& Deryck Cooke’s BBC lecture on Mahler’s 10th Symphony
This three-CD set contains the lecture prepared by Deryck Cooke in 1960 for the BBC as part of the centennialRead more celebration of Mahler’s birth, the studio recording of the incomplete draft of Cooke’s performing version of Mahler’s unfinished last symphony that served to illuminate the lecture (both broadcast by the BBC on December 19, 1960), and the recording of the Proms concert in 1964 at which the first full version of Cooke’s realization was performed.
These performances are the Dead Sea Scrolls for Mahlerites who have followed the development of Cooke’s performing versions of the 10th; Berthold Goldschmidt advised Cooke on many aspects of the score, so hearing his performances is an unlooked-for opportunity to be present at the creation, so to speak.
The set may be more important, however, for those Mahler enthusiasts who have resisted the various realizations of Mahler’s last symphony. For non-initiates, these CDs provide a convincing case, methodically and comprehensively relating what Cooke did—and more importantly, didn’t do—with the incomplete score to “bring it to audible form.” He is clear about his intentions: “It is in no sense a completion of the symphony, but only an orchestral realization of what must be regarded as Mahler’s first, unrevised draft.”
Perhaps the most important reason to consider Cooke’s case is the larger context: By undertaking this daunting task, Cooke raised serious doubts concerning a conventional wisdom that saw the Ninth Symphony as Mahler’s farewell to life (Bruno Walter and Leonard Bernstein certainly embraced this tragic vision); by giving the world a viable performing version of the entire symphony, listeners were forced to reassess this view of Mahler’s last year.
Cooke’s lecture style will be familiar to listeners who have heard his masterly exegesis, with musical examples from Solti’s complete cycle, of Wagner’s Ring available from Decca. He examines the 10th Symphony through the motivic relationships that serve to knit the movements together, and indicates where he has had to interpolate his own thoughts as to how Mahler would have proceeded. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the lecture is concerned with the three movements hitherto unknown before 1960: the second, fourth, and finale. Musical examples are provided by Cooke at the piano and by excerpts from Goldschmidt’s performance.
That first performance was heard immediately after the lecture, with the movements introduced by Cooke (it appears on the second CD). Some listeners will be surprised by the opening tempo of the first movement: Where many conductors treat the entire movement as an Adagio, Goldschmidt’s opening is a freely flowing Andante, and his Adagio is anything but the kind of lugubrious trudge too often heard in stand-alone performances (the movement times out at just over 21 minutes).
There are gaps in the second movement, which is interrupted three times: Cooke simply omitted the parts of the score where he considered the texture to be deficient. Altogether, about five minutes of music are missing. Each excerpt is given a separate track to facilitate access. The complete Purgatorio follows. The last few measures are taken very slowly, which serves to add a final touch of mystery to this strange little movement.
The fourth movement is also interrupted, this time twice. Cooke elected to allow the last excerpt of the fourth movement to continue to the finale without interrupting the proceedings to make an announcement. This helps to link the two final movements through the device of the muffled drum stroke.
The drum strokes heard here—Cooke calls for one at the end of the fourth movement, and the next at the beginning of the fifth—are dull and non-reverberant, nothing like the huge thwack that Rattle and others have made them. I find this more muffled treatment, not quite the very muted version heard in the Clinton Carpenter edition, to be most effective at establishing the bleak nature of the opening of the finale, out of which that timeless flute melody emerges (it is quite lovely in this first performance). Even in the less than optimum sound of the BBC transcription, this is music that sends shivers down the spine. I was surprised at the polish of this performance; the Philharmonia provides a very convincing version of music that was mostly brand new at the time, and it’s no coincidence that this orchestra provided Klemperer with some of his best Mahler performances.
The first performance of Cooke’s complete first version took place at a BBC Proms concert in 1964. Before that performance, Cooke was able to incorporate material from some 40 pages of sketches found earlier the same year among the papers of Mahler’s widow, Alma (who died just a few months later). The recording (heard on the third CD) is noisier than the studio version from four years earlier, mostly due to the ambience of the live setting.
The performance opens with an Andante that is much slower than the more impetuous tempo of 1960; the Adagio proceeds at much the same pace, though in a somewhat more fluid manner. This movement as a whole is subject to ample rhythmic flexibility. The playing throughout the Adagio is highly expressive; this is by no means an emotionally detached reading. The sudden dissonant interruption is urgent, the “scream” convincingly harsh. One gets the impression that, where the 1960 performance was essentially didactic, this performance was intended to present the work to the public as a viable example of Mahlerian symphonic art.
