History Symphony No. 10


  • 16-02-1908 New York: Mahler witnesses the funeral of a fireman from his 11th-floor apartment in New York. A single loud drum stroke, which is muffled by the time it reaches Mahler’s ears, leaves such an impression on him that 2 years later he will write it into Symphony No. 10
  • Year 1911 (unfinished).

Performances by Gustav Mahler

  • None.


Ernst Krenek (1900-1991)

  • After Mahler’s death there was no immediate attempt to complete the symphony, or render it in a state where it could be performed, although figures such as Paul Stefan (1879-1943) described the high quality of the work as drafted. Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) famously expressed the opinion that no one could possibly write a Tenth Symphony without being close to the hereafter (see Curse of the ninth); and a mistaken report led Richard Specht (1870-1932) to suggest Mahler wanted the manuscript burned after his death. Hence it was only in the 1920s that Alma Mahler (1879-1964) asked the composer Ernst Krenek (1900-1991) to make a fair copy of Mahler’s orchestral draft for a festival of performances of Mahler works, and at about the same time some of the manuscripts were published by the company of Paul Zsolnay (1895-1961) facsimile (1924). The facsimile made evident that the stress of Mahler’s final year had not adversely affected the composition, and that the draft contained passages of great beauty. Much of the manuscript, however, was too difficult to read and seemingly too chaotic for the unbroken continuity of the music to be clearly apparent. Premiered in 1924 by Franz Schalk (1863-1931) in Vienna.

Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951)/Cornelis Dopper (1870-1939)

  • In 1923, Alma had also sent a copy of the score to Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) in Amsterdam with the addition that two parts (obviously, the Adagio and Purgatorio) were ‘absolutely performable’. Briefly after Schalk performed Krenek’s score (with his own additions) on 12-10-1924, Alma sent what is believed to be Franz Schalk (1863-1931)‘s score to Mengelberg, who subsequently prepared his own edition with the aid of his secondant Cornelis Dopper (1870-1939). This version uses a larger orchestra and makes significant changes in dynamic markings and tempi. It was premiered on 27-11-1924, in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and subsequently played a number of times under Mengelberg’s baton. The Concertgebouw Orchestra performances in Amsterdam on 27-11-1924 and 30-11-1924, in Arnhem on 01-12-1924, The Hague on 06-12-1924 and Rotterdam on 20-12-1924, followed the world premiere of the two complete parts of Symphony No. 10: Adagio and the Purgatorio, by Gustav Mahler. Alma Mahler, together with Ernst Krenek and Alban Berg, had concluded those two parts to be complete for performance. She wanted Mengelberg to conduct the world premiere, but in the end it took place in Vienna on 12-10-1924, by the Vienna Philharmonic under Franz Schalk. The Dutch premiere concerts were prepared carefully in a collaboration between Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) and Cornelis Dopper. Dopper was a composer and the Assistant Conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. His task was to prepare (new) works with the orchestra so that Mengelberg merely needed to execute the finishing touch.With the two movements from Symphony No. 10, this was a bit different due to the freedom that Alma Mahler had bestowed upon Mengelberg to alter things. Mengelberg’s score bears evidence to the fact that he took advantage of this freedom. Mengelberg had a copy of the score and performing materials that Franz Schalk used, made for himself as well as parts. This original score is kept in the Mengelberg Archive in The Hague (Nederlands Muziek Instituut, Mengelberg conducting scores no. 442). The parts are in the orchestral library of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Mengelberg’s alterations went beyond doubling or strengthening certain parts. Here and there in the third movement, Purgatorio, Mengelberg ‘composed’ extra parts. As well, in both movements he noted rudimental instrumental augmentations which were then worked out in detail by Dopper and added to the score, for example, for the percussion.
  • In 1924 Krenek made a fair copy of only the first (Adagio) and third (Purgatorio) movements, and might have made a fair copy of the second movement, but as Mahler’s draft of the Scherzo was very much patchier this was evidently less feasible. Alban Berg (1885-1935) was enlisted to proofread the work, but his suggested corrections were never incorporated, while at the same time some unauthorised changes were introduced, possibly by one of the conductors of the first two performances, Franz Schalk (1863-1931) and Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942). Krenek is supposed to have renounced the changes to his version, which was subsequently published. Performances of the Krenek-chalk/Zemlinsky version have been moderately successful, but the third movement is not generally convincing when taken out of context between the second and fourth movements: it is possible that some of the conductors who have refused to perform the Tenth, most famously Bruno Walter (1876-1962) and Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), took exception to such a piecemeal representation.
  • In 2019 a score edition of the Mengelberg version (1924) was published by the Schott publishing house in Mainz. Musicologist Marinus Degenkamp produced this new score based on Mengelberg’s score and the old performance material. Musicologist Rudolph Stephan noted (in 1986) that Mengelberg actually made his own transcription of the work, that he also corrected aspects not found in Schalk’s conductor’s score. Mengelberg must have taken his corrections from the facsimile which was published by Zsolnay just prior to the world premiere in Vienna by the Venna Philharmonic under Franz Schalk.
  • It was soon realised that a performing version of only two movements did not give listeners a clear idea of the entire symphony, let alone constitute a complete artistic statement, so in the 1940s the American Mahler enthusiast Jack Diether tried to encourage several notable composers to realise the work. Figures such as Shostakovich, Schoenberg, and Britten (all of whom had been considerably influenced by the works of Mahler), refused, and instead the task was taken up by musicologists: early attempts at realising the entire work were made in America by Clinton Carpenter (completed 1949, subsequently revised 1966), in Germany by Hans Wollschläger (1954-1962, withdrawn), and in England by Joe Wheeler (1953–1965) and Deryck Cooke (1919-1976).

