Symphony No. 10 (Mahler)

Symphony No. 10 (Mahler)

The Symphony No. 10 by Gustav Mahler was written in the summer of 1910, and was his final composition. At the time of Mahler's death the composition was substantially complete in the form of a continuous draft; but not being fully elaborated at every point, and mostly not orchestrated, it was not performable in that state.



Mahler started his work on his Tenth Symphony in July 1910 in Toblach, and ended his efforts in September the same year. He never managed to complete the orchestral draft before his premature death at the age of fifty from a streptococcal infection of the blood.

Mahler's drafts and sketches for the Tenth Symphony comprise 72 pages of full score, 50 pages of continuous short score draft (2 pages of which are missing), and a further 44 pages of preliminary drafts, sketches, and inserts. In the form in which Mahler left it, the symphony consists of five movements:

  1. Andante – Adagio: 275 bars drafted in orchestral and short score
  2. Scherzo: 522 bars drafted in orchestral and short score
  3. Purgatorio. Allegro moderato: 170 bars drafted in short score, the first 30 bars of which were also drafted in orchestral score
  4. [Scherzo. Nicht zu schnell]: about 579 bars drafted in short score
  5. Finale. Langsam, schwer: 400 bars drafted in short score

The parts in short score were usually in four staves. The designations of some movements were altered as work progressed: for example the second movement was initially envisaged as a finale. The fourth movement was also relocated in multiple instances. Mahler then started on an orchestral draft of the symphony, which begins to bear some signs of haste after the halfway point of the first movement. He had gotten as far as orchestrating the first two movements and the opening 30 bars of the third movement when he had to put aside work on the Tenth to make final revisions to the Ninth Symphony.

The circumstances surrounding the composition of the Tenth were highly unusual. Mahler was at the height of his compositional powers, but his personal life was in complete disarray, most recently compounded by the revelation that his young wife Alma had had an affair with the architect Walter Gropius. Mahler sought counselling from Sigmund Freud, and on the verge of its successful première in Munich, dedicated the Eighth Symphony to Alma in a desperate attempt to repair the breach. The unsettled frame of Mahler's mind found expression in the despairing comments (many addressed to Alma) written on the manuscript of the Tenth, and must have influenced its composition: on the final page of the short score in the final movement, Mahler wrote, "für dich leben! für dich sterben!" (To live for you! To die for you!) and the exclamation "Almschi!" underneath the last soaring phrase.

The instrumentation of the symphony cannot be defined precisely, owing to the incompleteness of the orchestral draft. However, in the short score there are occasional indications of instrumentation, and some of the orchestration may be surmised from the three movements of the orchestral draft, from which the probable forces include: four flutes, one piccolo, four oboes, four clarinets in B flat and A, with one doubling E flat, three bassoons, two contrabassoons, four horns, four trumpets, four trombones, a tuba, two sets of timpani, tam tam, a large muffled military drum, harp and strings (first and second violins, violas, cellos and double basses). The surviving orchestration does not specify a cor anglais (English horn) or a bass clarinet, bass drum, cymbals, and triangle, although Mahler regularly used these instruments in his other symphonies.

Realisations of the work

Early attempts

After Mahler's death there was no immediate attempt to complete the symphony, or render it in a state where it could be performed, although figures such as Paul Stefan described the high quality of the work as drafted. Arnold Schönberg famously expressed the opinion that no one could possibly write a Tenth Symphony without being close to the hereafter (see Curse of the ninth); and a mistaken report led Richard Specht to suggest Mahler wanted the manuscript burned after his death. Hence it was only in the 1920s that Alma Mahler-Werfel asked the composer Ernst Krenek to make a fair copy of Mahler's orchestral draft for a festival of performances of Mahler works, and at about the same time some of the manuscripts were published by the company of Paul Zsolnay in facsimile (1924). The facsimile made evident that the stress of Mahler's final year had not adversely affected the composition, and that the draft contained passages of great beauty. Much of the manuscript, however, was too difficult to read and seemingly too chaotic for the unbroken continuity of the music to be clearly apparent.

