MAHLER: Symphony No. 10 in F-sharp Major (first two movements); Symphony No. 3 in D Minor – Hildegard Roessl-Majdan, contralto/Wiener Saengerknaben/Wiener Symphoniker/F. Charles Adler – Music & Arts

by | Feb 8, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

MAHLER: Symphony No. 10 in F-sharp Major (first two movements); Symphony No. 3 in D Minor – Hildegard Roessl-Majdan, contralto/Wiener Saengerknaben/Wiener Symphoniker/F. Charles Adler – Music & Arts CD-1249, (2 CDs) 66:05,  67:05 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
London-born conductor Frederick Charles Adler (1889-1959) assisted Mahler in 1910 with the launching of that composer’s Eighth Symphony, preparing the chorus for the Munich performance of September 12. After the First World War, Adler led the Berlin State Radio from 1924-1933, when the advent of the Nazi administration spurred Adler’s emigration to the USA. The WPA program offered Adler concerts in New York–which enjoyed his Bruckner Third and Sixth symphonies–and in 1936 he organized a New York State Music Festival at Saratoga Springs. In 1944 Adler formed the New York Chamber Orchestra, alternating with teaching at Skidmore and Union colleges. With Norman Fox in 1951 Adler set up the recording label SPA–Society of Participating Artists–specializing in modern scores, a partnership aided by Adler’s friendship with George Schenker, manager of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. The fruits of this association can be heard here: the live Mahler 10 Adagio and Purgatorio (8 April 1953) and the Third Symphony studio performance from 27 April 1952.
“Intense” and “spontaneous” perhaps serve as two epithets that best characterize F. Charles Adler’s music-making. Intimately associated with Mahler’s style, Adler reaped recognition for his 1953 efforts, receiving the Schoenberg Medal for his devotion and efforts on behalf of Austrian music. Adler obviously feels the F-sharp Major (1910, ed. Dr. Otto Jokl) score deeply, its agonized chromatic line a hymn to Alma Mahler and a projection of an old discussion in which Mahler had engaged Schoenberg on the possibility of writing an extended work based on dynamic and transposition shifts on a single tone. Adler urges the serpentine flow of the Adagio, the close miking attuned to Mahler’s touches of woodwind and string color, the music a lament  that streams into a cosmic arch of considerable power. The sense of Alma Mahler having betrayed him with architect Walter Gropius may be read into many cruel dips and bends in the chromatic line, often reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s tormented pages from Francesca da Rimini. The brief Purgatoro movement–which Leonard Bernstein dismissed as worthless–might be construed as a “cleansing” development, meant to release all principals from their collective guilt.
The pantheistic Symphony No. 3 (1896) benefits from Adler’s colossal vision of the work’s grandiosity and its stylistic eclecticism, embracing hymn, march, folk tunes, and solipsistic self-assertion. No wonder of all poets it quotes the Self-proclaiming Nietzsche’s “Midnight Song” that speaks of the depth of the world, the depth of the cosmic eternal soul. Its other vocal quotations derive from an early song and a Des Knaben Wunderhorn text arranged from Arnim and Brentano. Adler captures the first movement panoply–of what Harold C. Schonberg called the noble and the banal–the awakening of Nature after a long sleep, with full nods to Wagner’s Fafner. Besides the sheer mass of the symphony, Adler allows its sweet or ironic delicacy to press forward, those often contrary elements that Kurt Weill would find compelling. Adler invests a tender romanticism into the Tempo di menuetto, delicate as it is occasionally sarcastic. Wonderful timbres emerge from the Vienna woodwinds and string pizzicati, the whirling motif already indicating the affect of the dovetailed Fourth Symphony in G Major. An underlying demonic ferocity lies never far from Adler’s grasp, the Dionysian capacity for emotional torrent and abysses–even absurdity–just beneath a seemingly benign folkish surface.  But so, too, does a mystical contemplation make its way forward, Mahler’s ceaseless capacity for transcendent wonder.
The C Minor Comodo Scherzando bears a subtitle, “What the animals in the forest tell me,” but the predominant level of energy resists anything like forest “murmurs.” The ferocity as well as the gentility of Nature invades this third step in a hierarchical ladder ever upward along The Great Chain of Being. The theme of La Folia infiltrates the ontological pantheon through the posthorn, the strings holding a halo of sound in arrears.
The nocturne movement casts Mankind into dread Night yearning for rapture, and the soft coloration, Misterioso – from Hildegard Roessl-Madjan and the VSO brass – might well indicate what an authentic Mahler performance may have held for us. A children’s choir and women’s chorus intone F Major Morning Bells who tell of spiritual renewal, and we always hear the melody’s balanced scales in reverse–that is, projected backwards from their appearance in the G Major Symphony. Originally conceived as “What God tells me,” the last movement in D Major takes its cue from the late Beethoven String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135, the texture of the writing deliberately opting for a chamber music transparency to counter the thickness of the prior movements. The mists quite invoke the diaphanous figures in El Greco, moving through a plasma from interstellar space.  It might be apt to term the development “Brucknerian” at select moments, the musical periods assuming, the thickness of texture and the expansiveness of that pious Austrian, except that Mahler’s descents smack of more cruel resignation.  A febrile often gripping account of a monumental work this performance, whose sixty years have done little to assuage its estimable power and intensity of conviction.
–Gary Lemco

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