ALBUM TITLE: Mahler – Symphony No. 10
WORKS: Symphony No. 10 (ed. Deryck Cooke)
PERFORMER: SWR SO, Baden-Baden & Freiburg/Michael Gielen
CATALOGUE NO: CD 93.124
From an earlier instalment in Hänssler’s Mahler series – framing the first-movement Adagio with the Kindertotenlieder and early works by Webern (reviewed August 2003) – it seemed as if Michael Gielen, like all too many other interpreters, was not going to add anyone’s complete performing version of the Tenth to his cycle. Now he tells us he is moved by the intuitive spirit and modest intent of Deryck Cooke’s luminous outline, as opposed to the ‘fat and boring’ over-realisation of one alternative, Clinton Carpenter’s (and I think most of us agree with him).
The revelation of the performance is the second scherzo, Mahler’s fiercest ‘dance with the devil’; its blasting chords of flutter-tonguing brass, skeletal dances and sweeping, short-lived affirmations of life projected with fullness of profile and clarity of purpose. Gielen is always in firm command of line and balance, where the excellent recording certainly helps him, but his views are controversial: while the opening Adagio surges ever forward, avoiding the usual impression of half-detached meditations blocked by threatening scherzo sequences, the first scherzo is surely too cool and steady. As Mahler’s finale steers us back to love and life – the ultimate justification for facing his swansong at any cost – the South West German Radio strings can’t aspire to the heart-stopping body of Rattle’s Berlin Philharmonic. In short, this is excellent, disciplined work; but it rarely burns us as it should. David Nice