Following the exceptional performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony that Daniel Harding and the LSO delivered the previous week, I was particularly keen to hear this performance of the Tenth.
Harding has a close association with the work, one which includes conducting the first performance by the Vienna Philharmonic, and his recording for DG is excellent.
And here was another top notch interpretation, superbly played and profoundly moving.
Although a number of performing editions of Mahler’s incomplete score exist, the version by Deryck Cooke and his collaborators is the most well known and was the one used for this concert. Mahler lived long enough to complete the first movement, but the orchestration elsewhere (particularly in the final two movements) involves some considerable filling out by Cooke. That the music sounded so naturally Mahlerian in this performance is a tribute to Cooke’s detective work and skill, but also to Harding’s empathy with the composer and his ability to convey his vision to the orchestra.
In the first movement, Harding projected a clear vision of the work’s architecture, contrasting the opening andante for violas with the passionate adagio for strings and trombones, and imparting the whole with mystery and tension. The movement’s dissonant climax was presented with an ideal combination of solidity and power, aided by terrific playing from the first trumpet, while the wistful epilogue featured some beautifully controlled, rapt pianissimos.
Harding’s account of the second movement was an incisive one, the complex rhythmic patterns of the scherzo invested with bustling energy, while the contrasting Lndler interludes were notably forthright rather than nostalgic. The movement’s closing pages were charged with heart thumping excitement.
The brief Purgatorio third movement and the Scherzo which follows were notable for Harding’s control of phrasing, timing and sonority, all realised with dedication and potency by the LSO. Harding chose to bridge the fourth and fifth movements with a single muffled drum stroke, something which Simon Rattle also does, rather than the two separate strokes envisaged by Cooke. The fifth and final movement was charged with drama and emotion. I was especially moved by the sensitivity and richness of the strings – tender, impassioned and ultimately heartbreaking.
Earlier, Harding and LSO were joined by Christian Teztlaff for a strong and lively account of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Swift tempos and energetic climaxes brought a sense of vigour to the work, but despite Teztlaff’s impassioned playing, romance and charm were somewhat lacking. The finale, however, was spirited and lively. For an encore, Tetzlaff provided an elegant account of the Gavotte en rondeau from Bach’s Third Partita for Solo Violin.