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There is no excuse for ignoring Mahler’s 10th symphony

Vasily Petrenko gave an exhilarating performance of the symphony, in the Deryck Cooke edition, to a packed house in Liverpool last night, and a national audience on BBC Radio 3.



Like every conductor who approaches the work, Vasily needed to assess a dozen variant versions and then, having chosen Cooke, to make certain decisions that the editors left open. It is one of the biggest interpretive challenges in the conductor’s book, and one of the most rewarding. It requires the maestro, for that hour-plus, to be Mahler.

I told the Liverpool audience that the tenth is a completed work, albeit unfinished. Mahler in September 1910 left it in five movements, in separate folders, in a coherent structure to be enhanced, revised and rethought by him the following summer. He died in May 1911. The tenth is his last will and testament. Without it, we cannot fully understand Mahler.

So why do so many maestros and orchestral management continue to deny its existence? Some quote Leonard Bernstein’s rejection, hot-headed, capricious and probably ill-informed. Others cite the difficulty of deciding which edition to choose. Suit yourself, is my advice.

Vasily, whose conviction in the score is unshakeable, mentioned that he’ll be repeating it next year with the Philharmonia in London and the radio orchestra in Berlin.

I recalled that the first Berlin radio performance was conducted by Riccardo Chailly, around 1980. He told me that Karajan attended the concert, hidden behind a curtain, to see what he was missing.

Why Mahler? UK paperback edition


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  1. Mark Stratford says:

    >>Karajan attended the concert, hidden behind a curtain, <<

    Jesus, the vanity of the Karajan.

    I once heard that before Boulez conducted Pelleas and Melisande with Welsh National Opera, he went along to a couple of the company's shows in Cardiff. I remember that Falstaff was one of these, plus there was something else not normally be his cup of tea. Anyway apparently he sat in the middle of a row like a normal punter.

    No hiding behind a curtain, pretending he wasn't there.

    • At the ENO many years ago I heard an unmistakeable, guttural voice behind me. Solti – presumably there to hear Rosalind Plowright sing Desdemona.

  2. Nigel Dodd says:

    I hope he records it. Sounds like an exciting time on Hope Street. I was a regular there during the Libor Pesek era before I was relocated to London. Petrenko is special, from what I hear on his Shostakovich recordings. If that’s true about Karajan and the curtain, it’s hilarious.

  3. I agree. I wish the 10th was performed more. I have that excellent DGG recording of the work with Daniel Harding conducting the Vienna PO

  4. Garrett Keast says:

    John Neumeier’s Hamburg Ballet performs the full Cooke version with great success quite often as part of his ballet Purgatorio. Third season in a row!

  5. Mike Hausgrand says:

    It is a great piece, and Mr Lebrecht’s book on Mahler has helped me a lot to understand it.
    While I am only too familiar with Karajan’s narcisism, I would wait before praising Boulez on this page, since he decided to leave out from his very recent cyle the completed Tenth.
    Of course one should condemn Karajan for taking interest in Mahler only once it has become popular to do so, but I would equally condamn Boulez for proving once more to be an old-fashioned poseur of what it was right and wrong according to the outdated Darmstadt etiquette.

    • And yet Karajan’s Mahler recordings are fantastic! Better late that never. I wish he had recorded all of them. I would have loved to hear what he would have done with the 7th and the 8th

    • “Of course one should condemn Karajan for taking interest in Mahler only once it has become popular to do so”
      Partially true. Karajan conducted ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ in the 1950′s with the VSO

  6. Daniel Farber says:

    It was not just Bernstein who rejected the 10th. Among others, Klemperer and Walter did as well. Those who do so cannot simply be dismissed. It is a valid position to take, though perhaps not the only one. On another note, does anyone know why the wonderful conductor, Daniel Harding, who has made any number of “excellent” recordings, has not made much of a dent in the US?

    • Walter’s decision was emotional, Klemperer’s idiosyncratic. Klemp also rejected the 3rd and the 5th.

