Finland orders a full Mahler cycle

Finland orders a full Mahler cycle


norman lebrecht

April 25, 2018

The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra has announced a cycle of all ten Mahler symphonies next season, rare in the land of Sibelius.

‘No one symbolises Europeanism more fully than Mahler,’ says chief conductor Hannu Lintu. ‘Woven into his life and work are all the inter-nation traumas and dreams that have moulded our modern and civilised Europe.’

The cycle will kick off in August with a Helsinki Festival performance of the Symphony of a Thousand with an all-Finnish soloist line-up including Camilla Nylund, Johanna Rusanen-Kartano, Lilli Paasikivi, Tommi Hakala and Mika Kares, cunducted by Lintu. Other batons in the series are Sakari Oramo, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Manfred Honeck, David Zinman and Ryan Wigglesworth.

Mahler in Finland, September 1907



  • John Borstlap says:

    Well-said about Mahler.

  • Jean says:

    Some people did understand Mahler’s value: the first person to conduct Mahler’s music in the Nordic countries was composer Erkki Melartin (1875-1937). He completed 6 symphonies simultaneously with Sibelius, but took more influences from Mahler (already evident in his 1st Symphony). And no big wonder, since Melartin studied in Vienna 1899-1901. Yet, Melartin was a much neglected figure with only one symphony published during his lifetime.

  • SoD says:

    Only the first movement of the tenth, though. A pity, I was looking forward to hearing a completed version live. I understand the decision, but on the other hand they’re playing Bartók’s even more unfinished viola concerto too, in a completed version…

    That being said, I’m looking forward to the project a lot. Already bought tickets to hear the 8th!

    • norman lebrecht says:

      That is a pity. And a travesty. The 10th exists. It ought to be heard.

      • SoD says:

        Indeed. I find it curious that works like Mozart’s Requiem are pretty much universally accepted in modern performance culture, but Mahler’s 10th, in its various completed versions, is still opposed with fierce resistance. I’m not saying people should just accept the finished efforts without the knowledge that it is indeed finished by someone else etc; however, people are missing out on A LOT of music by Mahler when they listen to just the Adagio. An interesting topic for sure!

      • Michael Endres says:

        Of course it shoud be performed, it contains some of the most original and deeply moving music Mahler ever wrote.
        Below is a video link is the full version of Nr.10 and the uploaded facsimile with it.
        I have that edition ( cannot access it right now ) and vaguely remember being mentioned in the preface that even the Adagio might not be a finished work, as at a comparable state ( first orchestration ) parts of the ninth symphony got reworked by Mahler.

        Fascinating to see Mahler’s dramatic exclamations in the Purgatorio ( from 39.45 to 40.45 min. in the YT video below ).

        Here is the overall situation, regarding the manuscript ( copied from the video link ):

        0:00 – Andante – Adagio: 275 bars drafted in orchestral and short score
        26:11 – Scherzo: 522 bars drafted in orchestral and short score
        38:03 – Purgatorio. Allegro moderato: 170 bars drafted in short score, the first 30 of which were also drafted in orchestral score
        42:13 – [Scherzo. Nicht zu schnell]: about 579 bars drafted in short score
        55:07 – Finale. Langsam, schwer: 400 bars drafted in short score

        Fascinating stuff !!!

      • Rob says:

        Mahler wrote a very interesting letter towards the end of his life when he caught wind of a proposal to give the first performance (conducted by Bruno Walter) of the actual 9th Symphony in his absence. Here’s a quote from Mahler’s letter to music publisher Emil Hertzka of Universal Edition (Dec 1910) :

        “In any case, new scores must be considered secret and confidential until such a time as they receive my imprimatur and are published with my approval. In certain circumstances I might find it necessary to make far reaching changes. As a result, I do not understand how it is that these scores are – or may have been – in the hands of various strangers. For the present, Universal Edition is authorized to make such communications only with my approval. Once again: I forbid all involvement with my new works, from whatever quarter. As long as I remain alive, I reserve the sole right to decide on their first performance and cannot in any circumstances hand over this right to Universal Edition – quite apart from the fact that, as long as the score had not received my imprimatur it cannot be regarded as finished. I am really quite appalled at the thinking behind such plans.”

  • Jon H says:

    It’s too much. At some point the orchestra will be focusing more on the technical challenges than making the best music.

  • Phillip says:

    Mahler is overblown, self-indulgent, self-pitying, rambling, whiny, and supremely unhealthy stuff.

    • Jon H says:

      Well that’s what makes it great – it’s all there in the music. I don’t think anyone would really want to be him…

    • Bruce says:

      There is also a lot of wonder, terror, and joy in his music.

