the field of Tenth scholarship, Hans Wollschlager, did when he heard Cooke's final version and regarded that as definitive, i.e. throw in the towel and recommend people to hear that? Are we to assume Mazzetti has changed his mind and doesn't regard Wheeler's version as "the most authentic-sounding and unique" or are we to take it he regards his own new version as inferior? Or if not inferior, supplementary? It certainly sounds profoundly different from Wheeler's. Jerry Bruck's, otherwise excellent, liner notes for this new recording give no real answers.

Though his experience of working with the more austere Wheeler version has now caused him to reduce the kaleidoscopic counterpoint of his first version (more Berio than Mahler, as one critic observed), and bring himself closer to Mahler's later style, Mazzetti is still more inventive bar to bar than Cooke and Wheeler. And even though there is now greater discipline in what he does, and a greater sense of purpose and focus along with the clearer lines, I do still feel that he fills in a little too much, especially in the final two movements and when compared with Cooke. But I'm equally convinced this new version does earn its place as it offers a more convincing, less gauche, set of guesses as to what Mahler's material represents without going too far down the road of second guesses which I think he did first time round.

Jesus Lopez-Cobos is nowhere near as emotionally searching as Simon Rattle is in his EMI recording of the final Cooke version (5 56972 2) which I review elsewhere. Rattle has performed this symphony more than any other conductor has and it shows in his greater awareness of dynamic contrasts and his confidence in projecting the work's emotional moods to a greater extreme. There is more reach to Rattle's conception where Lopez-Cobos is more focussed. Lopez-Cobos also emerges more stoic as he maps Mahler's final landscape but this more detached, classical approach does have advantages especially if you are coming to the Tenth fresh. There is plenty of inner detail to be heard in this recording too. Notice the lower string counterpoint in the first movement development and the lively projection of the woodwinds. This is a well-balanced, sharply defined sound that I like whereas Rattle's recording is set further back and is not without problems associated with recording in Berlin's Philharmonie. The central crisis of the first movement, where the trumpet screeches out from the texture, is a fine portrayal of the forward-looking nature of Mahler's inspiration in this work from both Mazzetti and Lopez-Cobos. But it's in the second movement where the differences between this Mazzetti version, its predecessor and the versions by other editors become clearer. The greater clarity of the orchestral writing from time to time reminded me of the Fourth Symphony and Lopez-Cobos is certainly on top of the music paying especially close attention to the difficult metrical changes Mahler constantly asks for. However, I feel the strings sound smaller-scale than I would like and they are no match for the Berliners under Rattle, both here and throughout, who have more facility especially with Mahler's high writing. Indeed they are no match for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on Rattle's first EMI recording who can even show the Berliners a thing or two in this and other departments. I admire the way Lopez-Cobos seems to bring a shadow to the later part of the second movement, though, slowing for the second trio material markedly.

After an admirably urgent reading of the short Purgatorio third movement Lopez-Cobos launches the fourth with bounce and lift as Mazzetti's scoring gives a welcome new perspective to this difficult movement to call for the editor. Famously Mahler ends the movement with the drum stroke inspired by the funeral of a fireman he witnessed in New York: a "percussion event" carried into the last movement. In this recording the drum stroke that opens the last movement is omitted making the fourth run into it seamlessly. This is something Rattle always does but in his first version Mazzetti kept the extra drum stroke and Slatkin followed. I have no idea whether the fact of the missing drum stroke in this recording is the work of Mazzetti or Lopez-Cobos as Jerry Bruck's liner notes actually tell us that it's still there! Whatever, the drum strokes themselves are, as so often, far too loud for what Mahler intended. I'm intrigued again by Mazzetti's solution to the rising figure that accompanies the opening drum strokes in the last movement that Cooke always gave to the tuba. As in his first version Mazzetti sticks with string bass and harp with bassoon crescendi and that certainly provides food for thought. With Cooke the lyrical theme that follows and will prove to be the music's final consolation emerges on solo flute and stays with it. As with his first version Mazzetti differs in handing the theme around the woodwinds and I'm still unhappy with this. Also be aware that at one point in this crucial and moving passage the oboe plays a wrong note. One wrong note might not seem very much, but at this point in the score it is important so I'm surprised this was not noticed and retaken. Overall I do feel that in this movement Mazzetti is more interventionist than he was earlier, though not as much as he was in his first version, of course. Certainly in this last movement's animated central section there is more detail than with Cooke but in the moving closing passage Lopez-Cobos's creative restraint then brings its own rewards. Ultimately, though, Simon Rattle is again more profound, darker and involved as he is right through the symphony. Missing here from Mazzetti's new version is the coarseness from percussion especially I felt his first version fell into and that is welcome.

It's still good to have a number of editors' views on the Tenth to listen to and compare and I would certainly rather have them than not. However, one final thought to leave you with. If any more versions of the material arrive I do worry we may become subject to the law of diminishing returns. When it might be the case that all relevant permutations on the material left by Mahler will have been exhausted and any more will get in the way of our considering Mahler's final work as it stood and thereby devalue the coinage of the others. At that point we may have to call a halt and, though just as short of Mahler's subsequent intentions as ever, struggle to get back to considering what Mahler left rather than any differences between what musicologists fifty years after his death have made of it. Interesting and illuminating though that discussion is I believe the former is more important than the latter. The point at which the editor's own personality starts to intrude or the point at which the his own thoughts and decisions about the material start to seem more important in consideration of the work than Mahler's would be the time to start hearing alarm bells. Never lose sight of what is the basis of each editor's versions: Mahler's own music at the point he left it. Never lose sight either of the fact that if Mahler had lived to finish the Tenth there would only be one version for us to hear now rather than four or five. There is another version in circulation prepared by Rudolf Barshai so this question will not go away.

It's a good illustration of how advanced Mahler's work on the Tenth was, as well as the integrity of the four men who have brought the torso to life, that each version has more to unite than divide and we must remember these men are "facilitators" for Mahler's thoughts not their own. As I have said, Carpenter allows himself more licence in interpreting Mahler's intentions than Cooke or Wheeler. Some passages in his edition are fascinating but many others are much more questionable which ultimately leads me to discourage the promotion of that version, certainly over Cooke's, as anything other than a comparison. In his first version Mazzetti also sounded like "a kid in a candy shop" in the complexity and fussiness of his scoring so is, in the end, also unconvincing as representative of Mahler's late style there and so that version too must go. There are a few passages in Cooke's final edition that concern me and a few in Wheeler's I think work better than Cooke's, but I wouldn't expect anything else in such a project as this. In spite of preferring Mazzetti's latest version to his earlier, it is still Deryck Cooke's final version that I believe is the version of choice. It is the one that neither takes too many liberties with the material nor leaves you short-changed which, on occasions, Wheeler's version can - even though I'm glad that version is now more current. Though my personal allegiance remains with Cooke's final version I will take down this recording of the new Mazzetti from time to time. Compared with Cooke's it's like seeing a familiar landscape from a new angle under different lighting conditions and adds to the debate.

Lopez-Cobos gives a fine and detailed, if slightly unyielding, performance of Mazzetti's fascinating revised thoughts on Mahler's Tenth that is well recorded. However Rattle's EMI Berlin recording of Cooke's final version remains the first choice all round.

Tony Duggan



See further discussion of the 10th symphony by Tony Duggan

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