      • Daniel Farber says:

        Didn’t Klemperer also reject the 6th? According to Heyworth at least, he tried to do it both early and very late in his career but both times put it aside because he could not fathom the finale. I believe he conducted the 1st only once early in his career. Interestingly he considered Bruckner the greater composer.

    • Peter R. says:

      Re points made by Mr. Farber and Mr. Hausgrand: There is a difference between choosing not to record the 10th and denying its legitimacy. I am hoping that for those of us without “Why Mahler?” immediately available at hand (I will be hinting to my wife that I’d like it for my birthday), Mr. Lebrecht can elaborate on Bernstein’s rejection. I heard it was along the lines of “The Ninth was so final there could not have been a Tenth.”

    • Both Rafael Kubelik and Sir Georg Solti rejected it as well. Solti said that Cooke’s version “lacks the contrapuntal element in Mahler’s writing.”

      • Solti, in his autobiography, says that he was going to look at the different
        versions of the 10th and make his performing score from them.

    • If DF’s question about DH in US is not rhetorical, the most likely answer is probably – personality.

  7. Absolutely. There again, at the other end, you dismiss Hugh Wolff (New England Conservatory Philharmonia) performing Mahler’s 1889 Symphonic Poem in 2 Parts, possibly without even hearing it whilst I found it an enjoyable and interesting work. (For instance, I wanted to check if the end of the finale sounded the same as the Mahler 1st symphony we know and love, which it does: important as the signal triumph of victory standing horns bells peel chorale motif is lifted from the only once-recorded Suite in E by Hans Rott who probably drew on Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus – quite a chain).

    I believe in lost Mahler being found. Mahler’s 10th is such a wonderful work which demands to be heard. I’ve been waiting years for Mahler’s Scherzo in C Minor and Presto in F Major (via Susan Filler).

    Incidentally, I really disliked Jens Malte Fischer’s book on Mahler whereas I bought your “Why Mahler” as soon as it was published and read it cover-to-cover in one go (like a Harry Potter fan!).

    • Thank you. I didn’t dismiss Wolff’s attempt without hearing it. I have heard the 1st done as 5 movements and know why Mahler dropped it. As for Rott, that’s a really troubling topic…

  8. David Boxwell says:

    “Four Ways of Saying Farewell,” is what the 9th is all about, according to Leonard Bernstein. Ergo: LB couldn’t negate his (pat?) thesis and acknowledge the 10th, because it says “Hello, Here’s Five Ways of Saying I’m Still Alive and Kicking.” (LB did perform the Adagio from time to time, without the usual hullabaloo).

  9. Alma Mahler made the biggest mistake of her entire life by letting them complete and orchestrate the sketches. Mahler would have gone up the wall and probably is. We know how finicky he was. It’s quite possible he would have scrapped the last three movements and redone entirely different, if not the whole piece entirely.

    By all means play what he finished in orchestration, although there’s a high chance he would have changed all that.

    The ‘completion’ is a real insult to Mahler and his memory, it’s like treading on his grave. Disgusting. It’s so wrong.

    • With all due respect, Gustav’s death put Alma into a difficult position. Constanze Mozart faced a similar dilemna with the unfinished Requium. It seems to me preferable to embrace them both, with the caveat that the composers themselves did not live to complete them and the conductors are doing the best they can. One can hear the voice of the composer in each of these pieces, even though somewhat muted.

      • I don’t think there is any other composer who’s music is more personal than Mahler’s. That’s what makes the ‘completion’ unacceptable and so wrong in so many ways. You’re either on Mahler’s side or not. You leave the sketches alone or you commit nothing short of musical theft.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Those situations were completely different. Constanze Mozart needed the money, and half of the fee for the Requiem had already been received by Mozart when he was still alive.

