1. Mahler: Symphony No. 10 / Vänskä, Minnesota Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 10 / Vänskä, Minnesota Orchestra

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Left unfinished at the death of the composer, Gustav Mahler's Tenth Symphony has exerted an enormous fascination on musicologists as well as musicians – a kind of Holy Grail of 20th-century music. Recognized as an intensely personal work, it was initially consigned to respectful oblivion, but over the years, Alma Mahler, the composer’s widow, released more and more of Mahler’s sketches for publication, and gradually it became clear that he had in fact bequeathed an entire five-movement symphony in short score (i.e. written on three or four staves). Of this, nearly half had reached the stage of a draft orchestration, while the rest contained indications of the intended instrumentation. Over the years a number of different completions or performing versions of ‘the Tenth’ have seen the light of day. One of the most often performed and recorded of these is that by Deryck Cooke. Cooke himself insisted that his edition was not a ‘completion’ of the work, but rather a functional presentation of the materials as Mahler left them. Cooke’s performing version of the symphony is the one that Osmo Vanska has chosen to use for the seventh installment in his and the Minnesota Orchestra’s Mahler series, a cycle characterized by an unusual transparency and clarity of sound as well as musical conception.

REVIEW:

From the outset, Vänskä’s handling of the opening Adagio is sublime, its long themes opening up in endless waves thanks to the clean-toned Minnesota strings and the conductor’s perfectly judged balance between purposeful progress and emotional repose. BIS’s engineering is immaculate, simultaneously spacious and detailed, and presented with convincing weight and clarity. The contrast between the pristine pianissimo strings and the moment the Adagiofinally heaves its heart into its mouth is overwhelming.

The first Scherzo is nimble and fleet of foot, Vänskä’s insistence on delicacy over grotesquery tying it neatly to the first movement. Again, incident is brought out with considerable imagination and there’s some superb solo work from the Minnesota principals. This is musical storytelling at its finest.

In Vänskä’s hands the “Purgatorio” movement is a gossamer reflection of the younger composer in the carefree days of the Fourth Symphony upon which the clouds occasionally darken. Building his argument, Vänskä urges the fourth movement second Scherzo along while ensuring plenty of contrasts. “The devil is dancing this with me; madness, seize me and destroy me,” Mahler wrote at the top of this movement, ending with, “You alone know what it means. Ah! Ah! Farewell my lyre! Farewell, farewell, farewell, farewell. Ah! Ah!”.

Linking the two final movements is a dramatic coup. The sudden impact of the muffled drum – inspired by a funeral procession that Mahler and Alma witnessed from the window of their New York hotel room – is heart-stopping, as is the following progression in which the musical spools of Mahler’s life seem to gradually unravel towards that final page where Mahler scribbled, “für dich leben! für dich sterben! Almschi!” (To live for you! To die for you! Almschi!). Over 25 unmissable minutes, Vänskä interweaves the moving with the mercurial in a riveting demonstration of musical storytelling.

As this Minnesota cycle enters the final furlong, this Tenth is a major achievement.

– Limelight (Clive Paget)



Product Description:


  • Release Date: February 05, 2021


  • Catalog Number: BIS-2396


  • UPC: 7318599923963


  • Label: BIS


  • Number of Discs: 1


  • Period: Romantic, 20th Century


  • Composer: Gustav Mahler


  • Conductor: Osmo Vänskä


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Minnesota Orchestra