The earliest version of Mahler 10 is brought back to life

The earliest version of Mahler 10 is brought back to life


norman lebrecht

May 06, 2019

The Hong Kong Philharmonic have announced a December performance of ‘Mahler Symphony no. 10: Adagio and Purgatorio (first performance since 1924 of Willem Mengelberg’s performing version)’.

Mengelberg had staged the first complete Mahler cycle in Amsterdam in 1920. He prepared the two near-complete movements of the Tenth but his score was discarded in favour of one by Ernst Krenek, a young German composer who was married at the time to Mahler’s daughter.

Hearing it will be a curiosity.

The conductor is fellow-Dutchman, Jaap Van Zweden.



  • Trevor S. says:

    I guess it’s JaaP, not JaaN

  • Interesting indeed – but Krenek was Austrian, not German!

  • Larry W says:

    That would be Jaap van Zweden.

  • Robin Mitchell-Boyask says:

    Szell led it with those two movements.

    • barry guerrero says:

      Recorded it, too – the Krenek version. They’re also on Yoel Levi’s Atlanta Symphony recording of the Mahler “Resurrection” as an addendum (Telarc).

  • Bum note says:

    Mahler is all about death terrible cliched kitschy stuff even worse than Wagner.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Does it differ radically from Krenek’s edition in any real way? Just curious.

  • Gustav Mahler says:

    There will be never a Tenth without my approval. Not really sure about all these speculative reconstructions. Please do not forget that I never had a chance to finish the orchestration process of my last symphony having also in mind that usually I was reworking the orchestration of all my symphonies after the first performance/s in order to maximise the clarity (“Deutlichkeit”) of the sound.

    • Bob says:

      I didn’t even know you were still alive

      • John Borstlap says:

        In fact, he never really completely died.

      • barry guerrero says:

        I saw Gus driving a big convertible Cadillac out in the Nevada desert.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Other reports say he had withdrawn in the south of France where he had bought a small farm in the Aubergine and driving a red Busoni.

          • V.Lind says:

            Could you conceivably mean the Auvergne? Otherwise, the mind boggles.

          • Alasdair Munro says:

            No, I heard that before, and it was a classic Courgette.

          • John Borstlap says:

            After checking my files, I discover that is true, the Busoni was only on a short lease for a month and GM did not like it because of the ugly sounds the motor made.

          • barry guerrero says:

            “driving a red Busoni” . . . named after the composer, by any chance?

    • Stuart says:

      Thanks, Gustav. You may not be sure about the speculative reconstructions, such as the one by Deryck Cooke, but I for one am glad it exists – try the Seattle performance conducted by Dausgaard – it might change your mind. Like your friend Berg – it is a better world with the full 3 act version of Lulu than just listening to a “trunk”.

  • So, I wonder what were the perceived advantages of the two versions.

  • Anthony Princiotti says:

    I can’t imagine that Mahler would have approved of what he completed of the 10th being so regularly performed in provisional versions, and yet there are so many moments in what he was able to sketch (and in some instances, orchestrate) that I find both irreplaceable and fundamentally different (particularly in terms of the harmonic language) from anything he’d previously written.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Maybe the reworked versions contain lots of wrongly transcribed notes, which now go for modern explorations.

    • barry guerrero says:

      I hate to state the obvious, but if Mahler were around to give his approval or disapproval, he would skirt the issue by simply finishing the work.

  • Rob says:

    Mahler would have rewritten most of it

  • Kevin Scott says:

    One has to realize that the Tenth was a work-in-progress, which many of you will agree with, yet at the same time Mahler was forging new ground in terms of orchestral textures and linear structure. Yes, some of the performing editions are conjecture, but at the same time those who have devoted themselves to this composer’s alleged last will and testament have come up with some very speculative arguments about which way the symphony would have gone.

    Some hint at the fact that he was taking tonality far beyond what Schoenberg and his disciples were doing, and some also hint that had he lived long enough to encounter the First World War, the Roaring 20s and the rise of fascism in Italy, militarism in Japan and especially the rise of the Nazi party and the Third Reich that his symphony is not only ending the first book of his worldly views, but also a prelude towards what has yet to come.

    So to hear Mengelberg’s version of these two movements will also reveal a wealth of information regarding this work. Had he seen the other three movements, it would have been of great interest to see what he could have done with them and created a performing edition of Mahler’s vision.