Author Topic: light holiday listening: annual M10 fest.  (Read 5054 times)

Offline barry guerrero

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light holiday listening: annual M10 fest.
« on: December 27, 2006, 05:50:24 PM »
Hi there,

Between driving up and down the S.F. peninsula and cleaning house, I've been able to work in a Mahler X fest. Although I enjoy listening to all the versions (almost), my opinions come out pretty much as they already have been. By far, my favorites are the Ormandy - now available in pretty good sound - and the Litton/Dallas (Carpenter version). Gielen is great with the more "expressionistic" moments of the work. Hence, his fourth movement (second scherzo) and the faster development section of the fifth movement, are both excellent. But I don't like his almost absurdly loud solo bass drum strokes, and I truly feel that his second and third movements are pretty-darn prosaic. The poor little "Purgatorio" movement, in particular, really gets short changed under his direction. Ormandy is just more consistant throughout, and his Philly string section was just unbeatable in those days.

Carpenter's version is wild and woolly - often times stepping into the even more expressionistic sound world of Alban Berg - but his orchestration and pastiche composing sounds more idiomatic of Mahler - to me, anyway - than Wheeler, Barshai, or Mazzetti do. In fact, weirdly enough, I think it's Barshai who sounds the least like Mahler. I hate to say that because I know he does terrific Shostakovich, and has made a really good recording of the Mahler 5th. But I'm afraid that I just cringe at a lot of the stuff he comes up with. Wheeler isn't so bad overall, but his second movement (first scherzo) is chalk full of really unidiomatic percussion writing for late Mahler, especially with the snare drum and bass drum. It's also strangely light in the lower end of the orchestra:  tuba, double basses, contrabassoon, bass clarinet - all of these instruments are greatly underemployed (like me). The Rattle/BPO Mahler 10th (Cooke III) also has terrific string playing, but EMI has sure let him down in terms of sound quality. In some respects, it's actually the worst sounding one in my collection. Rattle's is available in a DVD-A disc, and I'd like to pick that up someday. But truthfully, I'm very happy with the Ormandy. I'm afraid I'm just not a fan of Rattle/Birmingham because, once again, the bass drum is just ridiculously loud (Mahler only wrote forte - which Cooke stuck to - and Cooke adds "muted").

I'd really like to see somebody do a good commercial recording of the Samale/Mazzuca version. In many respects, I think it's the best overall version of any. Like Carpenter, they address many of the bigger picture issues of the work:  the end of the first scherzo (second movement); doing something different with the da capo repeat in the "Purgatorio"; making more of the climax in "Purgatorio"; making more of the expressionistic outbursts towards the end of the second scherzo (fourth movement); making the reprise of the first movement's "expressionistic" anti-climax louder and more frightening in the fifth movement;  doing something, ANYTHING, with the string dominated, Merchant-Ivory sounding music that happens in the back half of the fifth movement (less prostate and dull) - these are just some of the bigger issues that both Carpenter and S/M address. The others, I'm afraid, just add lots of lots of useless filigree without thoroughly addressing these shortcomings. Samale/Mazzuca, on the other hand, do address these issues but without going so far into the sound world of Alban Berg ("Wozzeck" and "Three Pieces" come to mind). In a sense, S/M's orchestration sounds a bit more like Schoenberg, and less like Berg - sharper and more rhythmically incisive, I suppose.

Anyway, it's been fun, and maybe this will be the year that I finally get around to doing my own sketches. I'm just not looking forward to copying out tons and tons of parts (I can't afford to hire copyists). Much will depend on what kind of work I find, and how much time and energy it takes up. I do need the money! Anybody want to take musical dictation?
« Last Edit: December 28, 2006, 07:02:18 PM by barry guerrero »

Offline sperlsco

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Re: light holiday listening: annual M10 fest.
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2006, 09:47:56 PM »
HMMMM!  M10 as some relaxing-lite Holiday music?    ;D  I actually listened to the Haitink M6 from the 1995 Mahlerfest on Xmas eve and Xmas day, so perhaps my taste in Xmas music is not too far from yours. 

I've mentioned several times on the old Board that the Barshai M10 does very little for me.  Much of his percussion writing is very unidiomatic to my ears.  However, he does a nice job with the first movement (which may just be the playing/conducting as opposed to any particular orchestration differences) and with the purgatorio.  The Wheeler does even less for me -- especially in the second movement (as you mention).  To sum up the Wheeler:  he attempts to do very little with the orchestration, and what he does I dislike.  Barshai does more, but does it no better. 

I quite like much of the Mazzetti.  In his first version he seems to try to do more, which is both good and bad depending on the part.  Since he has fewer "misses" in his revision, it is probably more enjoyable overall.  Let's face it, all of the M10 versions are going to be subject to our personal preferences and tastes more than any of his 10 completed symphonies (i.e. we are less likely to criticize Mahler's own completed vision).  All in all, though, I prefer Cooke to Mazetti, and prefer Carpenter/Litton above all. 