In 1924 Krenek made a fair copy of only the first (Adagio) and third (Purgatorio) movements, and might have made a fair copy of the second movement, but as Mahler's draft of the Scherzo was very much patchier this was evidently less feasible. Alban Berg was enlisted to proofread the work, but his suggested corrections were never incorporated, while at the same time some unauthorised changes were introduced, possibly by one of the conductors of the first two performances, Franz Schalk and Alexander von Zemlinsky. Krenek is supposed to have renounced the changes to his version, which was subsequently published. Performances of the Krenek-Schalk/Zemlinsky version have been moderately successful, but the third movement is not generally convincing when taken out of context between the second and fourth movements: it is possible some of the conductors who have refused to perform the Tenth, most famously Bruno Walter and Leonard Bernstein, took exception to such a piecemeal representation.

In 1923, Alma had also sent a copy of the score to Willem Mengelberg in Amsterdam with the addition that two parts (obviously, the Adagio and Purgatorio) were 'absolutely performable'.[1] Briefly after Schalk performed Krenek's score (with his own additions) on October 12, 1924, Alma sent what is believed to be Schalk's score to Mengelberg,[2] who subsequently prepared his own edition with the aid of his secondant Cornelis Dopper. This version uses a larger orchestra and makes significant changes in dynamic markings and tempi.[3] It was premiered on November 27, 1924, in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and subsequently played a number of times under Mengelberg's baton.

It was soon realised that a performing version of only two movements did not give listeners a clear idea of the entire symphony, let alone constitute a complete artistic statement, so in the 1940s the American Mahler enthusiast Jack Diether tried to encourage several notable composers to realise the work. Figures such as Shostakovich, Schoenberg, and Britten (all of whom had been considerably influenced by the works of Mahler), refused, and instead the task was taken up by musicologists: early attempts at realising the entire work were made in America by Clinton Carpenter (completed 1949, subsequently revised 1966), in Germany by Hans Wollschläger (1954–1962, withdrawn), and in England by Joe Wheeler (1953–1965) and Deryck Cooke.

Deryck Cooke's versions

The various realisations produced by Cooke have, since the late 1960s, become the basis for most performances and recordings.

A first, still incomplete performing version by Cooke (1959–1960) stemmed from a performance and an associated lecture for radio broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, marking the centenary of Mahler's birth. This was aired on 19 December 1960, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Berthold Goldschmidt, who also assisted with the production of Cooke's edition. At its first performance Cooke's realisation of the final movement proved to be a revelation to listeners,[citation needed] and Cooke resolved to complete the orchestration and elaboration of the Scherzo movements, which required much more compositional work than he had time for.

Alma Mahler, who had at one point taken the views of Bruno Walter to heart and demanded a veto on further performances of the Cooke performing version, actually changed her mind upon seeing Cooke's revised score and hearing the recording. She wrote Cooke a letter in English, postmarked New York, 8 May 1963, which Cooke includes in the preface pages to the score:

Dear Mr. Cooke,
Mr. Harold Byrns visited me here in New York. Today he read me your excellent articles on Mahler's Tenth Symphony and [showed me] your equally authoritative score. Afterwards I expressed my desire to finally listen to the London BBC tape. I was so moved by this performance that I immediately asked Mr. Byrns to play the work a second time. I then realised that the time had come when I must reconsider my previous decision not to permit the performance of this work. I have now decided once and for all to give you full permission to go ahead with performances in any part of the world. I enclose [a] copy of my letter of even date to [the] BBC.
Sincerely yours,

Alma Maria Mahler[4]

Cooke's revised and completed version, conducted by Goldschmidt, was premièred at the Proms on 13 August 1964 and recorded soon after. After Alma's death, also in 1964, her daughter Anna allowed Cooke access to the full set of manuscript sketches, many of which had not been published four decades earlier. In the light of these Cooke made a revised performing version in association with the British composers Colin and David Matthews between 1966 and 1972, and thereafter his final version before his death in 1976. The release of these pages also prompted the International Gustav Mahler Society in Vienna to issue another, more complete collection of Mahler's manuscripts in facsimile (Ricke, 1967). This revised edition of Cooke's first complete score was published in 1976, shortly before Cooke's death. A further revision, with mostly minor changes made by the three surviving collaborators, appeared in print in 1989.

