MAHLER Symphonie No. 10 Harding

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GUSTAV MAHLER

Symphonie No. 10
(Reconstruction prepared by
Deryck Cooke)
Wiener Philharmoniker
Daniel Harding
Int. Release 30 May. 2008
1 CD / Download
CD DDD 0289 477 7347 4 GH


Tracklisting

Gustav Mahler (1860 - 1911)
Symphony No.10 in F sharp (unfinished)

Ed. Deryck Cooke

1.
0:00
25:50

5.
0:00
25:02

Wiener Philharmoniker, Daniel Harding

Gesamtspielzeit: 1:18:00

In sheer beauty of playing, this new account has the edge over all of its rivals . . . Sound-wise, this is the work's finest recording yet -- surpassing even the excellent sound on Gianandrea Noseda's lacklustre account and an 'easier' listen than Simon Rattle's Berlin remake . . . Harding's booklet interview offers a fair number of insights . . .

. . . Harding gets glorious sound and playing.

. . . there is much to praise in this interpretation, such as the muted brass, fluttertonguing woodwind and a myriad of sly counterpoints throughout the three inner movements. Impressive, too, are the trumpet's penetrating held notes for what Harding, in an intelligently rendered booklet interview with Edward Seckerson, calls Mahler's "Pure Edvard Munch" moments in the two Adagios. Similarly, the country "Ländlers" could only be played like this by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra . . . The sound on this recording . . . is uniquely luminous and clear throughout.

. . . Mahlers 10. Symphonie klingt [bei ihm] . . . so frisch und klar wie Quellwasser . . . Klar, schwungvoll und dennoch filigran ausgearbeitet beginnt das Adagio . . . Daniel Harding zeigt, im Gegensatz zu manch anderen Dirigenten seiner Generation, keinerlei Berührungsängste oder Vorbehalte bezüglich Gustav Mahler. Die Komplexität und die Verwirrungen in seinem Symphonienwerk, die Brüche, schroffen Stimmungswechsel und hemmungslosen Stil-Collagen schrecken Harding wenig . . . Diese Unbefangenheit hört man seinen Interpretationen auch heute noch an . . . Aus dem Mahler, wie er sich in den Original- und Nachschöpfungsnoten darstellt, destilliert Daniel Harding einen Musiker heraus, der spät in seinem Leben zu neuen Ufern aufbrechen wollte, und der dies scheinbar ohne spürbaren Kampf und schrille Kontraste tat. Zwar zieht sich der spröde Geist des Adagios, die drängende Suche nach neuem Ausdruck auch durch die folgenden vier Sätze, doch gelingt es Harding und den Wiener Philharmonikern stets, einen logischen, zwingenden Sog zu erzeugen, der alle Zweifel an der Qualität dieser Vollendung eines Fragmentes im Keim erstickt. Dabei realisieren Orchester und Dirigent einen lupenreinen, durchsichtigen Klang, der fern aller analytischer Kälte jeder Idee und jedem Motiv eigenes Leben einhaucht. Es scheint, als wollten Harding und die Wiener den zwiespältigen Eindruck ihres ersten Mahler-Versuchs vergessen machen -- und das gelingt wirklich auf der ganzen Linie.

Daniel Harding weiß auf smarte Art seine Ziele zu erreichen . . . Wie Harding . . . eine Klangwelt gewinnt, die uns Mahler noch hätte schenken können, ist imponierend. Und der zart-mürbe Klang der Wiener unwiderstehlich.

. . . die Wiener Philharmoniker glänzen mit fantastischer Spielkultur . . .

Mit den Wiener Philharmonikern . . . gibt es tatsächlich noch Überraschungen . . . das gloriose Orchester mit seinen unvergleichlich klangreichen Streichern, Hörnern und Posaunen. Was für eine Musikergemeinschaft!

. . die vorliegende Aufnahme . . . dokumentiert einmal mehr die hohen klanglichen Qualitäten des Orchesters, das vor allem in den langen Streicherkantilenen der Ecksätze höchste klangliche Leuchtkraft erzielt und in den Walzer- und Ländler-Anklängen mit viel Eleganz und mit grosser agogischer Subtilität am Werk ist . . .

