Teachers who think they know better than the composermain
The New England Conservatory is putting on a performance of Mahler’s first symphony in the original version. That’s the five-part epic with the Blumine movement, which the composer dropped after the third performance, acknowledging that it unbalanced his creation. He never talked of conducting it again in the original version. It was a mistake. He learned from it.
The NEC has not. They are puffing up their forthcoming performance of the original version as ‘an American premiere’, no less, and ‘the first time it has been heard since its 1889 premiere’.
I am not sure that is entirely true. Seiji Ozawa recorded the five-movement version with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for DG a few years back and there have been other reconstructionists who tried it out, here and there. The NEC claims that ‘the performance of the First will include not only the Blumine movement that Mahler ultimately discarded but also significant segments of music, notably in the finale, that never made it into any subsequent versions. ‘ Hmmm… Why is that? Because Mahler cut them out. They were superfluous.
It looks like the NEC and its director of orchestras, Hugh Wolff, are trying to prove they know better than Mahler. If this were an experiment for scholarly purposes, so be it. But to make a PR event of it – to claim some kind of first – that’s just perverse.
The link’s here, if you want to go. Apparently, it’s the start of a cycle.