Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (reconstr. Deryck Cooke)

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COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Symphony No. 10 (reconstr. Deryck Cooke)
PERFORMER: Berlin PO/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: 556 9722

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Recordings of the Deryck Cooke completion of Mahler’s Tenth symphony are still rare: you’re more likely to find the Adagio alone as a filler, even on so-called ‘complete’ sets. Simon Rattle’s fervent 1980 version with the Bournemouth SO was a benchmark for many, closely followed by Chailly’s finely shaped but less riveting interpretation with the Berlin RSO (Decca). This eagerly awaited new recording is fuelled by the same febrile energy but is certainly the work of an older man: his first unfolding of the opening was natural and unfettered, whereas here the work begins extremely slowly, with a heavy sense of portent. The openness of the Bournemouth reading is replaced by the sort of orchestral sleight of hand only possible with players of this calibre; soloists are characterful and virtuosic, string sections bring a fluidity and individuality to their phrasing: the whole is dense with detail. Rattle’s restraining of the Adagio makes for a devastating crisis 18 minutes into the movement. The chorale has awesome grandeur, though where he swung the music forwards in his first recording, he is now halting, constricted. Following the famous nine-note pile-up, Abbado (DG) achieves an extraordinary radiance and fullness of sound from his Viennese strings, while Rattle’s Berliners are leaner in tone – and the work never loses its keen sense of apprehension. But Rattle steals the prize in the three scherzos: the ‘Purgatorio’ is devilishly fast and sly (Chailly’s sounds staid in comparison), the ‘Schnelle Viertel’ explosive, and the lightning switches of mood in the Allegro pesante handled with flair, aided by horn solos of great verve. Perhaps one misses the raw edge of the Bournemouth recording in this boisterous movement, but such slick style makes the sudden chill of the grim recapitulation more acutely disturbing, and the Langsam of the finale is wonderfully subdued and clear. The final Adagio is lovingly drawn out – the subtlety of string phrasing sustained through its quietest regions. One feels once again profoundly grateful to Cooke, Goldschmidt, the Matthews brothers and Rattle himself for their parts in bringing alive this intriguing symphony.

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Helen Wallace