        Alma Mahler wasn’t in such a position when her husband died, and she didn’t have the 10th completed to make some money. At first, nothing happened with the manuscript. She only started asking musicians such as Krenek, Berg, or Zemlinksy to look at the sketches and salvage whatever was there in the 20s. Cooke’s version didn’t appear until decades later. Alma Mahler was against it at first, but she eventually changed her mind and endorsed Cooke’s work.

        • Are you saying they weren’t both widows of great composers left with an unfinished work? That was my point.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Not really. You said they were faced “with a similar dilemma” but apart from the fact that both were indeed widows of great composers left with an unfinished work – which is really just a basic fact, but not a “point -, the situations they were in were really quite different, as were the approaches they took to what to do with these unfinished pieces. Constanze Mozart needed to have the work finished as she needed money and the Requiem had already been partially paid for. Alma Mahler was under no financial pressure to have the 10th symphony finished.

          • “Not really. You said they were faced “with a similar dilemma” but apart from the fact that both were indeed widows of great composers left with an unfinished work – which is really just a basic fact, but not a “point”

            I did not engage in an essay in comparison and contrast; I stated that they found themselves in similar circumstances.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Well, English isn’t my first language, but “they faced a similar dilemma” looks to me like a direct comparison, especially since your original reply to Alan seemed to imply that you thought AM was under pressure to have the symphony completed just like CM was under pressure to have the Requiem completed. But it seems to me that the situations they found themselves in were quite different, apart from the basic fact that they both inherited these unfinished works. So I guess I don’t quite get what your point actually was…

          • Both Constanze and Alma were widows of famous composers left with the problem of determining what to do with an unfinished work of their husbands. Live with it. :-)

      • Alma did not sanction any realization of the !0th until near the end of her life (and she outlived Mahler by about fifty years), so it took her a long time to reconcile herself to the idea. It was a very different situation than the one Constanze faced, who had to deal with an uncompleted commission for the Requiem.

      • David Boxwell says:

        The specter of Helene Berg says: “Do _not_ go there, hmmkay?”

        • Not only were they both widows left with unfinished works of their famous husbands, their own musical gifts had either suppressed or largely ignored.

          Could it be this irony which seems to make a simple statement of fact a touchy subject?

    • There is no doubt that Mahler would have changed everything; he always did. But no one is suggesting that we are getting anything like the 10th Symphony as Mahler would have conceived it. Cooke was very explicit about this, saying that we have the Symphony as it was as the time of his death, and that had he lived we would have had a completely different piece. However, why can’t we hear it as it was at his death? It is still beautiful, extraordinary music. In order to perform it one needs to fill in some things and orchestrate large portions of it. As long as you do not claim it is pure Mahler I have no problem with it. I would have more problem with it if they were making the claim made by Cohrs et. al. about the Bruckner 9 that they have done a kind of forensic analysis that lets them come up with pretty much what Bruckner would have written. The pretentiousness of that bugs me, but none of those who have created performing versions of Mahler 10 have made a claim that they are bringing us pure Mahler.

      I actually enjoy the tension inherent in these realizations-it is fascinating to hear something that is “not quite Mahler”-just as the various Bruckner 9 finales are not quite Bruckner, and the Elgar/Payne 3rd Symphony is not quite Elgar. They have their own wonderful aesthetic niche. I have performed the Carragan Bruckner 9, and prefer it to the Cohrs, and Carragan makes no claims to forensic insight, but his ending is wonderful and exciting in its own, not quite Brucknerian way. The same could be said for the amazing ending of the Elgar/Payne, which is perhaps even more obviously not Elgar. These are all valid aesthetic experiences on their own terms, and they are all slightly different. The Mahler has the advantage, or perhaps disadvantage, of a continuous narrative, which makes the solutions different but just as intriguing.

    • It’s important that the performing version of the full sketch of Mahler’s 10th be heard, because it is the composer’s final artistic statement. Instead of the numb negation at the end of the 9th, his last words are radiant and full of love. That demands to be heard, because it changes the overall meaning of Mahler’s work as an artist. And since that work has made a huge impact in the world, it ends up making a difference to all of humanity. We need Mahler’s 10th, and though he no doubt would have refined and improved it had he lived longer, I think he’d be moved to see how much his work matters to us. I used to doubt the piece for that feeling of “treading on his grave,” but then I encountered it live in concert (Mark Wigglesworth & the Cleveland Orchestra) and it left me with tears streaming down my face– both tears for what we lost and tears of joy that anything at all was salvaged.

    • Marc-André Roberge says:

      In the published score of his realization, Cooke clearly states that Mahler would have considerably elaborated and refined his symphony and that the completion does simply “represent the stage the work had reached when Mahler died, in a practical performing version” (1989 ed., p. xvii). This, at least, enables us to have an idea of how the music that Mahler left sounds; otherwise we would only have sketches to look at. Cooke is not the first to offer a completion of a work by a well-known composer and will surely not be the last. Such efforts deserve to be examined with calm and objectivity.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      You apparently don’t realize that Cooke did not claim to have “completed” this work. What he did he called a “performing version” of the sketches. Meaning that the intent is not to present the work as “completed” or as “this is what Mahler would have done” – as clearly no one knows, and Cooke was also very clear that that wasn’t what he was attempting either. The intent of the performing version is to give people who can not read a score and hear it in their head – which is most of us – or play it on the piano, an idea of what Mahler was working on, what direction he was heading in when he died. Its a kind of audible tour of the sketches, not an attempt at completing the work.

  10. Hi Norman,

    I didn’t realise you were doing the pre-concert talk last night. I thoroughly enjoyed your talk when we played Mahler 9. I hope you enjoyed the trumpet playing!

    • neil van der linden says:

      For me the most satisfying edition and performance of the Tenth is the one done by Rudolph Barshai as he has performed it and recorded it with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie. Barshai seems to have adopted the fiction that Mahler’s last works found a natural continuation in Shostakovich’s symphonies and creates a sort of continuity witih Shostakovich’s 1st and 4th. This works out very well. Moreover it works out so well with the young musicians, whose youthful approach amplify the haunting effect of the music. On the same CD set we find the same team with Mahler V and that Mahler V is one of the best too.

      About Karajan and Mahler: I have always seen it as a sort of getting on terms with Jewish composers. In the same period of his life he recorded (probably the best recorded versions of) Verklarte Nacht and Opus 31. And Mahler IV, V, a magnificent VI and twice IX, in benchmark performances. If there was any way to come to terms with his (very) tainted past.

      One cannot blame Walter or Klemperer or even Bernstein for not recording the full X as it had taken decades to get an acceptable performable version. The first recording I thinkg was the one by Wynn Morris, the first recoring by a major conductor, then still very young and trying to make a name, was the one by Chailly, I think. Who used it as a business card to advertise for his ambitions to go to the Mahler canon.

  11. Just a brief word on Klemperer and Mahler. Heard him in the Mahler 9 with the Philharmonia in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh. In the stillness that followed the final note all one could hear was a gentle noise as Klemperer placed his baton on the desk. It was a performance of great rigour, the law according to Klemperer!

  12. I love Mahler 10.

    I have had discussions with a number of conductors about the completed version & have have an good repost for any conductor who says they don’t perform it because Mahler didn’t complete it himself.

    I ask them if they conduct Mozart’s Requiem. When they invariably say yes, I point out that thereis more Mahler in Mahler 10 than there is Mozart in Mozart’s Requiem.

    It normally looks as though I have hit them with a brick & they have great difficulty in presenting a logical repost!

  13. I heard the 10th in the Cooke version conducted by Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. It is a great work!

    I think Slatkin conducted a different version a few years ago. The Cooke version is far superior.

  14. Michael Endres says:

    I have the complete facsimile of the score as Mahler left it,incl, the particell for the unorchestrated parts. The version by Cooke is absolutely faithful to that. The big question ,apart from orchestrating the particell ( which IMHO Cooke did an absolutely amazing job ) is: how far “finished” are the orchestrated parts ? I sort of remember reading about the fact that there were similar stages in the 9th symphony, where Mahler re-worked sections.So the orchestrated movements or part of thereof could be considered as 1st versions. The particell is the most demanding part to finish,but the structural outline seems pretty complete. Who gives a toot anyway ? Let’s enjoy what’s there.I am eternally grateful for the last mvt. particularly ,that soaring last tune alone is worth any journey to any performance. Interesting are those remarks of Mahler in the Scherzo , front page .”Der Teufel tanzt es mit mir” “The devil is dancing with me”.”Wahnsinn,fass mich an,verfluchten” –”Madness, touch me,damnation !” “Vernichte mich dass ich vergesse dass ich bin ” –”Destroy me that I forget that I exist”.When you hear the corresponding music you realize what he meant.
    Sorry for rambling on ,it’s probably all in your Mahler book anyway,Norman,which I am ,finally ,going to order now.

    • Derek Castle says:

      Michael, my German (of 55 years) tells me that “fass mich an, verfluchten” translates more accurately as “touch me, the cursed/damned one” and makes more sense to me. (‘damnation’ would be a noun – Verfluchung or Verdammnis)

      • michael endres says:

        You are probably right.That word “Verfluchten” does not exist in German anyway.IHe probably left out the noun ( …”Ihr verfluchten…” ) t’s a weird creation as a single word. ( I have 52 years of German as a reference,but I was a bit sloppy here , you are right ! )

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          “Verfluchten” is (in this case) the dativ singular of “der Verfluchte”. What Mahler left out here is the article “den” – “Wahnsinn, fass mich an, *den* Verfluchten” – the words could also be arranged “fass mich Verfluchten an” or “fass mich, den Verfluchten, an” but the word order Mahler chose, while unusual, makes sense, it places the object “Verfluchten”, at the end of the phrase, for a little extra emphasis – poetic license.

  15. The Adagio of nr X is, of course, an incomparable work. The rest, however interesting, sound rather like a collection of afterthoughts. The same with nr IX of which the 1st mvt is sublime, and worked-out much more differentiated than the other mvts, which do not add much to what is said in the 1st mvt. Mahler seems to have felt he had to talk more, longer and louder to convince his audience (Wagner complex?).

  16. John Parfrey says:

    Norman, what is your source or basis for saying that Leonard Bernstein’s decision not to perform any of the completions of the 10th as ‘hot-headed, capricious and probably ill-informed’. I’d think that after thirty to forty years of studying and conducting Mahler, Leonard Bernstein was entitled to his own view of the 10th. All we know from LB was that he believed that Mahler himself could never have completed it. Whether we agree with that assessment or not it was his view, most likely based on much examination of the score in front of him.

    Bernstein is one among several major conductors (Boulez, Tilson Thomas, Abbado, Kubelik in addition to Walter and Klemperer who you mentioned) who will not perform any of the completions; and at least one — Solti — never performed even Mahler’s own Adagio movement.

    Just as conductors of the past and present will choose one completion or another or none at all, others in the future will continue make their own informed decision on the subject. As a music lover and Mahler lover, I do like Cooke’s completion but always feel like I’m in some kind of approximation of Mahler’s sound world with the parts which have the least Mahler in them. I’m grateful for the effort, and Simon Rattle’s version is in my collection (along with Ormandy), but in the end, it feels like a very finely spun synthetic.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Can somebody explain what Bernstein’s given reasons for rejecting any completion attempts were? I find it interesting that he apparently never though about making such an attempt himself, after all, he seemed to identify intensely with Mahler, and he was a very gifted composer himself.

      • John Parfrey says:

        On several interviews and documentaries he explained that Mahler himself couldn’t complete the 10th, so I guess Bernstein felt that any later attempts, including any attempt by him, could never be valid.

