Listening again in Friday evening's Prom to his magnificent completion of the symphony, or, as he defined it, his "performing version of the draft for the Tenth Symphony" one was again astounded at the authenticity of its expressive world. It really does sound like purist Mahler throughout, a tribute to the hard work and imagination that Cooke continued to apply, even after that premiere, along with composers Berthold Goldschmidt and Colin and David Matthews.
Purists still argue about accepting into the canon a work that includes portions of pastiche composition and which had largely been orchestrated by others, and in truth the job was so superbly done that we are in danger of accepting it as Mahler's work pure and simple. But as Mark Wigglesworth and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales confirmed yet again in an interpretation of the greatest power, we should not be without this revelation of the composer's final, affirmative vision.
The Tenth's all-embracing canvas stretches from something like the despairing intensity of the Ninth Symphony to a new and deeply moving serenity, and Wigglesworth controlled it with impressive flexibility, drawing from the orchestra a fine range of sonorities and a passionate impulse.
Earlier they had produced equally expressive playing in Berg's Violin Concerto, where exquisite chamber textures contrast with the terrifying climaxes of the death scene. This was an interpretation of high clarity and emotional commitment: Thomas Zehetmair's solo playing spoke to us with telling poetry and dramatic address, while Wigglesworth's command of Berg's intricate compositional web was complete.
All of Mahler's symphonies are being featured in the current Prom season, and on Sunday evening the sequence continued with a good but rarely outstanding performance of the Fourth by Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. There was not that sense of rapt concentration and precise definition which Mahler's golden vision requires, and it was not until the final stanzas of the symphony's closing song, with the soprano Christiane Oelze in touching form, that a spell was cast.
Perhaps conductor and orchestra had devoted the better part of their concentration on Tippett's Second Symphony, for here indeed was a performance to excite heart and mind. The pounding impetus of the first movement drew playing of unquenchable spirit and determination, while the lyric mysteries of the "Adagio" were spun out in a magical tracery of lines and decorations.
The symphony ended with its great cadential pillars of sound planted on the steadiest of foundations.Reuse content