One of my problems with most of the Cooke II and III versions is that the first and final movements are too slow for my taste, while the two scherzos are too fast.  This is one area that Gielen really nails for me: faster in the outer movements, slower in the middle ones.  It is also one of the things (among many) that I really like about Carpenter/Litton.  Well, Litton's first movement is slower than my preference, but...

Yes, I am bothered by the cannon-shots in the fifth movement by Gielen (as well as Rattle 1 and Inbal).  Chailly does much better (i.e. more moderate), and strangely, Barshai does the drum blows well too. Rattle II may still be too loud, but it is also a very DEEEEEEP bass drum -- which I like.   I can't remember how Sanderling does here.  Fortunately, Litton plays them louder than Carpenter specifies, but they are still a little too small in a couple of spots. 
Scott

Offline Leo K

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Re: light holiday listening: annual M10 fest.
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2006, 05:30:06 PM »
Quote from: Barry Guerrero
Anyway, it's been fun, and maybe this will be the year that I finally get around to doing my own sketches. I'm just not looking forward to copying out tons and tons of parts (I can't afford to hire copyists). Much will depend on what kind of work I find, and how much time and energy it takes up. I do need the money! Anybody want to take musical dictation?

Actually Barry, I would be glad to help copy parts (for free of course)...let me know.


And have you seen some of those notation software programs, such as Finale?

https://www.finalemusic.com/store/productoverview.aspx

I used something simular when I studied music in college some years ago...nowadays, this software can even print out the parts of a score.  Amazing stuff.  It's alittle costly though.  I'm thinking of getting the "Finale" software this year, so I could help in getting a professional looking score if you decide to write by hand.  I'd really like to get to know the Mahler 10 score and sketches better, and learn how a completion is done.





« Last Edit: December 28, 2006, 05:33:39 PM by Leo K »

Offline barry guerrero

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Re: light holiday listening: annual M10 fest.
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2006, 06:19:01 PM »
Well thanks. I'll keep those things in mind. I've thought about programs such as finale. I'll need an infusion of cash, and I would probably need to get this computer tuned a bit better. I have an older Mac sitting down in my little basement, and that might be good for such a project.

I've never observed anybody using Finale or Sibelius, but I have a feeling that it might actually be more time consuming than the good, old manual way. But then again, as you point out, it makes copying out parts a snap. I think that the baring of the second movement could be very tricky on a machine. I don't know if you own a copy of the Cooke score, but the second movement really needs to be toyed with in a few spots, in terms of moving the barlines elsewhere. We did M10 in Redwood Symphony years ago, and there were some problems.  In the second movement, bars 17 through 20 are written in 3/4 time (conducted one beat to the bar). When it's conducted in one, it really undermines and emasculates what the horns are doing there (Maybe Mahler was thinking of conducting it in a fast 3 beat pattern?). This is just one example where re-baring could be useful.

And speaking of the first scherzo, I'd like to try something different right from the start. I've never liked that clunky sounding beginning in the horns. I'd like to make that four bassoons instead, played fortissimo (bassoons are wimpy), and I'd like for them to do a trill on their third half note, which is in the third full measure. I don't like the main theme played on oboes either. It sounds too much like Sibelius meets Stravinsky. I'd like to try that with four flutes, also played loudly, in an effort to get a sort of hard but "ice-y" kind of sound. It may be too low for the flutes to get that sort of a sound, so perhaps clarinets would be more practical. Anyway, I'd switch back to the oboes in the second half of measure 5, and leave out the violins. In fact, I'd like to leave out the violins completely until you reach the trio section.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

Offline Leo K

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Re: light holiday listening: annual M10 fest.
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2006, 08:49:42 PM »

Quote
the second movement really needs to be toyed with in a few spots, in terms of moving the barlines elsewhere. We did M10 in Redwood Symphony years ago, and there were some problems.  In the second movement, bars 17 through 20 are written in 3/4 time (conducted one beat to the bar). When it's conducted in one, it really undermines and emasculates what the horns are doing there (Maybe Mahler was thinking of conducting it in a fast 3 beat pattern?). This is just one example where re-baring could be useful.

Very interesting, is the Cooke score hard to come by?  It's about time I tried to aquire the score. 

Quote
And speaking of the first scherzo, I'd like to try something different right from the start. I've never liked that clunky sounding beginning in the horns. I'd like to make that four bassoons instead, played fortissimo (bassoons are wimpy), and I'd like for them to do a trill on their third half note, which is in the third full measure. I don't like the main theme played on oboes either. It sounds too much like Sibelius meets Stravinsky. I'd like to try that with four flutes, also played loudly, in an effort to get a sort of hard but "ice-y" kind of sound. It may be too low for the flutes to get that sort of a sound, so perhaps clarinets would be more practical. Anyway, I'd switch back to the oboes in the second half of measure 5, and leave out the violins. In fact, I'd like to leave out the violins completely until you reach the trio section.

