Mahler, Sym No 10 -----> Classical Music Reviews


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Gustav Mahler Symphony No 10 Completed by Joe Wheeler (1966) Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra Conducted by Robert Olsen Recorded in Grzegorz Fitelberg Concert Hall, Katowice, Poland from 29 May to 3 June 2000 28 NAXOS 8.554811 Mahler 's 10th and Bruckner's 9th symphonies must stand as the greatest incomplete works of the late romantic symphonic repertoire, but whereas Bruckner's last symphony is nowadays usually performed without any finale (ignoring the composer's own suggestion to use his blazing Te Deum as a choral culmination) the history of reconstructions of Mahler's great final symphony has been much more complex. There have been in fact at least five attempts to create a performing edition which includes the three movements the composer left incomplete at the time of his death. Of these completions time has smiled favourably on that by Deryck Cooke which has become the most usually performed version. Indeed, this recording of the Joe Wheeler version, begun in 1952 and therefore one of the oldest completions, is recorded here for the first time, and had never received a complete performance previously. Wheeler (1927-1977 ) was an English amateur brass player who spent most of his working life as a civil servant. The history of the various attempts at reconstruction is fascinating and is outlined in detail in a well written booklet note. Among other considerations was the problem that Alma Mahler, the composer's widow, banned attempts to complete the symphony (much in the way the Elgar family stood in the way of Anthony Paine 's masterful elaboration of the sketches for Elgar's 3rd symphony) only relenting when she finally heard the Cooke version performed and pronounced it to be " Wunderbar!". Performance of the Wheeler version has not been made easier by its still being unpublished and existing in copies that have been photocopied so many times as to be almost as hard to decipher as Mahler's own sketches. Additionally, Wheeler wrote on a quality of paper that has, over the course of the years allowed areas of the ink to become badly run, making interpretation all the more difficult. As a result of all this , there is another hand to be discerned in this score, that of Robert Olson, who edited Wheeler version of the completion and conducts the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in this recording. As well as the background notes to the composition , the reconstruction, and Alma Mahler's ban, Robert Olson contributes an enlightening article to the booklet outlining the requirements for the editor. The result may sound like it is going to be composition by committee" but the reality is far from that. Wheeler 's completion is probably closer in spirit and orchestration to the image that Mahler had in mind than any of the other versions. The orchestration is notably leaner than in Cooke's completion, but is arguably in line with the sparser textures that the composer favoured from about 1907 onwards. At this time, Mahler had sold his villa in Maiernigg and spent his summers in rooms in a villa at Toblach in the Austrian Tyrol (now Dobbiaco, in Italy). While composing with tremendous fluency , he was at the same time shattered by the discovery of Alma's affair with the architect Walter Gropius, and the various outbursts and mutterings scribbled in the margins of the autograph of Mahler's score testify to the extent to which this played on his mind during the composition of this work. The performance here recorded shows Robert Olson's standing as a Mahlerian interpreter well. Based in Kansas, Olson is probably one of the foremost Mahlerians working in America, and has is artistic director and conductor of the Colorado MahlerFest. In the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra he finds a group of partners steeped in the Central European traditions of orchestral playing and it is in the shaping of the prodigiously long lines in the strings that they show their expertise at its finest. The performance is excellent throughout and really makes a convincing argument for the Wheeler completion of this great work. Certainly, anybody familiar with the more usual Cooke version will notice the difference, but there is something essentially Mahlerian in every bar of this score that makes the work feel totally convincing as a work of that master. That its gestation should have been so look only serves to heighten the impact of this monumental work. Overall it is a fascinating document of musicological archaeology brought to fruition in a radiant performance of great music. Well worth -while and credit must be due to Naxos for bringing this work to a wider audience than has been possible for the last half-century. Peter Wells 2003

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