During the last months of his life, Mahler worked
on the final draft and orchestration of his Symphony No. 10, which
he had written in short score the previous summer at his holiday
home at Toblach in the Dolomites. The sketches left at the time
of his death were for a five-movement symphony, following the precedent
of his Fifth and Seventh, and although these were more complete
in some parts than others, enough material remained to show that
the music bore the stamp of the composer's unique genius.
The first and third movements were practically
complete; following editorial work by Ernst Krenek, Alexander von
Zemlinsky and Franz Schalk, these were performed in Vienna under
the latter's direction in 1924. During the 1940s the American Mahler
authority Jack Diether approached both Dimitri Shostakovich and
Arnold Schoenberg about completing the symphony, but they declined.
But as the years passed and the advent of the long-playing record
brought Mahler's music greater recognition, several talented musicians
turned their attention to the incomplete score. In 1960 the British
musicologist Deryck Cooke completed his 'performing version', and
this was soon performed and recorded, gaining the music a wide currency.
And in 1976 the full score was published, incorporating a complete
transcription of the sketches. Thus the Symphony no. 10 has gradually
moved to a position in the regular orchestral repertory.
Although Cooke's version remains the most frequently
performed, his is by no means the only option. The American musicologist
Clinton Carpenter, for example, worked on his version at the same
time as Cooke's was being prepared. He had first encountered the
sketches as early as 1946, and his work moved gradually through
various phases; from piano score to piano four hands and finally
on to full orchestra. As he proceeded so he continued his studies
of the other Mahler symphonies, in order to refine his understanding
of the composer's musical personality and technique.
Carpenter finally completed his version in 1966,
then made further revisions through to 1982. He has articulated
his views as follows: 'The work of Deryck Cooke in furthering the
cause of the Tenth Symphony is incalculable. But my version is different
and I am naturally partial to it.' He views the Symphony as a darker
work than did Cooke, closer in spirit to the Ninth Symphony and
Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), and the orchestration
certainly reflects this.
Although several distinguished conductors - Solti,
Haitink and Bernstein, for instance - have declined to conduct the
complete version, the opening Adagio has been firmly accepted, since
it is Mahler's own work save for a few deficiencies of tempo indications,
expression marks and dynamics. The movement has much in common with
the finale of the Symphony no. 9, charting an intensely expressive
course which is largely determined by the character of its passionate
and often dissonant main theme.
It is clear that the search for consolation is
as fundamental here as it had been in the both the Ninth Symphony
and Das Lied von der Erde. For Mahler knew of his heart condition,
and the wide-spaced intervals of the principal theme, which follows
the opening line of the violas, assert a challenge to fate which
is balanced by the resigned nature of the second phase of the movement.
The climax, or crisis, comes in the form of a massive organ-like
chant leading on to a dissonance based on a nine-note chord of frankly
terrifying intensity. After this the search for consolation continues
until the final phase achieves a mood of serene valediction.
Andrew Litton's performance, like all others, starts
from this point of reference, and it does so impressively. Tempi
have been carefully chosen, and there is a sincerity and conviction
about the project that communicates itself strongly and rings true.
For this conductor is an experienced Mahlerian, in the recording
studio but more than that in concert halls on either side of the
Atlantic. He draws excellent playing from the members of the Dallas
Symphony, and the Delos engineers deliver a splendid and truthful
The second movement Scherzo, sketched by Mahler
in full score, has a main theme whose taut rhythmic impetus dispels
the valedictory mood. The scoring is skilful and convincing, a little
heavier and darker than Cooke's perhaps, but always feeling right.
The opening section of the short Purgatorio was
left complete, thus providing a clear indication of the nature of
the whole movement. This is among Mahler's most daemonic creations,
with an ostinato (repeated) rhythm which recalls his song Das Irdische
Leben (Life on Earth), in which a starving child pleads to its mother
for bread. It is therefore significant that the closing gesture
is a hollow-sounding disintegration, and again Litton's view of
the movement seems entirely idiomatic (TRACK 3: 3.49).
The fourth movement is another Scherzo, featuring
the contrasting imageries of waltz and lament. There is the poignant
beauty of the lyrical music set against increasingly dissonant harmonic
clashes, and while Carpenter's sophisticated textures might to some
extent militate against strong characterisation of this material,
there is sufficient ebb and flow to generate the tensions which
find ultimate release in the finale, which in so many respects contains
the most powerful music.
The finale follows directly out of the fourth movement,
and begins with a muffled drum-stroke, an image, according to the
composer's wife Alma, related directly to an incident which occurred
while they were staying at the Hotel Majestic in New York, when
the funeral cortège of a fireman, whose heroic death had
been reported in the newspapers, passed beneath their window. 'The
scene brought tears to our eyes', she wrote in her ‘Memories and
Letters’. (TRACK 5: 0.00) Carpenter's version of the bass drum is
much more muffled and restrained than the bolder strokes found in
Cooke's. The latter are particularly dramatic and launch the finale
in a compelling way. Clinton's dynamic is less indulgent, but the
effect of the gesture is also less impressive, almost a disappointment.
There follows a wonderful lyrical melody, which
builds towards a richly passionate affirmation (TRACK 5: 2.00).
Here too the Cooke version is bolder and more compelling, with a
wonderful and extended solo for the flute, a real gift for a talented
player (as both the Simon Rattle versions show us). In Carpenter
the scoring is more complex, and in a sense more sophisticated;
but it also makes less impact and the music fails to convey the
intense feelings that the Cooke version contains. It is a crucial
comparison, THE crucial comparison. At length the progress of this
noble and serene theme is halted by the abrupt return of the drum
and the solemn music associated with it. Suddenly the tempo swings
to a violent Allegro and the intensity rises to a shattering climax
featuring once again the first movement's dissonant chord. And out
of this crisis the lyrical melody resumes its progress, moving the
Symphony on towards a conclusion which speaks only of tenderness
If a collection is to contain just a single performance
of this music, then the Cooke version in either of Rattle's performance's
(EMI), or equally recommendable, those of Inbal (Denon) or Chailly
(Decca), is to be preferred. But Mahler's Tenth is a special case,
and we do not know quite how Mahler would have left it had he completed
it. Therefore the discerning collector should be more open-minded.
To be sure, the majority view will not place Carpenter's version
at the top of the list, but nor should it be dismissed. It is well
worth investigating, and with a top-rate Mahler conductor in charge
of a top class orchestra, this recording demands serious attention.
see also extensive
discussion by Tony Duggan
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CDTnº1 - G. MAHLER
No.10 26'13" adagio
CDTnº2 - G. MAHLER
CDTnº3 - G. MAHLER
CDTnº4 - G. MAHLER
CDTnº5 - G. MAHLER
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