Mahler - Symphony no.10 (Cooke)
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Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Cat No: SSM1011
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 9th September 2016
ArtistsSeattle Symphony Orchestra
WorksSymphony no.10 in F sharp major (version by Deryck Cooke)
ArtistsSeattle Symphony Orchestra
Of the live performance The Seattle Times wrote, “It was impossible to be in the house and not realize that something rare and significant had taken place.”
2Scherzo I: Schnelle Vierteln
3Allegretto Moderato (Purgatorio)
4Scherzo II: Allegro Pesante
5Finale: Lento Non Troppo - Allegro Moderato
In his highly personal booklet musings, Dausgaard demonstrates just how closely he has engaged with Mahler’s last, incomplete symphonic utterance, but it’s not necessary to subscribe to every detail of his biographical speculation in order to appreciate the depth of feeling here. After the initial, probing viola line that so memorably and painfully tests the waters, there’s a sumptuous quality to the first consoling tutti that quite rightly never entirely masks the edginess of the music, as Mahler explores the extremes of his musical world. Those extremes erupt in the great A flat minor outburst, which hits the listener right in the stomach – no opulent sinking into the sound here à la Daniel Harding and the Wiener Philharmoniker: the Adagio alone leaves you drained. The first Scherzo has real bite and tremendous power, but it’s in Part II that the musical demons truly come into play. The short Purgatorio movement has moments of grace, but the passions are already unleashed as Mahler pushes his nightmarish visions to new limits in music of disconcertingly transparent scoring. Scherzo II has real sweep and intensity, Dausgaard never forgetting the poise of the dance-world models that lie behind this fiercely personal music.
As the movement unwinds to take the listener down to depths, the biggest shock of all: the sheer force of the muffled bass drum thwacks that announce the incomparably bleak beginning of the darkness-to-light finale. And this is the most memorable movement of all in this performance. A flute solo of ravishing tenderness and delicacy against a soft halo of strings. Battle soon recommences, the nine-note crunch chord from the Adagio returning before the viola theme is heard on horns that appear to match any others in the world. And then the final ascent, what David Matthews has called Mahler’s ‘victory of love over death’. With beautifully deployed string portamenti, the final pages emerge, even in their ‘unfinished’ state as the greatest that Mahler ever penned (yes, there are plenty of moments on this disc when you have to remind yourself that this is still essentially a performance of a ‘draft’).
It’s not just the supreme conviction and musicianship of this performance that draws the listener in, but also the quality of the sound. With violins divided antiphonally, left and right, cellos and basses to the centre-left, and a close-ish but never dry microphone placement, the textures, from the starkest to the most opulent, are astonishingly clear, the dynamic range huge, and details exceptionally vivid (try the subterranean tumult in the basses 25 seconds into Scherzo I). At every point, the recording matches playing that is demonstrably world-class.
If you’ve ever had doubts about this ‘work’, whether from a purely musical point of view or concerning the ethics of performing a symphony that was never completed by its composer, you need to hear this disc. It’s a performance for the ages, and more than enough to silence all but the most puritanical criticism. Simply outstanding.
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