Deryck Cooke’s versions

  • The various realisations produced by Deryck Cooke (1919-1976) have, since the mid-1960s, become the basis for most performances and recordings.
  • A first, still incomplete performing version by Cooke (1959–1960) stemmed from a performance and an associated lecture for radio broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, marking the centenary of Mahler’s birth. This was aired on 19 December 1960, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Berthold Goldschmidt, who also assisted with the orchestration of Cooke’s edition. At its first performance Cooke’s realisation of the final movement proved to be a revelation to listeners,and Cooke resolved to complete the orchestration and elaboration of the Scherzo movements, which required much more compositional work than he had time for.
  • Alma Mahler, who had at one point taken the views of Bruno Walter to heart and demanded a veto on further performances of the Cooke performing version, actually changed her mind upon seeing Cooke’s revised score and hearing the recording. She wrote Cooke a letter in English, postmarked New York, 08-05-1963, which Cooke includes in the preface pages to the score:

Dear Mr. Cooke,

Mr. Harold Byrns visited me here in New York. Today he read me your excellent articles on Mahler’s Tenth Symphony and [showed me] your equally authoritative score. Afterwards I expressed my desire to finally listen to the London BBC tape. I was so moved by this performance that I immediately asked Mr. Byrns to play the work a second time. I then realised that the time had come when I must reconsider my previous decision not to permit the performance of this work. I have now decided once and for all to give you full permission to go ahead with performances in any part of the world. I enclose [a] copy of my letter of even date to [the] BBC.

Sincerely yours,

Alma Maria Mahler

  • Cooke’s revised and completed version, conducted by Goldschmidt, was premièred at the Proms on 13 August 1964 and recorded soon after. After Alma’s death in December 1964, her daughter Anna allowed Cooke access to the full set of manuscript sketches, many of which had not been published four decades earlier. In the light of these, Cooke made a revised performing version in association with the British composers Colin and David Matthews between 1966 and 1972, and thereafter his final version before his death in 1976. The release of these pages also prompted the International Gustav Mahler Society in Vienna to issue another, more complete collection of Mahler’s manuscripts in facsimile (Ricke, 1967). This revised edition of Cooke’s first complete score was published in 1976, shortly before Cooke’s death. A further revision, with mostly minor changes made by the three surviving collaborators, appeared in print in 1989.
  • Cooke’s performing editions of the Tenth Symphony may be summarised as follows:
  • Cooke 0: 1960, unpublished, BBC performance, complete realisations of 1st, 3rd and 5th movements plus partial realisations of the 2nd and 4th movements; presented as part of a lecture-demonstration.
  • Cooke I: First complete performing version, 1960-1964, unpublished. Premiered on 13-08-1964 by Berthold Goldschmidt. Basis for the recordings by Eugene Ormandy (1965/1966) and Jean Martinon (1966).
  • Cooke II: Second performing version, 1966-1972, appeared in print in 1976. Premiered on 15-10-1972 by Wyn Morris. Basis for all recordings from 1972 to 1992.
  • Cooke III: Slightly revised form of the 1976 score , printed in 1989.

Duration (Cooke):

Clinton Carpenter

  • Clinton Carpenter (1921–2005) started working on his edition long before Cooke, and called his score a “completion” rather than a “performing version”. Although he finished his version in 1949 (revising the work in 1966), it had to wait until 1983 for a performance. Carpenter did not merely review Mahler’s symphonic output to guide him in his effort, but went so far as to include actual quotations from every Mahler symphony in his edition. The view has been expressed that much of this process of recomposition gives the impression that Carpenter has effectively written his own symphony using Mahler’s as a basis.

