Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) left his 10th symphony unfinished, and apart from the complete opening Adagio, the remainder was a collection of semi-scored sketches, cryptic notes and loose pages of score that to the observer seemed like an impenetrable puzzle.
Deryck Cooke made a performing version of the complete work in the 1950s, using the manuscripts published by Mahler’s widow, Alma in 1924. His was a remarkable achievement, allowing the listener into the world of a composer who appeared to be on the brink of a new musical world, and where he comes closest to the Second Viennese School. Since this pioneering edition of the 10th, several other eminent musicians have added their own thoughts to the enigmatic 10th – among them Berthold Goldschmidt and on this CD by the great conductor Rudolf Barshai
Mahler’s 10th is one of his most moving and personal works. The stabbing dissonant chords in the 1st movement depicted the agony of a heart attack he suffered in New York, and the pain at the death of his eldest daughter. The funeral procession of a dead New York fireman that Mahler saw is also depicted by the drum beat ‘death’ motif. At the end of the work, after one of the most heartfelt farewells in music, Mahler wrote on the score ‘to live for you, to die for you’, and beneath the passage where the violins leap upwards he writes the name ‘Almschi’ – Alma.
Barshai was so struck upon hearing the Adagio (for many years the only part of the work that was performed), that he studied the sketches, and was so impressed by the new musical world Mahler was entering that he made his own edition. Mahler’s vision of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and his Buddhist belief in the eternal return, is revealed clearly in this remarkable performing edition of Mahler’s last will and testament.
- Recorded in the Konzerthaus, Berlin, September 2001.