Symphony 10 – Adagio
Das Lied von der Erde
Alice Coote (mezzo-soprano) & Stefan Vinke (tenor)
Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
Thursday, September 29, 2011
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Lorin Maazel doesn’t subscribe to playing Mahler 10 in one or other of its numerous performing versions. We were not told what edition of the opening Adagio Maazel was conducting; it didn’t always correlate to the edition that occupies the first movement in Deryck Cooke’s A-Z completion, so presumably it was Ernst Krenek’s 1924 publication (in which he was assisted to an extent by Alban Berg) of two of the five movements (the other being the ‘Purgatorio’) that Mahler got close to finishing before his death in 1911. Maazel took the most-spacious of views. The violas’ opening statement – eloquent and ethereal – heralded a 32-minute account that was intense and dogged, ground-out through gritted teeth and multi-note upheaval before finding inner calm. It was very complete in itself, compelling in its idiosyncratic way, the remaining four movements not needed – but that’s not the plan Mahler was working to.
Some fallibilities of execution carried into The Song of the Earth (Mahler's song-cycle symphony and denied the number 9), the exposed writing not always pristinely played. The first five movements never really took off. The opening ‘The Drinking Song of Earth’s Sorrow’ was retarded in tempo, over-analysed as if still being rehearsed, tepid in temperament, and found Stefan Vinke lacklustre of voice and character-less in delivery. He managed some rapture in ‘Of Youth’, made somewhat playful under Maazel, but was once again uningratiating in ‘The Drunkard in Spring’.
Alice Coote (said to be unwell) was more immersed in her role. ‘The Solitary One in Autumn’ enjoyed plenty of orchestral detail and lots of subtlety, isolation suggested; but ‘Of Beauty’, for all its opening pastoral idyll, had no sense of menace let alone violence when the horse tramples over the flowers; not even a canter let alone a gallop. But ‘The Farewell’ was mesmerising, bleak, surreal, death-haunted, on the edge of madness, Coote deeply expressive and with vocal allure (no ailment evident), this (here) 35-minute movement ranged from the depths of desperation to ecstatic heights, orchestral solos impeccable and meaningful. Whatever the promise of green shoots, this was ultimately a journey into isolation, an unbearable probing of the subconscious, and deeply affecting.