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.