MAHLER: Symphony No. 10 (D. Cooke version) Seattle Sym./ Thomas Dausgaard – Seattle Sym. Media

MAHLER: Symphony No. 10 (D. Cooke version) Seattle Sym./ Thomas Dausgaard – Seattle Sym. Media CD SSM1011 (6/10/16) 71:54  ****:

A superb performance of the Cooke version of the Mahler 10th.

This is a very fine performance of the Mahler Symphony No. 10. It was Gustav Mahler’s final work. At the time of the composer’s death, the composition was not fully orchestrated, and was unperformable. The version performed here is the Deryck Cooke final version, based on sketches left by the composer. Others have also written their versions of a ‘completed’ symphony, but Cooke’s seems to be the one preferred by most orchestras and critics.

Mahler substantially completed the first movement, and sometimes that is all that is performed, but there was much detail the composer left for the direction of the rest of the work, and Cooke’s version sounds logical but we can never truly know how Mahler would have finished the symphony and how it would have been orchestrated.

Mahler’s personal life was a wreck when he started the 10th. His health was failing, and he found out his wife Alma was engaged in a torrid affair with Walter Gropius, the German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School. The resulting first movement of the symphony is filled with despair, and the remaining movements have much of Mahler’s confused and bitter emotion.

The Seattle Symphony under the baton of Principal Guest Conductor Thomas Dausgaard does a fine job in this live performance recording. The orchestra seems truly excited to play this work, and the acoustics of Benaroya Hall are captured quite nicely from my memory of many concerts there.

One can endlessly debate the point of playing a Mahler Symphony that is only part Mahler, but I think we get more than an academic exercise here. It’s a passionate performance, and we hear themes and ideas that originated with Mahler. It’s certainly worth a listen, and while there have been many performances of the 10th, this is certainly as good as I have heard in terms of performance and the recording, considering it is not a hi-res SACD.

—Mel Martin

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