      The thing that wears me out is that his music is so relentlessly self-referential. He’s an eternal adolescent, experiencing all the big emotions as if for the first time, with an adolescent’s intensity and hunger new experiences, but also an adolescent’s tendency to see himself as the center of everything. (You can’t really fault an adolescent for this — you can’t fault a 16-year-old for not being 50, after all. But you can get tired of it.)

      Or, to try an analogy: Beethoven throws open the door and, “behold: the night sky,” and lets you stand there, looking up in awe. Mahler comes bursting into the living room and says “OMG you guys, you have to come outside right now and look at the sky, it’s so amazing and beautiful and majestic and just… awesome! Come on! Come ON!! You guys! You’re going to miss it!” and on and on, until you’re sick of the night sky before you even get dragged outside to look at it (and then, once you’re outside, doesn’t let you just look but keeps calling your attention to this star or that one, or the moon, or a cloud, and exclaiming about how amazing they are, until you want to go back inside and not come out again. But maybe that’s just me).

      I can understand being one of the people who happily drops whatever they’re doing and rushes outside to look at the beautiful sky; I’m just not one of them.

      • John Borstlap says:

        This is a brilliant critique on Mahler. And yet, for all its overblown exaggeration and ‘over-the-top’ emotionalism, after the pulverizing and profound 1st mvt of the 9th all further music is completely superfluous, even his own (the rest of the symphony). The hysteria in so many works refer to a general hysteria of the early 20th century, with catastrophe in the air, something that has not gone away since. So, emotionally Mahler is probably the best expression of modern times.

        I don’t like some of his music, but also wholeheartedly love other things in the music, and I think the best of Mahler is the product of a genius. Maybe rather crazy genius, but still a genius.

    • Pamela Brown says:

      With all due respect, those statements come across as somewhat superficial.

      Some of us happen to have incurable cases of Mahleria and are convinced our lives would be something of a barren wasteland without his unique and extraordinary music.

      To me, for one, Mahler’s music is quite realistic — life whirling at a rapid pace in manic excitement, only to come crashing down to the most cruel defeat, and then to find acceptance of the new reality…

      Why not simply agree-to-disagree?

      • Bruce says:

        “Why not simply agree to disagree?”

        That’s what we’re doing.


      • Hilary says:

        “Why not agree to disagree?”

        Covered by this : ” I can understand being one of the people who happily drops whatever they’re doing and rushes outside to look at the beautiful sky; I’m just not one of them.”

        A brilliant analogy by the way. It explains the huge crush I had on Mahler’s music as a teenager, accentuated by the lack of ease in accessing it. My relationship with his music feels different nowadays, and recording-wise I tend to gravitate to the less histrionic interpreters eg. Kubelik (I was lucky to grow up with his version of Mahler2. It was part of the “Walkman” DG series so I could easily afford it! )

        • Bruce says:

          A friend of mine (a much better musician than I am, and a devoted fan of Mahler) once told me that you have to be bitten by the Mahler bug as a teenager; after that it’s usually too late. That must have been my problem.

  • Bruce says:

    All the Mahler symphonies in one season? That sounds expensive.

    • SOD says:

      Luckily Mahler concerts in Helsinki are very often sold out or at least very full.

    • edgar says:

      “Expensive” is an irrelevant term in regards to a complete Mahler cycle in one season. Get your tickets asap.

      • Bruce says:

        “ ‘Expensive’ is an irrelevant term in regards to a complete Mahler cycle in one season.”

        Glad to see that this is true somewhere.

    • Pamela Brown says:

      My concern is not the cost but the possibility of a wooden stoicism that permeates the Vanska/MO M5 — the first movement, at any rate. I could not get past that…

      • Siegfried says:

        Take heart. No one should be forced to go beyond any first movement of Mahler.
        What a racket it all is.

  • Peter Wadl says:

    For everybody’s information. There I now a newly engraved set of parts that match the Cooke score, most recently performed by Simon Rattle

  • Warhorn says:

    Here is a complete performance of the Tenth Symphony with the Tippett Rose Lake on You Tube from this past Sunday.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I’m not a huge Tippett fan, but I find “The Rose Lake” quite interesting.

    As for Mahler 10, I would like to see another and – hopefully – better recording made of the interesting and much more filled out Samale/Mazzuca version. The existing recording on Canyon Classics (Martin Sieghart) seems inadequate to me (the performance, not the version).

    Personally, I’m a bit bored with the Cooke III version, but am still grateful to have it. For me, it’s a case of ‘better something than nothing’. I’m glad Mahler was overruled in this case, although he allegedly gave Alma permission to do as she saw fit. She was not capricious about it. The woman deserves some credit – especially for getting Franz Werfel out of Europe (her third husband).