Conductor and orchestra handle the complex rhythmic structure of the second movement with ease. The furious vitality of this music is almost enough on its own to dispel the image of Mahler the moribund semi-invalid. The two appearances of the lovely lilting Trio are all geniality in Goldschmidt’s authoritative reading. The outsize nature of the tiny Purgatorio is amply demonstrated in this performance, with brass and winds predominating.
Mahler left no tempo indication for the fourth movement, but due to the symmetrical layout of the symphony, it is taken at roughly the same tempo as the second movement, though in the manner of a Ländler—“the Devil dances it with me.” The cymbals are quite loud punctuations here, one of the less desirable aspects of Cooke’s version. As in the Scherzo, there are lovely interludes of quieter music here as well, and the LSO is as convincing as it is in the more brash moments. The drum strokes in this movement and in the finale are louder and more resonant than in the earlier recording; though I still prefer a more muted sound, these are very effective.
Cooke’s use of contrabassoon and tuba (as opposed to double basses) to introduce the finale seems a most Mahlerian choice, especially as the poignant flute couldn’t be a more contrasted presence. As with the opening Adagio, Goldschmidt conducts the last movement at a relatively swift pace, finishing it in just under 21 minutes. This pace suits the passionate outbursts in the score extremely well.
Sir Simon Rattle relied on Goldschmidt’s expertise when preparing his first recording of the Cooke Tenth with the Bournemouth Symphony. Rattle in turn was a mentor for Daniel Harding. It is possible, then, to see a direct line of descent from the early performances contained on these CDs to Harding’s recent version with the Vienna Philharmonic on DG. With Harding, the Cooke version is in very secure hands, but he would not have had the opportunity were in not for the advocacy of Berthold Goldschmidt.
Péter Fülöp’s comprehensive Mahler discography lists a BBC transcription of the 1960 performance, but I can’t imagine that it received wide circulation. This new Testament set, then, is the first commercial release to feature these performances of the first drafts of Cooke’s performing version. Until the release of this set, Ormandy’s classic Philadelphia recording (Sony) was the earliest recording we had of Cooke’s score. Now the picture is more complete, and you can trace the development of one of the most important phases of Mahler scholarship in it entirety. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
Mahler: Symphony No.10
Deryck Cooke's illustrated BBC talk, 19 December 1960
Studio performance of Cooke's incomplete first version, broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, 19 December 1960
with the Philharmonia Orchestra/Berthold Goldschmidt
Recorded at the BBC's Maida Vale Studios, 1960
The 1964 Proms première of the full-length performing version of Mahler's draft
World première performance recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall, 6 August 1964
London Symphony Orchestra/Berthold Goldschmidt
Previously unpublished Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 10 in F sharp minor/majorby Gustav Mahler Conductor:
London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1910; Austria Date of Recording: 1964 Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
Symphony no 10 in F sharp minor/majorby Gustav Mahler Conductor:
Period: Romantic Written: 1910; Austria Date of Recording: 1960 Venue: Maida Vale Studios
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Mahler 10thSeptember 25, 2012By John Greenspan (Santa Fe, NM)See All My Reviews"I should state at the beginning that if you want what I believe is the best recorded performance of the Mahler 10th, buy Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. What we have here is something for Mahlerites of which I am one. The set contains three discs. The first is Deryck Cooke's illustrated BBC talk in 1960. He really goes through the sketches and is highly informative. Disc two contains a studio performance of Cooke's incomplete first version with some comments by Cooke. Disc three contains the 1964 Proms premiere of the Cooke's full length performing version. The actual performance is very good although not quite up to Ormandy and his Philadelphians. The real value of this set is in learning how Deryck Cooke put the work together from Mahler's sketches. It is a truly fascinating tale. The Mahler 10th and the Ives 4th represent the greatest reconstruction projects in the history of music. I know that a number of great Mahler conductors will not conduct the full work. We should remember that Deryck Cooke has given us a performing version, not a completed version. Only Mahler could have done that. The sound is vintage early 60s. The Ormandy version from 1965 sounds better. By the way, Ormandy gave the American premiere in November, 1965 in Philadelphia and Baltimore. I was in the audience for the latter. Again, kudos to Mr. Cooke but this is mainly for devotees of Mahler and the historically curious."Report Abuse