        I don’t know if I’d agree with LB, but I daresay he had far more authority to say what he said, given his many years and deep affinity with Mahler’s music. Every conductor needs to make a decision based on what they know and believe to be the closest truth in this matter. As I said above, some conductors have no problem with one or another of the various completions, others (including LB) won’t go near any of them, and still others (including LB on rare occasions) are content to perform the single completed adagio and let it speak for itself.

  17. Christoph says:

    Mahler is what he is, a terribly over-rated and mercilessly over-exposed composer of the 2d rank.
    The relentless highfalutin testimonials to his humanity and universal message are in great part rubbish,
    detritus from the money mad Musikbetrieb of our stately era. I have nothing against circus music, but really….

    Give me Max Reger, any day.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I was eating a pretzel when I read this and it made me laugh so hard I almost choked to death on the pretzel. But I survived, so – thanks for the laugh!

        But Christoph has a point: Mahler has been pumped-up to a Martyr Saint of the Modern Soul, which blurs his real achievements which are MUSICAL, achievements which often seem to disappear behind the smoke of extra-musical hagiographies. It is ‘mountain’- music: hights and lows, and the music should be appreciated for its real artistic value, not for its providing evangelical material for religiously-driven authors in search for a God and for Saints. It is a phenomenon comparable to the Wagnermania in the 19th century. The cause is, of course, a real spiritual core in both Wagner’s and Mahler’s music, its existential qualities. But there is also much debris in their music. That conductors like Mahler symphonies so much is because it is always written very effectively for the orchestra and conductors can show their toreador talents to full extent. The humanity of Mahler’s work is exactly this hit-and-miss quality, including its deep nostalgia for civilizational values which have been lost in the last century. This last aspect is, it seems to me, the real reason of its popularity with audiences and thus, ironically, reflecting the reality of the modern world much better than the ‘official’ contemporary music which often merely seems to reproduce the awkwardness and ugliness of modernity.

        • Peter R. says:

          For another laugh, watch Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives as a live Mahler performance brings out the differences in personailty on a first date, or Manhattan, in which Mahler is thrown into the Diane Keaton character’s “academy of the overrated” along with Ingmar Bergman.

    • Michael Endres says:

      I refreshed my webpage to see whether I had read it correctly or my macbook was just playing some kindofa cruel joke here,but no: there it still was: “Max Reger,any day.”
      Sure ,it is most interesting that Reger’s name ,when read backwards comes still up as regeR. But that’s exactly how his music sounds. In the end it’s all in the eye of the beer-holder .

      • Christoph says:

        I did not warm to Reger at once, nor to Bruckner, but with time I drew close to both and they have remained with me, through thick and thin. Reger is pure shining gold, like that which is guarded by des Rheines schwimmenden Töchter, if you know what is meant by that.
        A difficulty with Reger, esp. in the UK and US is that he is never played. Awkward.
        But consider: were he worked over by the same promotional forces, advertising publicity and myth making that have surrounded Mahler for 50 years, one’s `”views” might be rather different. Imagine each work coming with a fragrant bouquet of media jargon attributing to it all sorts of lofty and exceptional things, such as ‘the ultimate shared(media)experience’, or ‘music for all mankind’, prehaps ‘the central Truth about existence’, why, ‘the very heart of humanity’, and so on…rather desperate claims, indeed.
        Obviously, persistant and ultimately successful exploitation affects ‘tastes’.
        It seems to me that the herd instinct and the option of ignorance are no less present in ‘cultivated’ circles than elsewhere
        Parenthetically: two gentlemen who seldom saw eye to eye on anything, Schönberg and Hindemith, were
        great admirers of Reger. The former thought him ‘a genius’, the latter called him the last musical giant, without whom he, Hindemith, would not have been. Prokofiev, too, was a fond admirer.
        Let us appreciate the vicissitudes of taste.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Mahler’s current popularity is not the result of some kind of “propaganda machine” working for him “for 50 years”. A propaganda machine operated *by whom*? Rather, it is the other way around. At the time when his music really started to take off, in the 60s and 70s, there were actually very few publications, very few books about him. It is the exact other way around. Most of the flood of publications about him followed in the wake of the success of his music. And that success is based on nothing but the quality of the music, otherwise it wouldn’t have lasted for long.