Summary of the Cooke versions

Cooke's performing editions of the Tenth Symphony may be summarised as follows:

  • Cooke "0" – (1960, unpublished): BBC performance, completed 1st, 3rd and 5th movements plus partial realisations of the 2nd and 4th movements; presented as part of a lecture-demonstration
  • Cooke I – first complete performing version (1960–1964; unpublished)
Premiered on 13 August 1964 by Berthold Goldschmidt; basis for the recordings by Eugene Ormandy (1965/66) and Martinon (1966)
  • Cooke II – second performing version (1966–1972; appeared in print in 1976)
premiered on 15 October 1972 by Wyn Morris;[5] basis for all recordings from 1972 to 1992
  • Cooke III – a slightly revised form of the 1976 score (printed in 1989)
various reading errors corrected, some minor changes made in orchestration, and the whole enhanced by considerations concerning performance; the editorial input coming from David and Colin Matthews and Berthold Goldschmidt. (Those pages which have been altered are marked with an asterisk.)

Other complete versions

Clinton Carpenter (1921–2005) started working on his edition long before Cooke, and called his score a "completion" rather than a "performing version". Although he finished his version in 1949 (revising the work in 1966), it had to wait until 1983 for a performance. Carpenter did not merely review Mahler's symphonic output to guide him in his effort, but went so far as to include actual quotations from every Mahler symphony in his edition. The view has been expressed[6] that much of this process of recomposition gives the impression that he has written his own symphony using Mahler's as a basis.

The completion by Joseph Wheeler dates from 1953 to 1965, and like Cooke he also refined his ideas several times, so the final version of 1965 was actually the fourth iteration; the American composer Remo Mazzetti Jr. considers Wheeler's fourth version to be the closest to Mahler's late orchestral style.

In recent years several further realisations of the symphony have been attempted: Remo Mazzetti initially made his 1989 version from dissatisfaction with the existing Cooke, Carpenter, and Wheeler editions, though the spur of preparing a performance of Wheeler's version in 1997 led him to recant his earlier view. Of his own revised version he remarked, "I really believe I got things right this time". Two more completions have been produced since, by the conductor Rudolf Barshai (2000), and a joint effort by Nicola Samale and Giuseppe Mazzucca (2001). All have been performed and recorded with the version by Samale and Mazzucca now commercially released in April 2008 by Octavia Records through Exton from Japan with Martin Sieghart conducting the Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra.

A new version by the Israeli-American conductor Yoel Gamzou was premiered in Berlin by the author conducting the International Mahler Orchestra in September 2010.[7][8][9] [10]

A project to recompose and recontextualise Mahler's 10th Symphony using samples and electronic effects was completed by Matthew Herbert and released by Deutsche Grammophon in 2010.[11]

Piano transcription

A piano transcription of the score (in the Cooke edition) was made by the British composer Ronald Stevenson and the English pianist Christopher White in 2010. It has since been recorded with White as soloist.[12]

Musical form

Mahler occasionally used a five-movement structure for his symphonies rather than the more traditional four-movement structure, and for the Tenth he devised a convincing symmetrical structure with two large slow movements enclosing a core of faster inner movements, at the very centre of which is the deceptive Purgatorio movement.

The very opening of the symphony maintains a connection with the final movement of the Ninth. A long, bleak Andante melody for violas alone leads to the exposition of the slow first theme in the strings. This theme is developed and another, lighter theme is exposed. The music dies away and the violas repeat the opening theme. With slight variation, the opening adagio is repeated and developed in a growing intensity. This also soon dies away, leaving several variations upon the more light second theme. This works up to the climax: an extremely powerful variation upon the first theme. This intense restatement culminates in a terrifying dissonance. The music after this massive outburst becomes very quiet and does not suggest any resolution to the darkness of the climax.

The second movement, the first of two brilliant Scherzo movements, consists of two main ideas, the first of which is notated in consistently changing metres, which would have proved a challenge to Mahler's conducting technique had he lived to perform the symphony. This alternates with a joyful and typically Mahlerian Ländler. It is almost certainly this movement Paul Stefan had in mind when he described the symphony as containing "gaiety, even exuberance" (Cooke's translation).