Daniel Harding associe avec bonheur des qualités de ductilité et de mobilité essentielles pour Mahler, et apprises chez Rattle, à une "Objectivité" de grande classe, toujours en quête de transparence . . . l'Adagio initial confirme la relation étroite qui unit le dernier Mahler à la seconde école de Vienne . . . on ne pourra résister au trio, très au second degré, alangui, avec un sens du rubato qui n'appartient qu'à Vienne. Mélancolie, passion, détachement, colère aussi, l'itinéraire se poursuit dans le "Purgatorio" et le deuxième "Scherzo", saisissant. Moins que le finale, qui opère dans cette approche décantée, aux arêtes vives, une stupéfiante synthèse entre "l'Abschied" du "Chant de la terre", le dernier mouvement de la Symphonie no. 9 et peut-être de l'oeuvre entière de Mahler, en un ultime et long regard. Mieux qu'un grand disque, une révélation.

Ce disque réussi interpelle à plusieurs titres. On constate en premier lieu la maturation musicale de Daniel Harding . . . Que de trouvailles et de beautés sonores! Les timbres sont inouis de précision et de fusion. Scintillement du premier Scherzo, évocation du lied du "Wunderhorn" dans le "Purgatorio". Les trois mouvements centraux ont une pureté enfantine et une ferveur sidérante. Dans cet achèvement du postromantisme viennois, les pupitres sont insurpassables. Les cordes sont proprement géniales de fluidité, de profondeur et d'intensité dans la respiration . . . Harding semble lui-même étonné par l'intensité du résultat . . . dans le finale, les coups de grosse-caisse sont assourdis et sans force expressive, sans direction précise alors que les timbres de pupitres graves et l'excellente flûte solo offrent une bouleversante exposition de l'ultime marche mahlérienne. Il en va de même dans le dernier crescendo, inexplicablement retenu.

Harding busca seducir el oído con una homogeneidad de la sinfonía, sonidos tersos y acabados de brillantez.

    Daniel Harding conducts Mahler 10 in Vienna

Daniel Harding has packed an awful lot into his 32 years. “Actually, I'm 32 going on 50", he says wryly, in a pointed reference to the age Mahler was when he completed his Ninth Symphony and began sketching his Tenth. This is Harding's way of gently rebutting those in the classical music establishment who still believe that certain works - especially 'late' works - should be off-limits to all but the superannuated. When you've been mentored, as Harding has, by two of the most revered names in the business - Sir Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado - age is suddenly more relative than it is relevant. Harding is very clear about one aspect of Mahler's late works: far from being the sacred domain of those with a more immediate sense of their own mortality, they are actually more about living than they are about dying.

Indeed, with a nod to Berlioz's Lélio (though with added Mahlerian irony), Mahler's Tenth might even be subtitled “The Return to Life". Troubled it may be, but its resilience is positively life-affirming. As we know, the symphony was left in a complex state of incompleteness. And yet the form (five movements) and the through-line of the composition (the leading lines) are more or less integral. As Harding neatly puts it: “The body is Mahler's; the clothes have sometimes been chosen for him." Those choices fell to Deryck Cooke and his collaborators Berthold Goldschmidt, Colin and David Matthews. Their performing version of Mahler's draft (note 'performing version' not completion) has become the version of choice amongst even hard-nosed sceptics. Harding presented it to the Wiener Philharmoniker on his debut with them in 2004, and he remembers asking some of the players for their initial response. The general consensus (once you had deleted the expletives) was that it was “a lot less weird than the Seventh!"

That's actually a more revealing remark than it might at first seem. Mahler was forever challenging his own stylistic boundaries, refining or radically overhauling his musical language. Harding himself recalls the shock of first hearing the Fifth Symphony as a boy. What is now a core repertoire piece was in the beginning a dramatic departure for Mahler in his pursuit of a purer, more abstracted, non-programmatic music.

But there was a subtext to the Fifth's journey from darkness to light - and she went by the name of Alma, Mahler's wife. And five symphonies later, during the composition of the Tenth, it was her pernicious affair with the architect Walter Gropius (whom she would marry four years after Mahler's death) which devastated Mahler and became the motivation for this extraordinary 'new' music.