          Reger actually started from a much better place than Mahler, from right in the center of mainstream music life in Germany, roughly the same position that Richard Strauss started from. And Reger’s music is much easier to digest than Mahler’s. But also unfortunately not nearly as interesting. Strauss and Mahler are widely considered great composers now while Reger is just a footnote to music history. And that’s not because of some big conspiracy operating behind the scenes.

          • Siegfried says:

            This is Berlin calling.
            As regards Max Reger: Christoph writes that he is not performed in the UK and the USA.
            Here in Germany the matter is somewhat different. Only yesterday his Palmsonntagmorgen was broadcast
            and the radio guide indicates that tonight it will be the op 54 Stringquartet and tomorrow brings
            the Mozart Variations & Fugue. Earlier in the radio month the Serenade op 95 under Hermann
            Scherchen and a live concert from the Philharmonie with the RSO and Marek Janowski launching
            into a Psalm 100 which nearly took the roof off the hall. Nearer season’s begin they did the
            Violin Concerto, I think it was. Christian Thielemann led the Romantic Suite not long ago, both
            here and in Dresden. Holy Week has begun and Reger’s organ and choral works will be widely performed ,as is traditional
            Max Reger may not travel well but he continues to enjoy a respectable retirement here at home.

          • What Siegfried says about Reger is interesting. Why do some composers find a response in certain countries and not in other? It has probably to do with cultural identity, some music confirms certain types of self-image and other provides outlets for unarticulated longing. Sibelius did very well in Skandinavia, England and the USA but not in Germany where they found his symphonic writing flawed, their standards being formed by Beethoven and Brahms. But Brahms was also popular in England and the USA. Mahler did and does well everywhere but had found a very welcome home in the Netherlands, an unmusical nation which relates its cultural identity somewhat to painting but not to music. Mahler expresses all the suppressed emotionalism that the calvinistic and merchandite bourgeoisie in Holland prefers to restrict to the context of orderly concert ritual, where they can indulge in a safe and impersonal way. The French, in general, do not seem to like Brahms very much, which is understandable, it’s very sturdy German stuff as is Reger. But Reger is – if possible – more inward than Brahms and rhythmically quite square (which Brahms almost never is). The French like exotic colours and all things shimmering and glittering and tasteful, i.e. surface phenomenae, while the Germans go for meaning and depth, hence Stravinsky’s success and that of the Ballets Russes at the beginning of the 20C in Paris but much less so in the German-speaking world. But Reger has often flashes of genius, hidden in rather bland surroundings. For instance, there is this wild and very impressive organ toccata in d minor which sounds like a Wagner feasting on LSD, followed by a diligent and rather dull fugue which at the end gets off the rails in a fantastic way. Especially striking are his moments where he seems to almost enter the field of Debussy in terms of harmony and atmosphere. On the other hand, he sometimes derails into pumped-up monstruosities like the Violin Concerto, but always in an interesting manner. All in all, a composer who deserves wider dissemination outside Germany.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Interesting program for that concert with RSB/Janowski – Reger Psalm 100, Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms, Berg 3 Orchestral Pieces. I just heard the Symphony of Psalms in Berlin with the Philharmoniker and Petrenko least December, and the RSB with Janowski just a few days before that, with Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Winds and Liszt’s Faust Symphony. That said, now that you mention it, I can’t remember ever having heard or played a piece by Reger in a live performance. I wasn’t aware that his church music is widely performed, but that may be because I never had much to do with church music unless it was an orchestral gig, so if it’s organ or choral music without orchestra, chances are I don’t know it…

    • John Parfrey says:

      Christoph, I suspect Mahler and his art will survive your assessment.