I also think a hard "icey" sound would make a difference here, perhaps to provide a greater contrast with the warm-like trio section.





Offline Leo K

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Re: light holiday listening: annual M10 fest.
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2006, 03:40:01 PM »
Regarding the Litton/Carpenter disk, I was really amazed to find how "large" the 10th became when I first heard this account.  I'm still absorbing this version, as I'm so used to the Cooke and Wheeler versions, but I really like the Carpenter...Litton's performance is real epic and exciting.  I should have got this along time ago, but I was too influenced by alot of negative reviews.  The discussion on the old board convinced me to give it a try. 


Offline barry guerrero

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Re: light holiday listening: annual M10 fest.
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2006, 09:43:31 PM »
I'm glad you chose to give Carpenter a chance. It's easy see why people would be freaked out by the Carpenter completion. But weirdly enough, I think he his excesses actually sound more like Mahler than some of the other, more restrained versions do; simply by way of his harmonic voicings and orchestration. Anyway, after your done absorbing Carpenter, I'd like to burn you a copy of S/M and let you chew on that. I'd be curious to get your reaction. Unfortunately, it won't sound anywhere as good to you, sonically speaking, than the Delos recording. It's also not nearly so well played. But I like what S/M come up with.

Barry

Offline John Kim

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Re: light holiday listening: annual M10 fest.
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2006, 03:32:56 AM »
Like Barry, my overall best pick of M10 is the Litton/DSO/Delos, not so much because of the version but mostly the extraordinary playing & sound Litton gets from his orchestra. When the playing is of such a high order, I cannot complain they are playing Carpenter's edition. In fact. I like Carpenter's orchestration very much and that adds to my fondness of this recording.

Offline Leo K

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Re: light holiday listening: annual M10 fest.
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2006, 05:04:04 PM »
I'm glad you chose to give Carpenter a chance. It's easy see why people would be freaked out by the Carpenter completion. But weirdly enough, I think he his excesses actually sound more like Mahler than some of the other, more restrained versions do; simply by way of his harmonic voicings and orchestration. Anyway, after your done absorbing Carpenter, I'd like to burn you a copy of S/M and let you chew on that. I'd be curious to get your reaction. Unfortunately, it won't sound anywhere as good to you, sonically speaking, than the Delos recording. It's also not nearly so well played. But I like what S/M come up with.

Barry

Thats great, thanks!  I'm really curious to finally hear the S/M completion.  I've heard they also did a completion of Bruckner's 9th, which I haven't heard, but Bruckner is still rather new to me.

I'm playing the Litton now at work, and it is stunning, especially the string playing. 

Also, I remember remember reading a good article by Carpenter on the Mahler Archives site, and it helped me to prepare to hear his version.  I'm going to review that and the other articles today at work.  I remember running across Theodore Bloomfield's article In Search of Mahler's Tenth: The Four Performing Versions as Seen by a Conductor in the Musical Quarterly in the early 90's...it was my introduction to Mahler's 10th (which can be found online here:  http://www.jstor.org/view/00274631/ap020287/02a00010/0).  I spent many blissful afternoons poring over that article. 
 
 




Offline barry guerrero

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Re: light holiday listening: annual M10 fest.
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2006, 06:16:41 PM »
The Bruckner 9th is a totally different situation. Bruckner actually numbered his pages, and they keep finding new pages for the finale, here and there. It makes you wonder how those pages could have possibly become so spread out. Anyway, everything up to a certain point is entirely Bruckner. Then, from there on, the Restoration people - and there's a whole slough of them with the Bruckner - have to compose on their own. The entire coda to the finale is purely conjectural!

No offense to anybody here, but I've yet to listen to one of these completions (Bruckner, that is) that I find entirely satisfying. In fact, Bruckner's own writing sounds more like a first movement to a 10th symphony, than a finale to the 9th - well, to me anyway. It just sound as though it doesn't have much relationship to the previous three movements. Probably the best place to get a feel and explanation for all this, is on the Bruckner 9th recording with Harnoncourt. He has a second disc that gets into this whole topic, with a running commentary by Harnoncourt.

I sure wish Harnoncourt would change his mind about Mahler. I'd love to see him make a recording of the first symphony, especially if they gave him the VPO or Concertgebouw, which they always do. I bet he could easily match Norrigton in the inner movements, but beat the pants off of him in the finale.

Barry
« Last Edit: December 30, 2006, 06:22:52 PM by barry guerrero »

 

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