Mahler: Symphony No. 10 - Storgårds

Mahler: Symphony No. 10 - Storgårds

BIS  BIS-2376

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (completed & arranged by Michelle Castelletti)

Lapland Chamber Orchestra
John Storgårds (conductor)

Left unfinished at the death of the composer, Gustav Mahler's Tenth Symphony has exerted an enormous fascination on musicologists as well as musicians. Whether fully orchestrated in specific passages, or a sole melody in others, there is one continuous line throughout the surviving manuscript pages and over the years a number of different completions or performing versions have seen the light of day. One of the latest is this 'recreation' of the work for chamber orchestra by composer and conductor Michelle Castelletti.

In her liner notes to the recording, Castelletti describes the symphony as 'possibly one of Mahler’s most passionate emotional outbursts and autobiographical creations'. The decision to make an orchestration for chamber forces was inspired by the example of the Viennese Society for Private Musical Performance, established by Arnold Schoenberg in 1918 with the goal of performing newly composed music. Among the works performed by the Society were chamber orchestra versions of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Das Lied von der Erde – the latter made by Schoenberg himself – and in her version of Symphony No. 10, Castelletti uses a similar instrumentation. This new completion appears on disc for the first time, in a performance by the acclaimed Lapland Chamber Orchestra under John Storgards, the ensemble’s artistic director since 1996.

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PCM recording

Recorded in October 2017 at the Korundi House of Culture, Rovaniemi, Finland, 24/96

Recording producer: Robert Suff

Sound engineer: Matthias Spitzbarth

Recording equipment: BIS’s recording teams use microphones from Neumann and Schoeps, audio electronics from RME, Lake People and DirectOut, MADI optical cabling technology, monitoring equipment from B&W, STAX and Sennheiser, and Sequoia and Pyramix digital audio workstations.

Post-production: Editing and mixing: Matthias Spitzbarth

Executive producer: Robert Suff
Reviews (1)

Review by Mark Werlin - August 29, 2019

"It should be one's sole endeavour to see everything afresh and create it anew."
Gustav Mahler

In an astonishing new realization of Mahler's final work, Prof. Michelle Castelletti follows Mahler's advice and her own conviction that the written score could indeed be created anew. Under the sure hand of conductor John Storgårds, Castelletti's performing edition for chamber ensemble of the Mahler Tenth Symphony casts a new light on a work once considered irrecoverably unfinished and unperformable.

Alma Mahler's protracted hesitation in releasing the extant manuscript of her late husband's Symphony No. 10 for publication and analysis engendered a number of myths: that the symphony was unfinished, when all five movements were written out in four staves in the composer's own hand, and two movements were fully orchestrated; that Mahler could never have completed the work because the Ninth Symphony was his final statement (Leonard Bernstein); that the work should never be performed, but remain in the abstract realm, an object of veneration for scholars (Theodore Adorno).

The unwillingness of composers of the generation that succeeded Mahler, such as Arnold Schoenberg, to prepare a complete orchestration of the balance of the symphony cemented those myths to the edifice of mid-century musicology.

Undeterred by these formidable obstacles, a small number of dedicated musicologists began to undertake the task of fully orchestrating the symphony. A thorough overview of recordings of the various Mahler 10th performing editions was written some years ago by Tony Duggan, and can be found at the Music Web International site:

Of all the editions, the one which has found widest critical acceptance and is most often performed and recorded is Deryck Cooke's third revised version. Cooke was a conservatory-trained composer who produced radio and television programs on classical music for the BBC. He had collaborators in the development of a performing edition: during the 1960s, composer-conductor Berthold Goldschmidt, and in later years the composers Colin Matthews and David Matthews.

