ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 10 (Cooke version)
PERFORMER: Orchestre Métropolitain/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
CATALOGUE NO: ACD 22711
It’s reassuring to know that at 40 Yannick Nézet-Séguin – unquestionably one of the world’s top five most exciting conductors – isn’t entirely in thrall to a powerful record label. Fascinating as it would have been to hear Deryck Cooke’s unmissable performing version of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony with Nézet-Séguin conducting his Philadelphia Orchestra on Deutsche Grammophon, and above all those strings in full spate, there’s a more appropriate fragility about Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain, of which he has been chief conductor since 2000.
True, you may feel you need to keep increasing the volume, but the warm, intimate, slender sound is an appropriate reflection of the score Mahler left incompletely fleshed out, the bare bones of which Cooke mostly respects. Only occasionally do the big dissonances and lunges really jump out at you, but they’re part of something bigger and stranger. The central miniature with a big heart, the ‘Purgatorio’ movement, is pointillistically done; the second scherzo’s fade-out is on the threshold of audibility, all the more to make you jump out of your skin when the military drum attacks. Marie-Andrée Benny’s flute solo seeks not sheen or glory, but the essence of simple vulnerability, with strings making chamber music around and beyond her. While one might question the onward movement of Mahler’s sketches early on, the great finale affirms itself as a masterly conclusion to a symphonic life – and heartbreaking, as it must be.
Warm sound in Montreal’s Maison symphonique helps preserve a very special world – one certainly more remarkable than Simon Rattle’s in Berlin or Daniel Harding’s in Vienna.