    • Your opinion; you are entitled. Mahler is an acquired taste; some get him and others do not. I happen to suffer from an incurable case of Mahleria, so don’t expect much sympathy from me. :-0

  18. harold braun says:

    Mahler 10 contains some of the most moving and shattering music of Mahler.I really don’t care too much about who wrote what.From the particell you can see that he left us much more music than Mozart in his Requiem.And Cooke did a wonderful job,far more faithful to the spirit of the composer than Suessmayer to Mozart.And I bet anyone who has no access to the score can’t tell Cooke’s elaborations from Mahlers work.We really should be grateful to Mr.Cooke,and the same goes for Anthony Payne and his wonderful performing version of Elgar’s 3rd.

  19. Alan Toms says:

    As a non music reading, music lover, I read much of the above with a mixture of amusement and compassion. I was at the Saturday night’s performance in Liverpool. I enjoyed it and was moved by it – along with many other members of the audience whose utter silence for a full 15 seconds after the end of the work spoke more than the rapturous applause that followed. It seems that the greater knowledge that some folks have spoils rather than enhances their ability to enjoy music for what it is and should be – an uplifting and spritiutally satisfying art form. To complete or not complete? – whatever your view and no matter how strongly held – it will not spoil MY enjoyment. Thank you Vasily and the Liverpool Phil!

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      That’s the whole point. Even most of those of us, myself included, who can read music can not simply look at those sketches and get a real idea of what Mahler was working on at the time. So people like Cooke are doing us a great service by giving us a way to listen to the music *as it was at he time of Mahler’s deat* – not *as he would have finished it*. Nobody knows that and Cooke and other editors were very clear that their intention was *not* to “complete” the piece, just to provide an audible way to get to know the sketches.

  20. John Hames says:

    I was going to start by saying you didn’t need to post the screenshot of the book, Norman, because we’ve probably all got it — but then I see Michael Endres say he hasn’t, and will order it! A lot of these posts seem to be off the point, but never mind — it’s interesting. Mahler’s music is wonderful. It’s worth emphasising that. But there clearly is some sort of saint-martyr figure being conjured into existence to be worshipped, and I’m not sure it’s warranted. I think I’ve probably read and listened to just about everything remotely relevant over the years, and while adoring the music I can’t rid myself of a view of Mahler as a screaming spoiled self-dramatising egomaniacal little turd, of the sort that brass sections sometimes wait for in the car park after a concert for “a free and frank exchange of views” — nowhere that I have noticed in LaGrange’s book does it report Mahler ever getting a punch on the nose, but it must surely have happened. But I speak as a musician, and he wasn’t the musician’s friend, that’s for sure. I feel alan is far too precious in his objection to any sort of completion, elaboration, etc. The Cooke work (as has been said, not a completion so much as a study-aid) has stood the test of time, and can do Mahler or his reputation absolutely no harm. I would have thought it was if nothing else extremely interesting to a Mahler-lover, but then if you regard compositions as sainted relics you may come to a different conclusion. Of course, you don’t have to lisyten to it if you don’t want to. The comparison with Reger is interesting, but rather eccentric, isn’t it? I hate most of Britten’s output, but I don’t kid myself it’s inferior to William Alwyn’s! I do admire many of Reger’s works, but there’s a lot of journeyman stuff in there, and even some sloppiness. Finally, I’d like to second the recommendation of the Barshai Mahler 10 recording. He really gets those young musicians deep into the music.

  21. Michael Hurshell says:

    Just a quick note re Reger: germany is not a unified, homogeneous concert landscape. There are often cases of “Länder” culture, and Reger is a good case in point. Performed much moreoften in Bavaria than some other German states; Reger had settled in Munich early on. Later he worked and lived in cities further East, where his music is still performed regularly – Leipzig, Meiningen, Jena. So Saxony and Thuringia are in the mix. Perhaps, if he had not died at age 43, but perhaps lived and moved to, say, Köln or Hamburg, he would have left more of a following there. In any case I say: it is perfectly all right to love works by Mahler AND Reger.

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