To prepare for this review, I listened to two CDs of the Cooke III edition, Simon Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic, and Mark Wigglesworth with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, a recent hi-res recording of Cooke III by the Orchestre Métropolitain Montréal conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Atma Classique 96/24 download), and Remo Mazzetti's first version with the St. Louis Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin. I selected the Nézet-Séguin Mahler 10th rather than the much-praised Seattle Symphony performance conducted by Thomas Dausgaard in part because Nézet-Séguin's interpretation drew closer to the exceptional qualities in Castelleti's version: clarity of line, and an unforced expression of Mahler's emotive content.

In the liner notes, Michelle Castelletti describes her working methodology. She studied pioneering editions of Clinton Carpenter, Deryck Cooke, Joseph Wheeler and subsequent editors, and analyzed scores of chamber editions written for the Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen as a special point of focus. What began as Ph.D. research — close examination of extant materials in Mahler's own hand viewed in light of the various performing editions — led to a realization that the fruits of her research could take form not only as a scholarly publication, but a new chamber ensemble performing edition. Unique to the endeavor is Castelletti's multi-disciplinary background as a composer, music professor, conductor, singer, and arts curator. In recent years, she has served as the Artistic Director of the Royal Northern College of Music, and in 2019 as the festival director for the Oxford Festival of the Arts.

In an interview with musicologist and journalist Néstor Castiglione Castelletti describes the scope of the work:

"The whole project took a few years. Initially, I spent more time studying Mahler's other works, the arrangements of the VfMP, and getting used to Mahler's modus operandi: his handwriting, identifying the different inks, locating the various sketches; as well as analyzing other completions, and seeing what I would do and say that would make a difference to what was already available."

In John Storgårds and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra, and the BIS recording team, Castelletti found sympathetic collaborators. Storgårds is a champion of 20th century and contemporary Scandinavian composers; his SACDs for BIS, Alba and DaCapo, and his many well-reviewed CDs demonstrate a commitment to exploring less-travelled musical territory. The decision to schedule performances and a recording of a new edition of the Mahler Tenth should be seen not only as an endorsement of the validity of Castelletti's edition, but an expression of Storgårds' desire to find new values in familiar works:

"If you keep that curiosity even when you do something like Beethoven’s Fifth, or other big standard pieces, then you will look at the score like it's fresh from today, and ask: "what do I find here now?" (from a 2016 interview of John Storgårds by Geoffrey Newman, at

Listening to Castelleti's performing version of the Mahler Tenth with openness to the question 'what do I find here now' may help to overcome preconceptions about the use of a chamber ensemble in place of the large forces that the symphony generally employs. The Lapland Chamber Orchestra sounds larger than its actual numbers, an illusion enhanced by the orchestration's counterpoint writing and wide palette of instrumental colors, the precision of Storgårds' conducting (he cites George Szell as an inspiration), and the recording engineer's skillful balancing of the instruments.

Castelletti distributes the counterpoint melodies among the woodwinds, trumpet and French horn with a deft touch; the judicious use of piano and harp contributes percussive and pizzicato emphases. At no time did I find the tonal shading of the orchestration a distraction from the forward momentum of the line. There is a sense of renewal and rediscovery in the realization as a whole. Joolz Gales' chamber edition of Mahler: Symphony No. 9 - Gale pares down the score to a degree that the presentation can sound overly analytic; Castelletti, by contrast, builds on the framework of the score and synthesizes elements of the predecessor editions.

A tempo comparison between Dausgaard and Storgårds shows that the chamber performance is neither rushed nor dragged:

Dausgaard: 23:15, 11:05, 4:06, 10:57, 22:26

Storgårds: 25:33, 11:21, 3:53, 12:50, 23:25

Where Rattle and Dausgaard plunge the listener into the maelstrom of Mahler's torment on learning of Alma's affair with Walter Gropius, Storgårds' unblinking gaze at the emotional histrionics embedded in the score serves Michelle Castelletti's vision of the composer confronting truths he can no longer avoid, and finding unexpected glimpses of peace and clarity.

Copyright © 2019 Mark Werlin and


Sonics (Stereo):

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Comments (12)

Comment by diw - March 17, 2019 (1 of 12)

I kind of curious to see whether this will be good, or a total train wreck.

