C1826. JEAN MARTINON Cond. ORTF S.O.: Symphony #10 in F-sharp (Mahler; 1st Deryck Cooke Version). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-874, Live Performance, 27 May, 1970, Orchestra Hall. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Deryck Cooke’s performing edition of the Mahler Tenth was premiered by Berthold Goldschmidt at the BBC Proms in August, 1964, a fitting choice that had overlapping significance. A German Jew, Goldschmidt’s life as composer and conductor was destroyed by the rise of the Nazis. He was fortunate to escape to England in 1935 (ironically, on the advice of an SS officer). Eventually he helped Cooke in completing a performing score of the unfinished Tenth Symphony where many thought the task nearly impossible from the sketches Mahler left behind in various stages of completion.
‘Cooke I’, as the edition came to be known, gained fame in America from a pivotal recording by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1965. This is a well-known part of the symphony’s lore, but few remember that ‘Cooke I’ was never published or heard after 1966, since he had completed his first revision by then. Besides Ormandy’s recording, the other notable American performance was under Jean Martinon with the Chicago Symphony in 1966. I reviewed an excellent remastering from St. Laurent Studio in FANFARE 43:3, remarking that the great revelation of Cooke I was the finale, which he rescued from a skeletal condition. Martinon had a special touch in that movement, even compared with Simon Rattle’s acclaimed recording with the Berlin Philharmonic: ‘Martinon is four minutes faster, making the pace flow naturally - the tempo feels more like a true Adagio, however, than the first movement, so the finale is now the symphony’s slow movement’.
I feel justified in that comment listening to this new Mahler Tenth under Martinon from Paris in 1970, which has several points that deserve consideration. The Chicago reading was fast compared with the Ormandy (66 minutes as against Ormandy’s 70), while Rattle, using Cooke’s final version, is slower still at 77 minutes. Here in Paris, Martinon is more urgent than ever, cutting another two minutes off his total timing. He underscores the shift I had mentioned. The opening Adagio feels considerably quicker, and the finale becomes the Tenth’s true slow movement, the calm after many storms. Few conductors have made such a dramatic shift.
After a troubled relationship with the orchestra in Chicago, Martinon departed in 1968, departing under a cloud as far as American audiences and reviewers were concerned. But he hardly vanished from sight in his native France, and without much notice he became France’s strongest advocate for Mahler. The musicians of the Radio France National Orchestra play with evident enthusiasm in this broadcast concert, and more significantly, they play with discipline and a keen regard for Mahler’s style, two things one hardly expected at the time.
It probably takes a special interest in the evolution of Mahler performance in France to add a second Mahler Tenth under Martinon to your collection, but there’s nothing else quite like his speed in the first Scherzo and the clucking of the thin, piping French oboes. Something of Hermann Scherchen’s style is evident. What I most relish is that the whole reading has personality; too often this symphony feels cautious in standard performances. The second Scherzo not only has sharp angles but a touch of hysteria, which seems very Mahlerian. The extended flute solo in the finale is quite beautiful, as you’d expect in France. Oddly, the bass drum strokes that open the movement are played on timpani instead unless my ears have completely betrayed me.
Even if this release turns out to be of purely archival interest, it is very gratifying that producer Yves St.-Laurent has preserved it, and in excellent FM-quality stereo. The audience, although not silent, isn’t intrusive. Inevitably, someone coughs in the silences between the drum stokes in the finale, but at least it’s soft coughing. Overall, I find myself offering an unexpectedly warm recommendation.”
- Huntley Dent, FANFARE