Sunday, February 06, 2000

Tenth is a journey into Mahler's mind

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Mahler died in 1911, he left his Symphony No. 10 unfinished, with only the first movement and part of the third completely orchestrated.

        A number of musicians have attempted to create performing editions of the Tenth, a sprawling 75-minute work in five movements. On Friday, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performed the American premiere of the latest version, which will be recorded by Telarc on Monday.

        After a first hearing of the version prepared by Remo Mazzetti Jr., my question echoes the one posed by musicologist Deryck Cooke, who made the landmark edition recorded by Eugene Ormandy in 1965: “Does (Mahler's) fairly comprehensive sketch of it, put into score by other hands, provide a Mahlerian experience of any real value?”

        There are times when Mr. Mazzetti captures the Mahlerian world perfectly, as in the muted, atmospheric third movement, with its chortling winds. But the movement ends so abruptly, one wonders whether Mahler would have changed it.

        “No one could complete the symphony the way Mahler would have,” said Mr. Mazzetti, 43, by phone from Wilmington, Del. “For the editors who came later, it's an editorial process.” Mr. Mazzetti's first attempt was recorded by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony. For this version, he thinned out the orchestration and made other subtle changes.

        Although not as bleakly pessimistic as the Sixth, the Tenth is an emotional journey, borne out of despair for the composer's troubled marriage and his fear of death. It ends with a sense of resignation.

        Jesus Lopez-Cobos led a performance that was involving, but sometimes lacked intensity. Still, this is powerful music, and the effort warmly applauded by the audience of 1,874.

        The Adagio, with its sweeping strings and brass outbursts, ended with a beautifully phrased reverie in the winds. The second movement, an exuberant scherzo, had a radiant Austrian landler at its center.

        Mr. Mazzetti's drum strokes in the finale are jolting crashes, detracting from the serenity of the strings. Otherwise, the tone world seemed authentic, and the finale enhanced by a memorable horn solo from Robin Graham.

        The program opened with a subdued performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491, with pianist Christian Zacharias. Mr. Zacharias, who is also a conductor (he will succeed Mr. Lopez-Cobos at the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra next year), is a fluid pianist with a sensitive touch and a fine technique.

        However, his tempos were on the slow side, he overpedaled and he favored a lot of unnecessary rubato in his phrasing. His interesting first movement cadenza, of his own invention, had interjections from the winds, separated by pianistic outbursts.

        Tone production and well-chosen tempos can make the difference between a good performance and a sublime one. This one was merely good.


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