Comment by John Bacon-Shone - March 17, 2019 (2 of 12)

Can be bought at a great price at eClassical including 5.0. Just bought and will listen tonight. John

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - March 18, 2019 (3 of 12)

Not the first reduced version of a Mahler symphony. One might argue that it is against Mahler’s intent and fervent Mahlerians may not like it. On the other hand these chamber versions can give a detailed insight in the compositional structure, like for instance this one: Mahler: Symphony No. 9 - Gale which, indeed, goes down to the bare minimum.

I cannot comment on this new release as I don’t have it, but it has an interesting advantage: a new vision on the completion of Mahler’s tenth, next to Samale/Mazzuca (Mahler: Symphony No. 10 - Sieghart), Carpenter (Mahler: Symphony No. 10 - Zinman) and the traditional Cook.

Comment by hiredfox - March 20, 2019 (4 of 12)

Which reminds me, we have had no inputs from Bill (William Hecht) lately? If you are still active on Bill hope all is well with you?

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - March 23, 2019 (5 of 12)

Hey John,
How good of you, I had not yet noticed it. I share your thoughts. Bill (or Wehecht from the old site) is one of our best knowledgeable members whose contributions are always worth anyone’s while.

Comment by hiredfox - March 24, 2019 (6 of 12)

Sadly the number of contributors on here is slowly dwindling much as the number of new SA-CD releases decline. It is probably co-incidence and of course we have no idea why people choose to leave, perhaps many just pop in now and then to see what's new but visit without comment. Whatever, the sense of community and shared passion diminishes when regular contributors suddenly stop contributing and we all feel the loss. One hopes that Bill's absence is brief and not due to poor health.

Comment by philip edwards - March 24, 2019 (7 of 12)

Re. Hiredfox’s query about Bill (William E.) Hecht, sadly it looks as though that gentleman has died. There is an online obituary of William E. Hecht of Audubon, Pennsylvania, who passed away last November aged 71, which mentions his love of classical music and his ‘continually fiddling with the equipment to get the sound quality for said music better’. Sounds like our contributor, with photo. Sad.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - March 25, 2019 (8 of 12)

Thanks Philip, Your information fits all the known slots. It makes me very sad loosing such a loyal, committed and knowledgeble member. I've never met him but through the binding factor of this site it seems like loosing a dear friend.

Comment by hiredfox - March 26, 2019 (9 of 12)

Philip, what terrible news. It must be the same Bill we all knew and loved. I am heartbroken. John

Here is Bill's obituary. You may also leave a message should you so wish.

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - April 5, 2019 (10 of 12)

Re Bill Hecht,

I miss him. Not much else to say. One reason participation on this site is down, to respond to a comment above is that there is no opportunity to initiate a thread. I understand why given the poor behavior of a few loudmouthed impolite know-it-alls on

Comment by Mark Werlin - May 5, 2019 (11 of 12)

Bill Hecht was a music lover, an SACD enthusiast, a Mahlerian, and a respected contributor to these discussions.

In a comment he posted in 2017 to Mahler: Symphonies 1 & 4 / Brahms: Symphony No. 1 - Levine, a reissue on Dutton, Bill wrote:

"My money goes toward the propagation of new repertoire and talent so that I do my little bit to keep great music alive and vital not off to the side in an aural museum."

On those grounds, this recording of the Mahler 10th would surely have met with his approval.

I encourage those who are interested to read the liner notes by Michelle Castelletti (booklet PDF at eClassical) for an explanation of her approach to preparing this version. Dr. Castelletti takes into account the pioneering work done by Deryck Cooke and his assistants Colin and David Matthews, and other more recent performing editions.

A first-rate reading by John Storgårds and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra players — Gramaphone recently gave this disc very high marks.

Comment by hiredfox - May 6, 2019 (12 of 12)

Indeed Mark, very well said. I think of Bill every time on this site. He is greatly missed.