C0995. DIMITRI MITROPOULOS Cond. NYPO: Symphony #10 in F, Live Performance, 13 March, 1958; LEONARD BERNSTEIN Cond. NYPO, w.Jennie Tourel: Kindertotenlieder – Live Performance, 12 Feb., 1960 (both Mahler); Mitropoulos Cond. Kölner Rundfunk S.O.: La Mer (Debussy), Live Performance, 24 Oct., 1960. (Germany) Archipel 0529. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 4035122405293
"Mahler was obsessive and neurotic about many things. He worried about the significance of numbers, he worried about what he ate, he worried about exercise, and all of these worries were tied into his obsession with his own mortality. He also worried about his younger wife, a talented, beautiful woman whom the composer loved deeply, with the same sort of obsession that marked other facets of his life. He had escaped one of his greatest fears, that he would not live past his ninth symphony, by not numbering his ninth symphony.
The Ninth held a fatal significance for Mahler, who believed that Beethoven had set a limit by dying after his Ninth symphony. Mahler called what should have been his ninth symphony DAS LIED VON DER ERDE, thus cheating death, or so he thought. But the Ninth (even though it was really his Tenth) would be Mahler’s last completed symphony, in spite of his ruse. When he died, the Tenth, whose adagio was unfinished, a noble torso only partly clothed.
In 1910, other fears were coming true for Mahler. His wife Alma had had an affair with the architect Walter Gropius, who mistakenly sent a letter intended for Alma to ‘Herr Direktor Mahler’. The letter, in which Gropius begged Alma to leave her husband, precipitated a marital crisis, and the composer went off to Leiden to see Sigmund Freud. According to Freud, ‘the necessity for the visit arose, for him, from his wife’s resentment of the withdrawal of his libido from her. In highly interesting expeditions through his life history, we discovered his personal conditions for love, especially his Holy Mary complex (mother fixation). I had plenty of opportunity to admire the capability for psychological understanding of this man of genius’.
The visit to Freud was one way of working through the crisis; the other was the Tenth Symphony. Mahler covered the pages of its manuscript with tortured outcries – ‘madness, seize me, the accursed! Negate me, so I forget that I exist, that I may cease to be!’, or ‘to live for you! To die for you!’, and even the dedication of the love song at the heart of the symphony’s finale to his wife, using an affectionate form of her name, ‘Almschi!’ Alma stayed with Mahler during his final illness, accompanying him from New York to Paris to Vienna, where he died of a blood infection on May 18, 1911.
Alma Mahler kept the sketches for the Tenth Symphony for 13 years, during which rumors circulated that it was the haphazard work of a temporarily deranged madman, a genius suffering under a psychological collapse brought on by his personal crisis. In 1924, at the urging of Mahler’s biographer Richard Specht, Alma asked her son-in-law, the composer Ernst Krenek, to complete the symphony. She also took the brave step of publishing a facsimile of the sketches, pained inscriptions and all. What emerged was not indecipherable musical lunacy, but rather an entirely lucid score of a five-movement work, with the opening adagio completely orchestrated and scoring on the third movement, entitled ‘purgatorio’, also well underway. The remaining portions of the symphony were in what musicologist Deryck Cooke, who offered a performing version of the entire symphony in 1964, described as ‘various states of completion’. Krenek’s version of the adagio and purgatorio, which incorporated suggestions and retouchings from composers Alban Berg and Alexander Zemlinsky (another man who suffered emotionally because of his unrequited love for Alma) and the conductor Franz Schalk, was premiered by Schalk and the Vienna Philharmonic in 1924. This version was superseded by Cooke’s and by the scholarly version of the adagio published in the critical Mahler Edition in 1964, the version used for the [subsequent] performances.
The adagio, over its 20-minute-plus span, traverses emotional ground familiar to admirers of other Mahler works, especially the final song of DAS LIED VON DER ERDE and the adagio finale of the Ninth symphony. This, his last ‘completed’ music for orchestra, both bids farewell to the romanticism of the 19th century and, with its dissonance and harmonic questing, foreshadows the music to come. In 1910, when Mahler was working on his Tenth symphony, the world was two years from Schönberg’s PIERROT LUNAIRE and three from Stravinsky’s RITE OF SPRING, the alpha and omega of the 20th-century musical revolution.”
- John Mangum, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
“Conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos stood apart from the European traditions that dominated first-rank American orchestras for much of the twentieth century. After attending the Athens Conservatory, where he studied piano and composition, his opera BÉATRICE was presented there. The French composer Saint-Saëns was in the audience, and was so impressed that he arranged a scholarship that enabled the 24-year-old to study composition with the Belgian composer Paul Gilson and piano with Busoni in Berlin. Busoni persuaded him to abandon composition and concentrate on becoming a conductor.
From 1921 to 1925, Mitropoulos assisted Erich Kleiber at the Berlin State Opera and on Kleiber's recommendation, was appointed conductor of the Hellenic Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in Athens. In 1927, he became conductor of the Greek State Symphony Orchestra and in 1930 was engaged to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where he instituted the practice of conducting from the piano.
In 1937 Mitropoulos succeeded Eugene Ormandy as musical director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. He became a U.S. citizen in 1946, and remained in America until 1959. After 12 years in Minneapolis, he was invited to share the conductorship of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with Stokowski, becoming its conductor when Stokowski resigned in 1950. Mitropoulos resigned the post after sharing the podium with Leonard Bernstein, his co-principal conductor, in the Orchestra's 1958 tour of Latin America. From 1954, he was a dynamic force as Bruno Walter's successor at the Metropolitan Opera, where he introduced many new operas, including ones by Richard Strauss and Samuel Barber.
Mitropoulos never conducted his own works, but considered his best composition to be a Concerto Grosso written in 1929. He lived simply and took little part in social activities. His conducting style was passionate, highly-charged and demonstrative; he had a phenomenal memory and rarely used a baton. He programmed much modern music and particularly admired Schönberg and the Second Viennese School, such as Webern and Berg, as well as twentieth century American and British composers. His recording of Mahler's First Symphony made with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1941 was the first ever made in the U.S. of that work, and Mitropoulos was awarded the American Mahler Medal of Honor in 1950 for his work in promoting the composer's music. He died while rehearsing Mahler's Third Symphony with Toscanini's famous La Scala Orchestra.”
- Roy Brewer, allmusic.com
“Bernstein gave a credibility to American musicianship that hadn’t existed before, easing our sense of inferiority. He came along and did what seemed impossible: bringing Mahler back to Vienna!
He loved storytelling, and music for him was just a vehicle for telling stories. Often his stories had important morals as well: There was always a lesson to be learned. For me that was a big takeaway. He was so many things: a great conductor, great composer, great pianist. But he was also a TV star, he was a thinker, he was a philosopher, he was a political activist. How many people could wear all of those hats at once? It’s a rare thing.”
-Marin Alsop, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 23 Aug., 2018