Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mahler's Farewell

The conclusion of Mahler's Farewell Tenth.. One of the most beautiful strains of music ever penned. Philadelphia under Eugene Ormandy (1964).

This symphony was written in 1910. Mahler's final composition. I call it 'Farewell'. Mahler never managed to complete the orchestral drafts except the whole first movement and the first twenty eight measures of the third movement. The rest was in piano edit. The work was cut short by his premature death at the age of fifty from a streptococcal infection of the blood. Mahler saw it coming and right from the first measures of his Death Ninth Symphony, he is saying his goodbyes to the world and communicating with His Creator.
Mahler was obsessed with death throughout his life. He resigned from the Wiener Opern in 1907, his forty-seventh year. His elder daughter died that year in New York. He was slso diagnosed with a blood infection and a heart disease. he lived the remaining four years under the shadow of death. Yet he lived his life too. He planned a career in the New World where he was excited with his tenure as the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. But again in 1910, his emotional life sank in turmoil. He discovered that his wife Alma was having an affair with the architect Walter Gropius. He even went to consult Sigmund Freud in Holland. During this period, in a span of few weeks, he completed the blueprint for the tenth symphony. In the winter of 1910-11, he went back to a further revision of the already completed Death (Ninth) Symphony. So, the tenth remained a skeleton and he spoke of it as a 'work fully prepared in the sketch."
Most conductors perform the first movement Adagio alone. The English writer Derryck Cooke completed the first performing version(there is another by Remo Mazzetti, Jr. under the guidance of Leonard Slatkin). This is not the version that we hear nowadays as this was revised by Cooke and the final script came out; was performed first by Wyn Morris and the New Philharmonia in London on 15th October 1972.
Here is the first radio broadcast on my birthday in 1960 of Deryck Cooke's version played by the Philharmonia London under Berthold Goldschmidt. Cooke also had a short life like Mahler as he passed away in 57 years.Deryck Cooke never claimed that he was completing the symphony. Cooke says, "Mahler's music, even in its unperfected and unelaborated state, has such significance, strength and beauty, that it dwarfs into insignificance any uncertainties." When the first realisation of the tenth was broadcast in 1960, Alma Mahler created trouble and stayed future performances legally but after four years she gave permission (Ormandy/Philadelphia version) and when she heard the music for the first time, she was so moved by it that she removed her ban and gave the rights of performance to Cooke's transcript. The sketches of this symphony were written by Mahler at Toblach in the Italian Dolomites. The crisis in his life brought about a formidable masterpiece.