“a thrilling recording of what was clearly an electrifying event. Rattle and the BPO are set to be a combination that will hold the attention of the musical world. In these straitened times recordings more be rarer, but if they scale the heights witnessed here, each will be a major event.”
“Rattle previously recorded Deryck Cooke's performing version of Mahler's incomplete 10th in June 1980 and the passionate sensitivity of his reading helped win over a sceptical public at a time when we were much less keen to tamper with the unfinished works of dead or dying artists. These days, it's almost as if we see in their unresolved tensions some prophetic vision of the life to come.
Over the years, Rattle has performed the work nearly 100 times, far more often than anyone else. Wooed by Berlin, he repeatedly offered them 'Mahler ed Cooke' and was repulsed. He made his Berlin conducting début with the Sixth. But, after the announcement in June 1999 that he had won the orchestra's vote in a headto- head with Daniel Barenboim, he celebrated with two concert performances of the 10th. A composite version is presented here. As always, Rattle obtains some devastatingly quiet string playing, and technical standards are unprecedentedly high in so far as the revised performing version is concerned. Indeed, the danger that clinical precision will result in expressive coolness isn't immediately dispelled by the self-confident meatiness of the violas at the start. We aren't used to hearing the line immaculately tuned with every accent clearly defined. The tempo is broader than before and, despite Rattle's characteristic determination to articulate every detail, the mood is, at first, comparatively serene, even Olympian. Could Rattle be succumbing to the Karajan effect? But no – somehow he squares the circle. The neurotic trills, jabbing dissonances and tortuous counterpoint are relished as never before, within the context of a schizoid Adagio in which the Brucknerian string writing is never undersold.
The conductor has not radically changed his approach to the rest of the work. As you might expect, the scherzos have greater security and verve. Their strange hallucinatory choppiness is better served, although parts of the fourth movement remain perplexing despite the superb crispness and clarity of inner parts. More than ever, everything leads inexorably to the cathartic finale, brought off with a searing intensity that has you forgetting the relative baldness of the invention.
Berlin's Philharmonie isn't the easiest venue: with everything miked close, climaxes can turn oppressive but the results here are very credible and offer no grounds for hesitation. In short, this new version sweeps the board even more convincingly than the old. According to reports of the first night, Rattle was called back and accorded two Karajan-style standing ovations after the orchestra had left the stage. There's no applause here, but it isn't difficult to imagine such a scene. Rattle makes the strongest case for an astonishing piece of revivification that only the most die-hard purists will resist. Strongly recommended.”