Symphony No. 10 (Mahler)

From Academic Kids

The Symphony No. 10 by Gustav Mahler was written in 1910 and 1911, and was his final composition. At the time of Mahler's death the composition was substantially complete as a draft, but was unperformable in that state.



Mahler's drafts and sketches for the Tenth Symphony comprise 72 pages of full score, 50 pages of continuous short score draft (2 pages of which are missing), and a further 44 pages of preliminary drafts, sketches, and inserts. In the form which Mahler had left it, the symphony comprises five movements:

  1. Andante - Adagio: 275 bars drafted in orchestral and short score
  2. Scherzo: 522 bars drafted in orchestral and short score
  3. Purgatorio. Allegro moderato: 170 bars drafted in short score, the first 30 bars of which were also drafted in orchestral score
  4. [Scherzo. Nicht zu schnell]: about 579 bars drafted in short score
  5. Finale. Langsam, schwer: 400 bars drafted in short score

Mahler's initial drafts comprised five movements in (usually) four staves of short score. The designations of some movements were altered as work progressed: for example the second movement was initially envisaged as a finale. Mahler then started on an orchestral draft of the symphony, which begins to bear some signs of haste after the halfway point of the first movement. He had gotten as far as orchestrating the first two movements and the opening 30 bars of the third movement when he had to put aside work on the Tenth to make final revisions to the Ninth Symphony. He never managed to complete the orchestral draft before his premature death at the age of fifty from a streptococcal infection of the blood.

The circumstances surrounding the composition of the Tenth were highly unusual. Mahler was at the height of his compositional powers, but his personal life was in complete disarray, most recently compounded by the revelation that his young wife Alma had had an affair with the architect Walter Gropius. Mahler sought counselling from Sigmund Freud, and on the verge of its successful premiére in Munich, dedicated the Eighth Symphony to Alma in a desperate attempt to repair the breach. The unsettled frame of Mahler's mind found expression in the despairing comments (many addressed to Alma) written on the manuscript of the Tenth, and must have influenced its composition: on the final page of the short score, Mahler wrote, "für dich leben! für dich sterben!" (To live for you! To die for you!) and the exclamation "Almschi!" underneath the last soaring phrase.

The orchestra for the symphony cannot be defined precisely, owing to the incompleteness of the orchestral draft. However, in the short score there are occasional indications of instrumentation, and some of the orchestration may be surmised from the three movements of the orchestral draft, from which the probable forces include: four flutes, one piccolo, four oboes, four clarinets in B flat and A, with one doubling E flat, three bassoons, two double bassoons, four French horns, four trumpets, four trombones, a tuba, two sets of timpani, tam tam, a large muffled military drum, harp and strings (first and second violins, violas, cellos and double basses). The orchestration does not specify a cor anglais or a bass clarinet, although Mahler always used these instruments, so these should be included in the minimum forces required, as well as a modicum of extra percussion that he likewise regularly employed, for example, bass drum, cymbals, and triangle.

Realisations of the work

After Mahler's death there was no immediate attempt to complete the symphony, or render it in a state where it could be performed, although figures such as Paul Stefan described the high quality of the work as drafted. Arnold Schönberg famously expressed the opinion that no one could possibly write a Tenth Symphony without being close to the hereafter; and a mistaken report led Richard Specht to suggest Mahler wanted the manuscript burnt after his death. Hence it was only in the 1920s that Alma Mahler-Werfel asked the composer Ernst Křenek to make a fair copy of Mahler's orchestral draft for a festival of performances of Mahler works, and at about the same time some of the manuscripts were published by the company of Paul Zsolnay in facsimile. The facsimile made evident that the stress of Mahler's final year had not adversely affected the composition, and that the draft contained music of great beauty.

In 1924 Křenek made a fair copy of only the first (Adagio) and third (Purgatorio) movements, and might have made a fair copy of the second movement, but as Mahler's draft of the Scherzo was very much patchier this was evidently less feasible. Alban Berg was enlisted to proofread the work, however his suggested corrections were never incorporated, while at the same time some unauthorised changes were introduced, possibly by one of the conductors of the first two performances, Paul Schalk and Alexander von Zemlinsky. Křenek is supposed to have renounced the changes to his version, which was subsequently published. Performances of the Křenek-Schalk/Zemlinsky version have been moderately successful, however the third movement is not generally convincing when taken out of context between the second and fourth movements: it is possible some of the conductors who have refused to perform the Tenth, most famously Bruno Walter and Leonard Bernstein, took exception to such a piecemeal representation.

