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Sharing Sound Theories on Filmmaking

*** MAHLER Symphony No. 10 Simon Rattle, conductor; Berlin Philharmonic; EMI Classics

*** MAHLER Symphony No. 10 Riccardo Chailly, conductor; Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin; Decca

August 06, 2000|JOHN HENKEN

The ethical issues about playing Mahler's Tenth Symphony--which the composer left on his death as basically a complete, but only partially orchestrated, first draft--remain open, but the aesthetic question is firmly answered with these two discs: in orchestrator Deryck Cooke's performing version this is thrilling, deeply moving music. Rattle has been here before, recording his own adaptation of Cooke's version of the piece with the Bournemouth Symphony. This is his first CD with the Berlin Philharmonic, where he takes over as music director in 2002. Assembled from live performances recorded a year ago, it is a richly brooding indulgence, ravishingly played by his new orchestra.

Whether as coincidence or contrarian benchmark, Decca has reissued Chailly's well-regarded Tenth, recorded in 1986. Although Chailly shares some of Rattle's ideas about pacing and structure--and his recording actually clocks in marginally longer--his Tenth is altogether lighter and brighter. Whether they represent the conductors' choices or the different production situations, the sonic ideals here are almost polar opposites, clarity and brilliance against integration and warmth.

Take the finale as a point of comparison. The opening (another place where the two versions differ conspicuously in what is played as well as how it is interpreted and recorded) is unavoidably dark, but murky and dull from Rattle, cleanly defined and alive from Chailly. At the close, however, the depth and body of the philharmonic's consolation makes the Radio Symphony effort sound thin. Both approaches are internally consistent, and both make handsome points and persuasive cases for the music.

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