Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No.10 (1910-11, realisation and elaboration of the unfinished drafts by Yoel Gamzou)
International Mahler Orchestra/Yoel Gamzou
rec. live 24-25 November, 2011, Großer Saal der Philharmonie, Berlin
WERGO WER5122-2 [79:29]
The Israeli-American conductor Yoel Gamzou was a mere 22 years old when he completed his elaboration of the sketches for Mahler’s final, unfinished symphony, and the rehearsal and live performance from which this recording has been assembled, took place two years later in the Philharmonie, Berlin. Why its release has so long been delayed, I do not know, but it has been worth the wait. I would ask anyone who wonders whether Gamzou might deservedly reap the reward of hubris in daring not only to complete but conduct the work himself while still so young to listen with both open ears and mind to the final product.
We already have a plethora of excellent recordings of Deryck Cooke’s version from such as Ormandy, Inbal, Levine, Rattle and Sanderling, and a more recent release conducted by Thomas Dausgaard has received plaudits; meanwhile, Barshai has given us his own slightly eccentric and joyous adaptation of Cooke’s score and Andrew Litton has made an estimable recording of Clinton Carpenter’s reconstruction, which some find too interventionist. The argument is now surely settled regarding whether such revised editions should be performed at all and surely there is room for another such, especially when it is a new and original construct, derived from Mahler’s draft, which includes some so-called “particell” scoring of four or five bars but was never fully orchestrated.
Those habituated to Cooke’s version might find the richer, fuller orchestration here too dense; Cooke preferred to err on the side of restraint when filling out Mahler’s musical framework, especially as it is generally accepted that the composer was moving towards a leaner, sparer musical idiom influenced by the progressive forms and tonalities of the Second Viennese School. Hence at times Gamzou’s unashamedly lush textures sound too Romantic; occasionally the dense bass underlay domesticates the music too much for ears accustomed to a starker sonic landscape. There is nothing pusillanimous about Gamzou’s wide variation of tempi, dynamic extremes and generous application of rubato but he does not meddle with the formal structure of the symphony as a whole, which emerges intact as a complete, organic entity rather than a series of self-regarding gestures. So much works spectacularly well here, as in the first movement which moves from whispered, barely audible ppp opening for violas, through to the terrifying, dissonant nine note chord signifying dissolution and apocalypse. The Scherzo is a joyful event which ultimately erupts in a euphoric climax. The Purgatorio third movement, which Gamzou rightly describes as the turning point between the two cosmic worlds of Paradiso and Inferno, is a wild, chaotic ride towards chaos, its constantly shifting rhythms and time signatures expertly handled by the conductor and orchestra. The growling bassoons - one of Gamzou’s innovations – which open the Finale are entirely apt and the whole movement moves first towards a chilling reminiscence of the collapse at the climax of the Adagio before easing into a sweetly serene epilogue which is both sublimely played and deeply moving.
The sound is beautifully balanced if a tad distant; volume needs some upward adjustment. There is barely a sound from the audience. The booklet consists essentially of a long, abstrusely moralising, philosophical and spiritual essay from Gamzou which provides the background, motivation and rationale behind his personal crusade to present his own version of Mahler’s skeleton score. Every serious Mahlerian will want to hear this.
Scherzo, schnelle viertel [13:24]
Wild. Der Teufel tanzt es mit mir [11:00]