It was soon realised that a performing version of only two movements did not give listeners a clear idea of the entire symphony, let alone comprise a complete artistic statement, so in the 1940s the American Mahler enthusiast Jack Diether tried to encourage several notable composers to realise the work. Figures such as Shostakovich, Schoenberg, and Britten refused, and instead the task was taken up by musicologists: early attempts at realising the entire work were made in America by Clinton Carpenter (completed 1949, subsequently revised 1966), in Germany by Hans Wollschläger (1954-1962, withdrawn), and in England by Joe Wheeler (19531965) and Deryck Cooke.

A first, still incomplete performing version by Cooke (19591960) stemmed from a performance and an associated lecture for radio broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, marking the centenary of Mahler's birth. This aired on 19 December 1960, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Berthold Goldschmidt, who also assisted with the production of Cooke's edition. At its first performance Cooke's realisation of the final movement proved to be a revelation to listeners, and Cooke resolved to revise the orchestration of the Scherzo movements, which had required much more compositional work than he had time for. Alma Mahler, who had at one point taken the views of Bruno Walter to heart and demanded a veto on further performances of the Cooke performing version, actually changed her mind upon seeing Cooke's revised score and hearing the recording. In May 1963 she wrote Cooke a letter of encouragement, lifting the ban on both the performing version and the BBC recording. Cooke's revised and completed version was premiéred in 1964 and recorded soon after. After Alma's death, also in 1964, her daughter Anna allowed Cooke access to the full set of manuscript sketches, many of which had not been published four decades earlier. In the light of these Cooke made another revised performing version in association with the British composers Colin and David Matthews between 1966 and 1972, and hereafter his final version up to his death in 1975. This also prompted the International Gustav Mahler Society in Vienna to issue another, more complete collection of Mahler's manuscripts in facsimile. This revised edition of Cooke's second version was published in 1976, shortly after Cooke's death. Yet the final revision (Cooke's third version) appeared in print only as late as 1989.

Clinton Carpenter started working on his edition long before Cooke, which he called a "completion" rather than a "performing version", but although he completed it in 1949 (revising the work in 1966), it had to wait until 1983 for a performance. Carpenter reviewed the other symphonies by Mahler to guide him in his effort in orchestrating the work, though a view has been expressed that much of this process of recomposition gives the impression that he has written his own symphony, using Mahler's as a basis. The completion by Joseph Wheeler dates from 1953 to 1965, and like Cooke he also refined his ideas several times, so the final version of 1965 was actually the fourth iteration; the American composer Remo Mazzetti Jr. considers Wheeler's fourth version to be the closest to Mahler's late orchestral style.

In recent years several further realisations of the symphony have been attempted: Remo Mazzetti initially made his 1989 version from dissatisfaction with the existing Cooke, Carpenter, and Wheeler editions, though the spur of preparing a performance of Wheeler's version in 1997 led him to recant his earlier view. Of his own revised version he remarked, "I really believe I got things right this time". Two more completions have been produced since, by the conductor Rudolf Barshai (2000), and a joint effort by Nicola Samale and Giuseppe Mazzucca (2002). All have been performed and recorded, though the version by Samale and Mazzucca has not been commercially released.

Musical form

Mahler occasionally used a five movement structure for his symphonies rather than the more traditional four movement structure, and for the Tenth he devised a convincing symmetrical structure with two large slow movements enclosing a core of faster inner movements, at the very centre of which is the deceptive Purgatorio movement.

The very opening of the symphony maintains a connection with the final movement of the Ninth. A long bleak Andante melody played by violas alone is answered by the fuller, warm string tone of the Adagio, which has as much of a valedictory character as the earlier work. As the movement unfolds the viola melody periodically returns, punctuating the structure. After a climax both violins attempt a desolate counterpoint of this melody, which only brings a violent upheaval from the full orchestra. The passage ends in extraordinary dissonance, a horror which Mahler seems to be indicating must be overcome, but the movement dies away without finding any resolution to the conflict.

The second movement, the first of two brilliant Scherzo movements, consists of two main ideas, the first of which is notated in consistently changing metres, which would have proved a challenge to Mahler's conducting technique had he lived to perform the symphony. This alternates with a joyful and typically Mahlerian Ländler. It is almost certainly this movement Paul Stefan had in mind when he described the symphony as containing "gaiety, even exuberance" (Cooke's translation).

The Purgatorio movement (originally entitled Purgatorio oder Inferno - Purgatory or Hell - but the word "Inferno" was struck out) is a brief vignette presenting a struggle between alternately bleak and carefree melodies with a perpetuum mobile accompaniment, that are soon subverted by a diabolical undercurrent of more cynical music. The short movement fails to end in limbo though, as after a brief recapitulation a sudden harp arpeggio and gong stroke pull the rug out from under it; it is consigned to perdition by a final grim utterance from the double basses.

The scene is now set for the second scherzo, which has a somewhat driven and harried character, and this also has significant connections to Mahler's recent work: the sorrowful first movement of Das Lied von der Erde, Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde. There is an annotation on the cover of the draft to the effect that in this movement "The Devil dances with me", and at the very end Mahler wrote "Ah! God! Farewell my lyre!". Cooke's version finishes with a percussion coda employing both timpanists, bass drum, and a large military drum which is to be muffled, that leads directly into the final slow movement.

The use of the military drum stems from a funeral procession that Mahler once observed: one day in the winter of 1907 when the Mahlers were staying in New York, the cortége of a deceased fire chief passed way below their hotel window, and from high up the only sound that could be heard was the muffled stroke of a large bass drum. The introduction to the fifth movement re-enacts this scene as a rising line on tubas supported by two double bassoons slowly tries to make headway and is repeatedly negated by the loud (but muffled) drum strokes.

The emotional weight of the symphony is resolved by the long final movement, which incorporates and ties together music from the earlier movements, whereby the opening passage of the symphony, now transferred to the horns, is found to be the answer to tame the savage dissonance that had racked the end of the first movement. The music of the flute solo that was heard after the introductory funeral scene can now return to close the symphony peacefully, and unexpectedly, in the principal major key. The draft for this movement reveals that Mahler had originally written the ending in B flat major, but in the process of revision worked the same music into F sharp major.

Recordings of Mahler's Tenth

The original Cooke version was first recorded by the BBC as noted above; the second version (denoted Cooke II) was also premiéred by Goldschmidt, this time with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1964; the first commercial recording appeared in 1966 (recording date: 1965), conducted by Eugene Ormandy and his Philadelphia Orchestra, but this is not now considered among the best recordings, especially as Cooke eventually superseded this version. Several notable recordings of the revised Cooke (version II) have been made: the first, made by Wyn Morris in 1976 has recently been reissued. Simon Rattle's 1980 recording with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra gave the former percussionist an opportunity to make some pointed revisions, most noticeably giving prominence to the military drum in the fifth movement, which is played as loudly as possible without being muffled or dampened.

Other notable recordings include those of Kurt Sanderling (1979; Cooke II) and Riccardo Chailly (1986; Cooke II), Eliahu Inbal (1993; Cooke II), and Sir Simon Rattle again - this time with the Berlin Philharmonic (1999; Cooke III, again with alterations by Rattle).

Synopsis: Complete Recordings of Mahler's 10th Symphony

Year Conductor Orchestra Version
1966 Eugene Ormandy Philadelphia Orchestra Cooke I
1966 Jean Martinon Chicago Symphony Orchestra Cooke I
1976 Wyn Morris New Philharmonia Orchestra Cooke II
1979 Kurt Sanderling Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester Cooke II
1980 James Levine Philadelphia Orchestra Cooke II
1980 Simon Rattle Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Cooke II
1986 Riccardo Chailly Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin Cooke II
1992 Eliahu Inbal Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt Cooke II
1993 Mark Wigglesworth BBC National Orchestra of Wales Cooke III
1994 Leonard Slatkin Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra Mazzetti I
1994 Harold Fabermann Philharmonia Hungarica Carpenter
1997 Robert Olson Colorado Mahler Fest Orchestra Wheeler IV
1999 Simon Rattle Berlin Philharmonic Cooke III
2000 Jesús López-Coboz Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra Mazzetti II
2000 Robert Olson Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra Wheeler IV
2001 Andrew Litton Dallas Symphony Orchestra Carpenter
2001 Rudolf Barshai Junge Deutsche Philharmonie Barshai

Samples from each of the five movements

  • Simon Rattle conducts the second Deryck Cooke performing version, with several minor adjustments to the orchestration. Go to the following site ( and click on the red notes under either the RealAudio or the Windows Media column. [1] (交響曲第10番 (マーラー)

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