The Purgatorio movement (originally entitled Purgatorio oder Inferno —Purgatory or Hell— but the word "Inferno" was struck out) is a brief vignette presenting a struggle between alternately bleak and carefree melodies with a perpetuum mobile accompaniment, that are soon subverted by a diabolical undercurrent of more cynical music. The short movement fails to end in limbo though, as after a brief recapitulation a sudden harp arpeggio and gong stroke pull the rug out from under it; it is consigned to perdition by a final grim utterance from the double basses.

The scene is now set for the peculiarities of the second scherzo, which has a somewhat driven and harried character, and this also has significant connections to Mahler's recent work: the sorrowful first movement of Das Lied von der Erde, Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde. There is an annotation on the cover of the draft to the effect that in this movement "The Devil dances with me", and at the very end Mahler wrote "Ah! God! Farewell my lyre!". Cooke's version finishes with a percussion coda employing both timpanists, bass drum, and a large military drum which is to be muffled, that leads directly into the final slow movement. This scherzo does not resemble the second scherzo in spirit; it is far more grave and sinister. Some consider it to be Mahler's last "Horror Scherzo".

The use of the military drum stems from a funeral procession that Mahler once observed: one day in the winter of 1907 when the Mahlers were staying in New York, the cortége of a deceased fire chief passed way below their hotel window, and from high up the only sound that could be heard was the muffled stroke of a large bass drum. The introduction to the fifth movement re-enacts this scene as a rising line on tubas supported by two double bassoons slowly tries to make headway and is repeatedly negated by the loud (but muffled) drum strokes.

The emotional weight of the symphony is resolved by the long final movement, which incorporates and ties together music from the earlier movements, whereby the opening passage of the symphony, now transferred to the horns, is found to be the answer to tame the savage dissonance that had racked the end of the first movement. The music of the flute solo that was heard after the introductory funeral scene can now return to close the symphony peacefully, and unexpectedly, in the principal major key. The draft for this movement reveals that Mahler had originally written the ending in B-flat major, but in the process of revision worked the same music into F-sharp major.

Recordings of Mahler's Tenth

The original, incomplete Cooke version was first recorded by the BBC as noted above; the first complete version (denoted Cooke I) was also premièred by Goldschmidt, this time with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1964; the first commercial recording appeared in 1966 (recording date: 1965), conducted by Eugene Ormandy and his Philadelphia Orchestra. Several notable recordings of the revised Cooke (version II) have been made: the first, made by Wyn Morris in 1972 has recently been reissued. Simon Rattle's 1980 recording with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra gave the former percussionist an opportunity to make some pointed revisions, most noticeably giving prominence to the military drum in the fifth movement, which is played as loudly as possible without being muffled or dampened.

Other notable recordings include those of: Kurt Sanderling – Berlin Symphony Orchestra – 1979; Cooke II – employing revisions/alterations by Sanderling himself and Berthold Goldschmidt; Riccardo Chailly – Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra – 1986; Cooke II; Eliahu Inbal – Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra – 1993; Cooke II, and Rattle again – this time with the Berlin Philharmonic – 1999; Cooke III, again with alterations by Rattle. Deryck Cooke's second version was also recorded by James Levine and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Adagio movement from this recording was originally recorded and released in 1976, as the fourth side of a 2 LP set containing a complete performance of the 5th symphony, recorded that same year. The remaining movements of Cooke II were recorded in 1980. The same performance of the 1976 Adagio was incorporated with the 1980 recording of the remainder in a different 2 Lp set, with no apparent differences in sound quality.

Some conductors, notably Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Michael Tilson Thomas, Rafael Kubelík and Claudio Abbado have chosen to perform and record just the Adagio, since they interpret it as the only movement completed by Mahler himself. Other noted Mahlerians, such as Georg Solti, omit the Tenth from their repertoire altogether.

In 2011, to mark the centenary of Mahler's death, Testament Records released a 3 CD set featuring Cooke's BBC lecture, the 1960 studio performance of the incomplete version as well as the 1964 world premiere conducted by Goldschmidt.

