There is no better advocate for the Cooke version of Mahler's Tenth. The musicians play with conviction and communicate Chailly's insightful interpretation admirably.
This was the first recording of Mahler's last symphony that seemed to approach the work as a given. Several of the earlier recordings were enlisted in the struggle to establish the viability of the work, and are hard to hear out of that context. Ormandy's recording of Cooke I (with some orchestration by Berthold Goldschmidt) was the first ever (and hardly a salubrious effort). Wyn Morris's, the first recording of Cooke's revised version (edited by the Matthews brothers), is long overdue for CD release. And Rattle's recording of the revised Cooke was hisRead more first recording for EMI (he was 25), incorporating ideas by Rattle. Now there are recordings of the Wheeler, Carpenter, and Mazzetti versions, and at least two more—Mazzetti's new version, due from Telarc, and Rattle's second go at the revised Cooke, with the Berlin Philharmonic, from EMI—will be available by the time this review is in print. It should be easier to see the 10th as one of the canon.
In some ways Chailly's interpretation is similar to Inbal's. Both conductors approach the 10th with a profound knowledge of Mahler's music, and as a masterpiece in its own right, not as some appendage to the Ninth. Inbal initially recorded only the Adagio as the finale to his Mahler cycle (with which it was issued), then had a rethink and recorded the whole symphony—a tribute both to his serious desire to know all of Mahler, and to Denon for issuing it.
As far as I know, this was Chailly's first Mahler symphony recording (originally a two-CD set with a decent Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht). He has gone on to produce an important series (his Eighth is imminent) that challenges some conventional wisdom and is never dull. He now has the services of one of the world's finest Mahler orchestras; it is a tribute to the Radio-Symphony Orchestra of Berlin that their contribution is by no means negligible. The musicians play with conviction and accuracy, and they communicate Chailly's insightful interpretation admirably. The Decca sound is, as usual, first-rate (there is no indication as to whether this is a remaster, but it hardly matters).
For me, the highlights of this performance are the fourth and fifth movements—I would single out, also, the transition from one to the other. Chailly's drum stroke is loud but muffled, and if that sounds impossible, contrast it with Rattle's: His is a very loud, dry whack that sounds more like a cannon shot; Chailly's is reminiscent of the hammer in the Sixth—the stroke of an ax that reminds us of our mortality. But surrounding those drum strokes is some of the most hauntingly beautiful music that Mahler ever wrote. I remember that it was only after hearing the last minute of this recording in its original release—when the strings and bass clarinet have almost convinced us that we've arrived at peace, and then the whole orchestra rushes in to overwhelming effect—that I was convinced that this was a Mahler symphony, and one of his most moving. There is currently no better advocate for the Cooke version.
If you don't already have this recording, you must get this new reissue. It's as simple as that.
Symphony no 10 in F sharp minor/majorby Gustav Mahler Conductor:
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1910; Austria Date of Recording: 10/1986 Venue: Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany Length: 78 Minutes 45 Secs. Notes: This selection is the performing version completed by Deryck Cooke.