Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (realised Cooke)

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 10 (realised Cooke)
PERFORMER: Vienna PO/Daniel Harding
CATALOGUE NO: 477 7347

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The live performance that preceded this recording at Vienna’s Musikvereinsaal should have been a very special event; no doubt it was for the Viennese who caught it. Indeed, this is the first ever performance in Mahler’s principle city of Deryck Cooke’s performing-version Tenth. I can’t help feeling though that, as Jimmy Mahoney says in Mahagonny, ‘etwas fehlt’ – something’s missing. That isn’t, I know, a penetrating critical comment, but I felt the same about Harding’s live Mahler Seven with the LSO. Texturally, there is much to praise in this interpretation, such as the muted brass, fluttertonguing woodwind and a myriad of sly counterpoints throughout the three inner movements. Impressive, too, are the trumpet’s penetrating held notes for what Harding, in an intelligently rendered booklet interview with Edward Seckerson, calls Mahler’s ‘Pure Edvard Munch’ moments in the two Adagios. Similarly, the country Ländlers could only be played like this by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Yet for me, the humanistic and parodistic aspects of the work barely register. The second movement is light and clear without expressing real joy, while its darker counterpart lacks wildness – you’d never know this was Mahler dancing with death. Though the strings occasionally sound like their true Viennese selves, they often lack focus and polished phrasing. Emotionally, Noseda’s recent performance with a less lustrous instrument, the BBC Philharmonic, had more impact; the great final lunge of love for Mahler’s straying wife Alma works better with Chailly and the Berlin Radio Symphony (Decca) and as for benchmarks, Harding’s mentor Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic remains untouched. The sound on this recording, though, is uniquely luminous and clear throughout. David Nice