Joseph Wheeler

  • The completion by Joseph Wheeler dates from 1953 to 1965, and like Cooke he also refined his ideas several times, so the final version of 1965 was actually the fourth iteration; the American composer Remo Mazzetti Jr. considers Wheeler’s fourth version to be the closest to Mahler’s late orchestral style. Wheeler’s interventions are at the opposite end of the spectrum to Carpenter’s, and he is less interventionist even than Cooke: he only makes additions to the score where performance is otherwise impossible. The effect is sparer than other completions, although Wheeler does increase the brass part to a greater degree than Cooke.

Remo Mazzetti

  • In recent years several further realisations of the symphony have been attempted: Remo Mazzetti initially made his 1989 version from dissatisfaction with the existing Cooke, Carpenter, and Wheeler editions, though the spur of preparing a performance of Wheeler’s version in 1997 led him to recant his earlier view. Of his own revised version he remarked, “I really believe I got things right this time”. Two more completions have been produced since, by the conductor Rudolf Barshai (2000), and a joint effort by Nicola Samale and Giuseppe Mazzucca (2001). All have been performed and recorded. The version by Samale and Mazzucca was commercially released in 2008 on Octavia Records, through Exton from Japan, with Martin Sieghart conducting the Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • Another new version, by the Israeli-American conductor Yoel Gamzou, was premiered in Berlin in September 2010. Its author conducted the International Mahler Orchestra.

Chamber version

  • A chamber orchestra ‘recreation’ by the Italian composer Michelle Castelleti premiered in November 2012 in Canterbury, UK, by the Canterbury Chamber Orchestra under Castelleti’s direction.

Piano transcription

  • A piano transcription of the first movement (in the pre-Cooke 1950s UMP edition) was made by the British composer Ronald Stevenson;to this the English pianist Christopher White added solo transcriptions of the other movements in 2010. This composite version (whose last four movements do not follow Cooke’s edition at all points) has been recorded with White as soloist.

Historical recordings

  1. The original, incomplete Cooke version was first recorded by the BBC as noted above; the first complete version (denoted Cooke I) was also premièred by Goldschmidt, this time with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1964; the first commercial recording appeared in 1966 (recording date: 1965), conducted by Eugene Ormandy with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Several notable recordings of the revised Cooke (version II) have been made: the first, made by Wyn Morris in 1972 has recently been reissued. Simon Rattle’s 1980 recording with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra gave the former percussionist an opportunity to make some pointed revisions, most noticeably giving prominence to the military drum in the fifth movement, which is played as loudly as possible without being muffled or dampened.
  2. Other notable recordings include those of: Kurt Sanderling – Berlin Symphony Orchestra – 1979; Cooke II – employing revisions/alterations by Sanderling himself and Berthold Goldschmidt; Riccardo Chailly (1953) – Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra – 1986; Cooke II; Eliahu Inbal – Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra – 1993; Cooke II, and Rattle again – this time with the Berlin Philharmonic – 1999; Cooke III, again with alterations by Rattle. Deryck Cooke’s second version was also recorded by James Levine and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Adagio movement from this recording was originally recorded and released in 1976, as the fourth side of a 2-LP set containing a complete performance of the 5th symphony, recorded that same year. The remaining movements of Cooke II were recorded in 1980. The same performance of the 1976 Adagio was incorporated with the 1980 recording of the remainder in a different 2-LP set, with no apparent differences in sound quality.
  3. Some conductors, notably Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), Pierre Boulez, Michael Tilson Thomas, Rafael Kubelík, Claudio Abbado (1933-2014) and Gennady Rozhdestvensky have chosen to perform and record just the Adagio, since they interpret it as the only movement completed by Mahler himself. Other noted Mahlerians, such as Georg Solti, omit the Tenth from their repertoire altogether.
  4. In 2011, to mark the centenary of Mahler’s death, Testament Records released a 3-CD set featuring Cooke’s BBC lecture, the 1960 studio performance of the incomplete version as well as the 1964 world premiere conducted by Goldschmidt. The release received a Gramophone Award in the ‘Historical’ category.

Recordings of the completed symphony:

  1. 1960: Berthold Goldschmidt, Philharmonia Orchestra, Cooke Incomplete First Version from 1960
  2. 1964: Berthold Goldschmidt, London Symphony Orchestra, Cooke I 1964 World Premiere
  3. 1966: Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cooke I
  4. 1966: Jean Martinon, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cooke I
  5. 1972: Wyn Morris, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Cooke II
  6. 1979: Kurt Sanderling, Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester, Cooke II

If you have found any errors or text needing citation, please notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: