Using Deryck Cooke’s third and final Performing Version (1989), Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra give us a wonderful account of the Symphony that Mahler left unfinished at his death in 1911, thankfully in A-Z form if with lots of filling-in and orchestration required. Cooke’s realisation is immense, and he didn’t fall into the trap, as have other completers, of second-guessing what Mahler might have done with Symphony X (XI had he numbered Das Lied von der Erde), and it shouldn’t be forgotten that conductor-composer Berthold Goldschmidt, and composers Colin Matthews and David Matthews, also contributed to Cooke’s painstaking restoration, albeit with the opening Adagio more or less in a fit state. (There’s a Wiki link at the foot of this review for more detailed background, if needed … I wouldn’t want to be without Ormandy’s pioneering recording or the contemporaneous Chicago concert performance that Martinon conducted, both Cooke I … Wyn Morris taped Cooke II.)
Mahler Ten is a five-movement masterpiece, even if it took a third-party to make it so. Music of huge emotional depth and (second movement) complex rhythmic changes, and not forgetting macabre dance-measures (fourth), Vänskä & Mn Orchestra expose every aspect of this score to compelling effect – penetrating interpretation & fabulous playing, complemented by recorded sound that’s an audiophile’s dream (Matthias Spitzbarth).
Come the Finale – funereal and ominous drum strokes (Vänskä reinstates the one Cooke decided to omit), lamenting tuba, miraculous and haunting flute melody (from beyond), and impassioned string-drenched transcending climax (Vänskä’s preference for antiphonal violins, with left-positioned basses, is ultra-illuminating throughout, mandatory really) – we really are onto something very special: that music can say it all, and then some. Listeners who appreciate the expressive possibilities of portamento will be much gratified. BIS-2396 [SACD].