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9. Mahler: 10th Symphony


[…] Mahler, the 10th,
right after the Bee’s 5th,
some hell of a heavy night 
it’s been a world full of the brave
and I love them all

Excerpt from War All The Time by Charles Bukowski


We cannot discuss Mahler’s incomplete 10th Symphony without discussing his young wife Alma Mahler. And we cannot discuss Alma Mahler without mentioning her nickname was “Bride Of The Wind.” She earned it for being a flirtatious socialite who undressed faster than a speeding bullet for anyone with a noticeable career in the arts. Throughout her life she was surrounded by people like Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka and Gustav Klimt.

Her first marriage however was with Mahler, who dedicated his 8th Symphony to her. Alma’s physical needs, Mahler’s heart condition and the death of their young daughter left their marks on their marriage. While Mahler drafted his 10th Symphony with the Grim Reaper humming along over his shoulder, Alma started an affair with a famous architect who couldn’t draw and designed door handles.

Mahler’s 10th is considered a reflection of the inner turmoil. Gustav left us only incomplete drafts which Alma send to his friend Willem Mengelberg, conductor at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra. Famous and skilled Mahleristas like Shostakovich have been asked to complete it. They all refused, stating they were not up to the task. In 1963, — one year before Alma’s death — British musicologist Deryk Cooke however produced a version that actually could be performed. As soon as Alma heard it she wrote him a letter stating how much she loved it, giving him permission to present it to the world.

Recommended recording:
Bernard Haitink & Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra

The Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra is still your first line of defense when it comes to Mahler. Mengelberg’s main successor Haitink gives this incomplete piece the intoxicating sound of a complete Mahler symphony. [..] well, Mahler’s 10th on and I’m hungover and climbing out, climbing back in again. (Screams From The Balcony)

▶︎ PLAY IN SPOTIFY

 

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