Synopsis: Recordings of the completed symphony

Year Conductor Orchestra Version
1960 Berthold Goldschmidt Philharmonia Orchestra Cooke Incomplete First Version from 1960
1964 Berthold Goldschmidt London Symphony Orchestra Cooke I 1964 World Premiere
1966 Eugene Ormandy Philadelphia Orchestra Cooke I
1966 Jean Martinon Chicago Symphony Orchestra Cooke I
1972 Wyn Morris New Philharmonia Orchestra Cooke II
1979 Kurt Sanderling Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester Cooke II
1980 James Levine Philadelphia Orchestra Cooke II
1980 Simon Rattle Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Cooke II
1986 Riccardo Chailly Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin Cooke II
1992 Eliahu Inbal Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt Cooke II
1993 Mark Wigglesworth BBC National Orchestra of Wales Cooke III
1994 Leonard Slatkin Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra Mazzetti I
1994 Harold Farberman Philharmonia Hungarica Carpenter
1997 Robert Olson Colorado MahlerFest Orchestra Wheeler IV
1999 Simon Rattle Berliner Philharmoniker Cooke III
2000 Jesús López-Cobos Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Mazzetti II
2000 Robert Olson Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Katowice Wheeler IV
2001 Andrew Litton Dallas Symphony Orchestra Carpenter
2001 Rudolf Barshai Junge Deutsche Philharmonie Barshai
2005 Michael Gielen South-West German Radio-Symphony Orchestra, Baden-Baden Cooke III
2007 Gianandrea Noseda BBC Philharmonic Cooke III
2008 Daniel Harding Vienna Philharmonic Cooke III
2008 Martin Sieghart Arnhem Philharmonic Samale/Mazzuca
2010 David Zinman Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra Carpenter II
2010 Yoel Gamzou International Mahler Orchestra Gamzou 2010 World Premiere


  1. ^ Becqué, R., 'Die Korrespondenz zwischen Alma Mahler und Willem Mengelberg über die Niederländische Erstaufführung von zwei Sätzen der Zehnten Symphonie', in: Fragment or Completion. Proceeding of the Mahler X Symposium (Paul Op de Coul, Ed.) The Hague: Universitary Press Rotterdam 1991, pp. 217–236.
  2. ^ Briefly after October 24; Becqué, R., 'Die Korrespondenz zwischen Alma Mahler und Willem Mengelberg über die Niederländische Erstaufführung von zwei Sätzen der Zehnten Symphonie', in: Fragment or Completion. Proceedings of the Mahler X Symposium (Paul Op de Coul, Ed.) The Hague: Universitary Press Rotterdam 1991, p. 231.
  3. ^ Stam, Joop, 'Mengelberg/Doppers versie van Mahlers Tiende Symfonie' [Transl: Mengelberg/Dopper's Version of Mahler's Tenth Symphony], Talk at the Dutch Musicologist's Day, Utrecht, November 25, 2000.
  4. ^ Cooke, Deryck (1976). A Performing Version for the Draft of the Tenth Symphony. Associated Music Publishers. ISBN 0-571-51094-9. 
  5. ^ Symphony No. 10 by Gustav Mahler by Michael Steinberg
  6. ^ Mahler Symphony No. 10 Carpenter completion, MusicWeb (UK), review by Tony Duggan
  7. ^ Yoel H. Gamzou: The New Version of Mahler's 10th Symphony
  8. ^ Gustav Mahler / Yoel Gamzou: 10th Symphony. Schott music
  9. ^ Spinola, Julia: Unbeirrbar, radikal, kompromisslos., 9 September 2010, retrieved 9 December 2010
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Mahler - Recomposed By Matthew Herbert". Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  12. ^


  • Bloomfield, Theodore. ”In Search of Mahler's Tenth: The Four Performing Versions as Seen by a Conductor”, The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 74, No. 2 (1990), pp. 175–196
  • Chew, Teng-Leong. "Performing Versions of the Tenth Symphony." Naturlaut vol. 1 no. 2 (2002), pp. 7-10 (online)

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