Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra: Mahler's Tenth Symphony
Saturday, February 1, 7:30 p.m. Central
Victor Yampolsky, conductor
Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 10 (completed by Rudolf Barshai)
A Note from the Conductor
"It is my belief that the wealth of musical ideas in this work represent a new period of Mahler's creative writing. Since he wrote three movements in complete score and the rest in shorthand, it deserves to be performed and presented. Rudolf Barshai was one of the most famous Soviet musicians and conductors of my own time, and this year we will commemorate the ten-year anniversary of his passing. I believe that his reconstruction [of the symphony] is actually the closest to Mahler's own writing.
"The symphony was composed in 1910, when Mahler was struggling with an incurable heart condition and marital problems, making him very depressed. On some pages of the manuscript, one can see short comments the composer addressed directly to his wife, whom he loved dearly and missed very much. The music of the symphony represents a retrospective look at Mahler's life's journey. It depicts the glory of, and thanksgiving for, our existence, a very deep love of life itself, vivid remembrances of struggles and tribulations, and unsettling thoughts of reparation for the departure at the end of life. The fifth movement introduces a melody which can be said to have been 'sent back to us from the other side.'"
Program Note on Mahler's Symphony No. 10 (Barshai 2001 Version)
Gustav Mahler died in 1911, at the age of fifty-one. In his relatively short lifetime, Mahler had completed nine symphonies and broken radical new ground for the 20th-century symphonic form. For Arnold Schoenberg, Mahler’s early death represented a chilling repetition of what had happened to era-defining composers after their Ninth Symphonies were completed. In an essay on Mahler, Schoenberg wrote: “It seems that the Ninth is a limit. He who wants to go beyond it must pass away. It seems as if something might be imparted to us in the Tenth which we ought not yet to know, for which we are not ready … Perhaps the riddles of this world would be solved if one of those who knew them were to write a Tenth. And that is probably not going to happen.”
Mahler had indeed been at work on his Tenth Symphony at the time of his death, and left behind substantial musical material for the work. The first movement, Adagio, was nearly complete, and the remaining movements existed in a more skeletal form: complete melodies, sketched harmonies, and the beginnings of instrumentation. Mahler’s widow, Alma, guarded the manuscript as “a kind of personal trophy” (Frans Bouwman) for more than a decade after his death. Eventually, she allowed the manuscript to be published in facsimile, and urged the composer Ernst Krenek to attempt a reconstruction of the work.
Krenek struggled mightily with the task, and he would not be the last to do so. For the next eighty years, a series of ambitious composers and scholars would attempt their own “performing versions,” sparking an ongoing scholarly dialogue about the legitimacy of the Tenth. An edition by British musicologist Deryck Cooke was premiered in 1964, and has become the most familiar and often-performed. In 2001, the noted Soviet violist and conductor Rudolf Barshai—informed by the work of prior scholars, and by his own lifelong engagement with Mahler’s symphonies—produced this version and recorded it with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie.
The symphony’s opening Adagio features what critic Michael Steinberg calls “one of the world’s great upbeats”: an enigmatic, wandering prelude performed by the viola section alone. The movement that follows finds Mahler at his colorful, ambitious best. Ever-present folk elements are sometimes haunting, sometimes grotesque; string soli create a sense of dazzling scope and theatricality. Towards the end of the movement, a series of hair-raising chords punctuate some of the most chromatic and arresting music Mahler ever produced.
We will never know how closely the four movements that follow—the brilliant and burnished Scherzo, the bubbling and mysterious Allegretto, the somber fugal Allegro, and the elegiac Finale—resemble what Mahler himself might have produced. However, through the loving and attentive work of Barshai and his predecessors, we are offered the opportunity to journey inside the feast of musical ideas that Mahler intended for his Tenth. In addition, we might see this “performing version” as an act of devotion—a testament to the awe, admiration, and inspiration that Mahler’s symphonies have inspired in countless generations of musicians.
Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra Personnel
NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Victor Yampolsky, conductor
Natasha von Bartheld**
Rachel Peters †
Sae Rheen Kim
Benjamin Povman †
Luiz de Souza
Greta Vandel Heuvel
Guest Musician †
HON. LITT. D., UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT OMAHA; HON. DFA, DOANE COLLEGE
Carol F. and Arthur L. Rice Jr. University Professorship in Music Performance. Director of orchestras. In addition to his Northwestern duties, Victor Yampolsky also serves as music director of the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County, Wisconsin; honorary director of the Scotia Festival of Music in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and music director emeritus of the Omaha Symphony Orchestra.
Professor Yampolsky studied violin with David Oistrakh at the Moscow Conservatory, and conducting with Maestro Nicolai Rabinovich at the Leningrad Conservatory. He was a member of the Moscow Philharmonic as both assistant concertmaster and assistant conductor, under the direction of Maestro Kyrill Kondrashin. He emigrated from the Soviet Union to the United States in 1973, where a recommendation from conductor Zubin Mehta led to an audition for Leonard Bernstein, who offered Yampolsky a scholarship at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Professor Yampolsky soon accepted a position in the violin section of the Boston Symphony and was later appointed the orchestra’s principal second violinist.
He has served as conductor of the Young Artists Orchestra at Tanglewood and principal conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has conducted over 80 professional and student orchestras throughout the world, including repeat engagements with orchestras in the United States, Canada, Spain, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Israel and Chile.
A dedicated educator, Yampolsky has given conducting master classes throughout the world. He has served as adjunct professor of violin and director of orchestras at the Boston University School of Music. He has taught at the State Conservatory of St. Petersburg Russia; Stellenbosch Conservatory in South Africa; the Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in Cape Town, South Africa; Emory University; and the Universities of Akron, Victoria, and Nevada. Other activities include serving as a panel member of the American Symphony Orchestra League (now the League of American Orchestras) Conductors’ Continuum Committee. He has been a juror for the Prokofiev International Conducting Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia; the Len van Zyl conducting competition in Cape Town, South Africa; and the Conductors Guild and CODA associations.
Professor Yampolsky has recorded for Pyramid and Kiwi-Pacific Records. He led the Omaha Symphony in its debut recording, Take Flight (2002) and the world premiere of Philip Glass’ second piano concerto, which received an award from the Nebraska Arts Council.
Northwestern University Symphony OrchestraClose
The Bienen School of Music's premier orchestra, the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra (NUSO) performs major literature from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
NUSO is conducted and administered by Victor Yampolsky, director of orchestras. Under his baton, the ensemble has evolved into one of the nation’s great collegiate orchestras that has placed many alumni in top orchestras and opera companies. Many members are already contenders for positions in orchestras throughout the world.
In spring 2018, NUSO embarked on a three-city Asia tour, with performances in Forbidden City Concert Hall, Beijing; Shanghai Symphony Hall, Shanghai; and Tsuen Wan Town Hall Auditorium, Hong Kong.
This ensemble is open to music majors only.