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Work of the Week – Mahler/Mengelberg: Symphonie Nr. 10

On 13 December, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and conductor Jaap van Zweden will give the first performance in nearly 100 years of Willem Mendelberg’s reconstruction of the Adagio and Purgatorio from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony Nr. 10. Mengelberg, once chief conductor of the Concergebouw Orchestra, devoted himself to the promotion of Mahler’s music following the composer’s death. In 1924 he gave the first performance of his version of Mahler’s unfinished tenth symphony in Amsterdam.
The music of the symphony, which Mahler wrote in his ‘composing cottage’ in South Tyrol during 1910, is coloured by the discovery that his wife, Alma, had been engaged in an affair with an architect while staying in Styria. His discovery of the affair caused him severe distress causing him to seek help from Sigmund Freud. The music that arose from this period constitutes a desperate declaration of the composer’s love for Alma Mahler.

Mahler/Mengelberg – Symphonie Nr. 10: from drafted particell to full score 

Mahler died before he could complete the symphony leaving his drafts and sketches to Alma. The work, which consists of five movements in various stages of completion, centres on a central Purgatorio, itself framed by two scherzi. The work opens and closes with two large-scale adagio movements. Alma allowed Mendelberg to edit two movements of the symphony to create a performing version.

The concert will be repeated by the orchestra on 14 December. In January 2020 the Zweden will conduct the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in two performances the Mendelberg’s completion in Amsterdam.