Mahler: Symphony No. 10 - Storgårds
Classical - Orchestral
Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (completed & arranged by Michelle Castelletti)
Lapland Chamber Orchestra
John Storgårds (conductor)
Left unfinished at the death of the composer, Gustav Mahler's Tenth Symphony has exerted an enormous fascination on musicologists as well as musicians. Whether fully orchestrated in specific passages, or a sole melody in others, there is one continuous line throughout the surviving manuscript pages and over the years a number of different completions or performing versions have seen the light of day. One of the latest is this 'recreation' of the work for chamber orchestra by composer and conductor Michelle Castelletti.
In her liner notes to the recording, Castelletti describes the symphony as 'possibly one of Mahler’s most passionate emotional outbursts and autobiographical creations'. The decision to make an orchestration for chamber forces was inspired by the example of the Viennese Society for Private Musical Performance, established by Arnold Schoenberg in 1918 with the goal of performing newly composed music. Among the works performed by the Society were chamber orchestra versions of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Das Lied von der Erde – the latter made by Schoenberg himself – and in her version of Symphony No. 10, Castelletti uses a similar instrumentation. This new completion appears on disc for the first time, in a performance by the acclaimed Lapland Chamber Orchestra under John Storgards, the ensemble’s artistic director since 1996.
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Recorded in October 2017 at the Korundi House of Culture, Rovaniemi, Finland, 24/96
Recording producer: Robert Suff
Sound engineer: Matthias Spitzbarth
Recording equipment: BIS’s recording teams use microphones from Neumann and Schoeps, audio electronics from RME, Lake People and DirectOut, MADI optical cabling technology, monitoring equipment from B&W, STAX and Sennheiser, and Sequoia and Pyramix digital audio workstations.
Post-production: Editing and mixing: Matthias Spitzbarth
Executive producer: Robert Suff
Review by Mark Werlin - August 29, 2019
"It should be one's sole endeavour to see everything afresh and create it anew."
In an astonishing new realization of Mahler's final work, Prof. Michelle Castelletti follows Mahler's advice and her own conviction that the written score could indeed be created anew. Under the sure hand of conductor John Storgårds, Castelletti's performing edition for chamber ensemble of the Mahler Tenth Symphony casts a new light on a work once considered irrecoverably unfinished and unperformable.
Alma Mahler's protracted hesitation in releasing the extant manuscript of her late husband's Symphony No. 10 for publication and analysis engendered a number of myths: that the symphony was unfinished, when all five movements were written out in four staves in the composer's own hand, and two movements were fully orchestrated; that Mahler could never have completed the work because the Ninth Symphony was his final statement (Leonard Bernstein); that the work should never be performed, but remain in the abstract realm, an object of veneration for scholars (Theodore Adorno).
The unwillingness of composers of the generation that succeeded Mahler, such as Arnold Schoenberg, to prepare a complete orchestration of the balance of the symphony cemented those myths to the edifice of mid-century musicology.
Undeterred by these formidable obstacles, a small number of dedicated musicologists began to undertake the task of fully orchestrating the symphony. A thorough overview of recordings of the various Mahler 10th performing editions was written some years ago by Tony Duggan, and can be found at the Music Web International site:
Of all the editions, the one which has found widest critical acceptance and is most often performed and recorded is Deryck Cooke's third revised version. Cooke was a conservatory-trained composer who produced radio and television programs on classical music for the BBC. He had collaborators in the development of a performing edition: during the 1960s, composer-conductor Berthold Goldschmidt, and in later years the composers Colin Matthews and David Matthews.
To prepare for this review, I listened to two CDs of the Cooke III edition, Simon Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic, and Mark Wigglesworth with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, a recent hi-res recording of Cooke III by the Orchestre Métropolitain Montréal conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Atma Classique 96/24 download), and Remo Mazzetti's first version with the St. Louis Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin. I selected the Nézet-Séguin Mahler 10th rather than the much-praised Seattle Symphony performance conducted by Thomas Dausgaard in part because Nézet-Séguin's interpretation drew closer to the exceptional qualities in Castelleti's version: clarity of line, and an unforced expression of Mahler's emotive content.
In the liner notes, Michelle Castelletti describes her working methodology. She studied pioneering editions of Clinton Carpenter, Deryck Cooke, Joseph Wheeler and subsequent editors, and analyzed scores of chamber editions written for the Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen as a special point of focus. What began as Ph.D. research — close examination of extant materials in Mahler's own hand viewed in light of the various performing editions — led to a realization that the fruits of her research could take form not only as a scholarly publication, but a new chamber ensemble performing edition. Unique to the endeavor is Castelletti's multi-disciplinary background as a composer, music professor, conductor, singer, and arts curator. In recent years, she has served as the Artistic Director of the Royal Northern College of Music, and in 2019 as the festival director for the Oxford Festival of the Arts.
In an interview with musicologist and journalist Néstor Castiglione Castelletti describes the scope of the work:
"The whole project took a few years. Initially, I spent more time studying Mahler's other works, the arrangements of the VfMP, and getting used to Mahler's modus operandi: his handwriting, identifying the different inks, locating the various sketches; as well as analyzing other completions, and seeing what I would do and say that would make a difference to what was already available."
In John Storgårds and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra, and the BIS recording team, Castelletti found sympathetic collaborators. Storgårds is a champion of 20th century and contemporary Scandinavian composers; his SACDs for BIS, Alba and DaCapo, and his many well-reviewed CDs demonstrate a commitment to exploring less-travelled musical territory. The decision to schedule performances and a recording of a new edition of the Mahler Tenth should be seen not only as an endorsement of the validity of Castelletti's edition, but an expression of Storgårds' desire to find new values in familiar works:
"If you keep that curiosity even when you do something like Beethoven’s Fifth, or other big standard pieces, then you will look at the score like it's fresh from today, and ask: "what do I find here now?" (from a 2016 interview of John Storgårds by Geoffrey Newman, at vanclassicalmusic.com)
Listening to Castelleti's performing version of the Mahler Tenth with openness to the question 'what do I find here now' may help to overcome preconceptions about the use of a chamber ensemble in place of the large forces that the symphony generally employs. The Lapland Chamber Orchestra sounds larger than its actual numbers, an illusion enhanced by the orchestration's counterpoint writing and wide palette of instrumental colors, the precision of Storgårds' conducting (he cites George Szell as an inspiration), and the recording engineer's skillful balancing of the instruments.
Castelletti distributes the counterpoint melodies among the woodwinds, trumpet and French horn with a deft touch; the judicious use of piano and harp contributes percussive and pizzicato emphases. At no time did I find the tonal shading of the orchestration a distraction from the forward momentum of the line. There is a sense of renewal and rediscovery in the realization as a whole. Joolz Gales' chamber edition of Mahler: Symphony No. 9 - Gale pares down the score to a degree that the presentation can sound overly analytic; Castelletti, by contrast, builds on the framework of the score and synthesizes elements of the predecessor editions.
A tempo comparison between Dausgaard and Storgårds shows that the chamber performance is neither rushed nor dragged:
Dausgaard: 23:15, 11:05, 4:06, 10:57, 22:26
Storgårds: 25:33, 11:21, 3:53, 12:50, 23:25
Where Rattle and Dausgaard plunge the listener into the maelstrom of Mahler's torment on learning of Alma's affair with Walter Gropius, Storgårds' unblinking gaze at the emotional histrionics embedded in the score serves Michelle Castelletti's vision of the composer confronting truths he can no longer avoid, and finding unexpected glimpses of peace and clarity.
Copyright © 2019 Mark Werlin and HRAudio.net