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David Hurwitz, October 2012

This is without a doubt the finest Mahler 10th currently available, and a performance that more than any other vindicates Deryck Cooke’s work as the closest to what the composer’s intentions must have been at the moment of his death. In the hands of a great Mahler conductor, which Gielen certainly is, there’s more than enough meat on this particular skeleton to offer a fully satisfying listening experience, and he achieves this by sticking to the fundamentals: clear textures, idiomatic phrasing, and a deep understanding of Mahler’s particular sound-world.

The opening Adagio is taken a couple of minutes more slowly than on Gielen’s previous recording (of that movement only), but this only serves to heighten the music’s passion and intensity, with the two main tempo areas strongly and purposefully characterized. The big climax has seldom sounded so expressionistic, but also organically in its correct place. Gielen’s handling of dynamics, the way he makes the screaming trumpet dovetail into the violins’ descending answer, reveals just how imaginatively he solves the various problems of phrasing raised by the music’s incomplete state. In the second movement, by ensuring absolute clarity of its contrapuntal lines, he gets the piece to sound far more detailed and filled-out than usual, and he reinstates the cymbal crash at the very end…As might be expected, the Purgatorio is full of menace, with huge freedom of tempo in the central section and a particularly ominous conclusion.

In Gielen’s hands the second scherzo attains a rare cogency and logic, not by minimizing its inherent contrasts, but by maximizing them. For example, by underlining those two nasty opening chords and the initial snare drum roll, they come to serve a structural function whenever they return, clarifying the music’s onward progress. Recognizing these important gestural elements is critical to any successful Mahler performance. Gielen also puts the xylophone part back in at the opening, which helps to outline the music’s main motives, and the ghostly coda has seldom sounded so idiomatically natural. A single drum stroke joins the fourth and fifth movements, another correct decision.

Exceptional contrapuntal clarity and a good, swift tempo go a long way to making the central allegro section snap and snarl as it should, and Gielen wisely opts not to add extra percussion to the dissonant climax, after indulging us with a positively cataclysmic crash from cymbals and tam-tam. Once again the concluding string outpouring rises to expressive heights that other performances merely hint at, and the final pages are poetry incarnate. Fabulous playing from the SWR orchestra, stunning sonics, and a single-disc format provide the gratifying final touches on a gripping experience that no Mahlerian can afford to miss. © 2012 Read complete review

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