“I think one of the difficulties of the piece", says Harding, “is that the music is so unexpected and so radical. If you listen to it for the first time with the suspicion one has when one isn't sure of the pedigree of a piece, then it's very possible to be confused by the modernity of the musical language."

That modernity is established right at the start in the opening Adagio, the one movement Mahler did, barring revisions, fully complete. The searching theme for violas is as equivocal as anything he ever wrote. Where is it going? Where is he going? There follows a deeply consoling theme in strings and consonant brass chords suggesting a new hopefulness. But then comes the great nine-note dissonance, the great “scream" chord, impaled on a solo trumpet at the heart of the movement - “Pure Edvard Munch in music", says Harding - and it comes upon Mahler, and us, like a terrible premonition of Alma's infidelity.

Harding says that the big revelation for him was sitting and listening to Cooke's performing edition while looking at Mahler's own annotations in the unfinished manuscript. That was an incredibly moving experience for him. The little B flat minor third movement, which Mahler at first entitled “Purgatorio oder Inferno" and is more than likely his immediate reaction to the shock of Alma's affair, is covered in Mahler's own anguished graffiti including at one point “Erbarmen!" (“Have mercy!" - the wounded Amfortas's cry in Wagner's Parsifal). Then there is the muffled drum stroke which descends on the final bar of the fourth movement and pervades the fifth: “Du allein weisst, was es bedeutet" (“Only you understand what it means"), writes Mahler, referring to a moment shared with Alma in New York as a fireman's funeral procession passed below their apartment. Halfway across the world, death still stalked him.

The last movement is full of such intimate asides - culminating in the hugely emotive glissando crescendo at the very end of the symphony where the violins soar up to a high G sharp and Mahler's scrawls his pet name for Alma right across the manuscript. We cannot know the loneliness he must have felt in these moments, says Harding, but the great flute solo (another of Mahler's own indications of instrumentation) somehow finds serenity in its isolation.

Paradoxically, because so much of the Tenth Symphony represents a new kind of Mahler, it's hard to ascertain how much or little it might have changed had he lived to complete it. As Harding says: “Every time someone queries a detail that sounds strange or wrong to them it turns out to be Mahler. It's the moments we find easy to accept that are more likely to be the ones that Cooke had to fill out . . ."

So what, above all, did the Wiener Philharmoniker bring to this project?

Harding is in no doubt that the hardest music to understand and indeed to play in the symphony occurs in the second and fourth movements. The second movement, with its constant displacements of metre and rhythm, is unlike anything previously heard in Mahler while the oddly shaped waltz of the fourth movement seems continually to be interrupted. Both these movements, says Harding, assume an extraordinary authenticity when the Wiener Philharmoniker gets to grips with them: “You know immediately that this is Austrian dance music. That second movement can sometimes sound somewhat academic, an exercise in rhythm and counterpoint, but when the Wiener Philharmoniker finds comfort in those rhythms, out comes this innate rubato. It's the same with the wild, intoxicated, waltz of the fourth movement where there is no escaping the origins of this music.

I think it's a defining moment in this piece's performance and reception history that for the first time these two movements, full of Austrian dance elements, echoes and parodies (by turns nostalgic, elegant or ironic) are played by the orchestra that has these dances and rhythms in their blood like no other."

Edward Seckerson

    Quotes by Daniel Harding

“This very famous 'scream' chord in the first movement, a nine-note dissonance, is an astonishing cry of anguish. There are stories about Mahler discovering that Alma was being unfaithful to him and then going straight upstairs and writing the chord. Who knows? - But it's pure Edvard Munch in music."

“Mahler goes in such an extreme direction. The music is in a way so unexpected, and so modern, that if you listen to it a first time it's very possible to be confused by the modernity and the extreme nature of the musical language."

»Es war ein unglaublicher Moment für mich, mit Mahlers Manuskript in der Hand Cookes gesamte Aufführungsversion der Zehnten anzuhören und dann das Gefühl zu haben: Ja, es ist tatsächlich Mahler!«

«Je crois que cet orchestre a apporté un éclairage très important à cette symphonie, qui ouvre sur une perspective qu'on prolongera. Le véritable caractère viennois est d'une importance cruciale.»