Suddenly, on 19 December 1960, up popped the distinguished musicologist Deryck Cooke on the BBC Third Programme to deliver an admirably lucid illustrated lecture on the challenge of reconstructing Mahler’s intentions. This was immediately followed by a studio performance from the Philharmonia under the composer-conductor Berthold Goldschmidt of Cooke’s ‘performing version’ of the draft as Mahler left it of almost the entire symphony.
There were still some five minutes of gaps: missing bits of the scherzo second movement and pages of the fourth movement seemingly too garbled to decipher. But at last Mahler’s grand five-movement design was revealed, and this then-20-year old pair of ears has never forgotten the frisson as the Adagio’s climactic nine-pitch dissonance re-emerged at the apex of the finale.
Then the aged Alma Mahler got to hear of the event and put a fiat on any further performances – until someone induced her to listen to the actual tape, whereupon, deeply moved, she revoked her ban. Just as well, since she died soon after; her papers divulging further Tenth Symphony sketches filling in those second movement gaps. This enabled Cooke and Goldschmidt, with the assistance of the 18-year old Colin Matthews, to prepare the complete Symphony for its memorable premiere at the 1964 Proms.
That performance occupies the third CD of this Testament release, with Cooke’s lecture and the incomplete 1960 performance on discs 1 and 2. The recordings are all in mono with orchestral volumes subject to the BBC sound balancers of the time, and some audience noise on disc 3. But it is fascinating to hear how Goldschmidt’s initially tentative grasp of this music had strengthened by the 1964 Prom.
Fascinating too, to compare that version with the further refinements and changes of the published score upon which Cooke, Goldschmidt, Colin and David Matthews lovingly toiled for another decade. Bayan Northcott