MAHLER: Symphony No. 10
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Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
Symphony No.10 (Wheeler version)
Gustav Mahler was not yet fifty when he began work on his Tenth Symphony in the summer of 1910. His tiny composing hut, sparsely furnished with an upright piano, table and chair, score paper, pen and ink, and the Förstel edition of Bachs music, was tucked away in the woods of the South Tyrol near Toblach. It overlooked a scenic valley framed by jagged mountain peaks. In these quiet surroundings Mahler had found time in the preceding summers to compose Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) and the Ninth Symphony. Here he would retreat after a favourite hike or a light lunch at the Trenkers farmhouse, where he and his young wife Alma now made their summer home. They had abandoned their lakeside home at Maiernigg in Carinthia three years earlier after the first of their two daughters had contracted diphtheria there and died within a fortnight. Her attending doctor had also diagnosed a possibly serious heart condition in Mahler.
With his second season conducting in New York behind him, Mahler returned once more to his woodland Häuschen to start work on a Tenth Symphony. What began as an idyllic respite was shattered when he discovered Almas burgeoning affair with the architect Walter Gropius. Anguished outcries are scrawled in the margins of the manuscript, ending with "To live for you to die for you Alma!" on its final page. In a desperate attempt to save his marriage, Mahler left for Holland to seek out Sigmund Freud. Afterwards came the preparations for and the première of the Eighth Symphony in Munich. By now haggard and unwell, and with only half of the orchestral draft of his new symphony completed, Mahler embarked for another season of concerts in America. There, a streptococcus infection sealed his doom. Fatally ill, he returned to Vienna for the last time, but not to the Tenth Symphony.
Mahler died in Vienna on 18th May, 1911. It was not until 1923 that his widow decided to permit publication of the extant material for the Tenth Symphony, perhaps in deference to Mahlers own decision that "the world could do what it wanted with it." Ernst Krenek prepared its first and third movements for performance; Franz Schalk gave the première of them in Vienna in 1924. Paul Zsolnay Verlag in Vienna published the work as a manuscript facsimile, limited to one thousand copies. So extraordinary was its reproduction that when, many years later, Almas own copy got mixed in with the actual manuscript, she had to request help in separating the original from the facsimile.
That accident proved propitious, for in sorting it out some fifty additional pages were discovered. Under the aegis of the Internationale Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft a second manuscript facsimile was published in 1967 by Waiter Ricke Verlag in Munich. Of particular interest to those already at work on completions was the inclusion of important new material for the second movement. Since that time, at least five more pages have turned up in libraries and private collections.
It is clear from an examination of the manuscript, which Mahler had organized into five folders, that he intended his Tenth to be a two-part, five-movement symphony. The first part was to consist of an opening Adagio followed by a Scherzo. The second part would begin with an extremely short movement, to which he gave the title Purgatorio, followed by a second Scherzo and an extensive Finale.
Mahlers usual practice when composing was to sketch out some of his ideas, then draft a "short score," generally written on four staves. In this form each of the five movements of the Tenth is substantially complete. All of the symphonys musical ideas and their development are laid out sequentially with the four staves being a skeletal compositional "shorthand" or draft for vertically expanding it into the full orchestral score. In that score Mahler would have elaborated the counterpoint, harmonic support, and orchestration to achieve the desired texture. He had already begun to flesh out his ideas by noting important details of orchestration in the short score. Some pages show him working to shape various materials, or trying out alternate versions of particular sections. One such example is found at the very end of the symphony, which exists in two versions differing mostly in their key signatures.
Mahler had started to prepare his full orchestral score based on the short score. The entire first movement and the first thirty bars of the third exist in full score. The A-B-A form of this third movement is clearly evident in the short score, so these bars can serve as a template for orchestrating the remainder of this eerily brief piece, the shortest of all Mahlers symphonic movements. This, with the opening Adagio movement, forms the basis of the score published by Associated Music Publishers (AMP) in 1951 as Mahlers "Tenth Symphony".
Portions of the second movement (Scherzo I) also exist in full score, but until the short score was discovered in the 1960s its fragmentary nature defied attempts at a convincing reconstruction. The fourth movement (Scherzo II) and the fifth (Finale) exist in short score only.
An early attempt to explore the manuscript came in the form of a four-hand piano reduction of the second, fourth and fifth movements, prepared by Friedrich Block in the mid-1930s and circulated privately. Blocks 1941 article in Chord and Discord, which claimed that the work was substantially complete, may well have been the spark that ignited efforts by others to produce a performing version of the entire score. Certainly Jack Diether, an American Mahler enthusiast, became an indefatigable champion of attempts to complete the Mahler Tenth. His own attempts to enlist Shostakovich and then Schoenberg in this project were unsuccessful, but the performing versions of Joe Wheeler and Clinton Carpenter owe much to Diethers enthusiasm and persistence.
Meanwhile, a German musicologist, Hans Wollschläger, had also begun work on a performing version. He later suppressed it in view of the adamant stand taken by the founder and president of the Internationale Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft, Professor Erwin Ratz. Professor Ratz was the editor of the IGMGs Critical Edition of the Mahler scores, and he strongly opposed any tampering with a work of the master. Despite his objections, musicians and audiences alike were increasingly keen to find out what Mahlers final work might be like.
Three other efforts at completion date from the mid-1940s to late 1950s, respectively those of Clinton Carpenter in Chicago and of the Londoners Joe Wheeler and Deryck Cooke. Each worked independently, unaware of the efforts of the others until the BBC broadcast a programme "about" the Mahler Tenth Symphony in 1960. This was an illustrated talk by Cooke, followed by a performance of his conjectural orchestration of the material, omitting only a few passages Cooke found difficult to decipher in the manuscript. Alma, when apprised of the broadcast by friends who were firmly opposed to any completion of the Tenth, now claimed that the work was "a private love letter to her from Mahler" and banned further performances. When the conductor Harold Byrns finally persuaded her to hear a tape of the BBC programme, she exclaimed "Wunderbar!", and withdrew her objections. Meanwhile, with the newly discovered manuscript pages in hand, Cooke completed what he modestly referred to as a "realisation" of the Tenth. Cookes version was first performed in 1964 and broadcast by the BBC. Commercial recordings followed. His