Tuesday, December 24, 2002
A MAHLER MIRACLE?
The story of Gilbert E Kaplan’s extraordinary relationship with Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony (Resurrection) is set to take on a fresh dimension next year with a new rendition of a significantly ‘corrected’ score – also being re-issued by Universal Edition – appearing on Deutsche Grammophon.
Kaplan’s landmark recording of the gargantuan 80 minute work first appeared in 1988 after the amateur conductor, institutional investor and full-time obsessive, had spent ten years learning to handle the work from scratch. The recording, most recently issued by Conifer Classics in September 1998, features a 125 strong London Symphony Orchestra and five choirs totalling 200 voices: the Ardwyn Singers, the BBC Welsh Chorus, the Cardiff Polyphonic Choir, the Dyfed Choir and the London Symphony Chorus. Oh, and let’s not forget soloists Benita Valente and Maureen Forrester, and the off-stage brass band.
To describe this as a monumental, wide screen performance of overwhelming dynamic range and emotion would be an underestimate. For many Mahler lovers it is nirvana. Even for agnostics, like myself, it is little short of breathtaking. And in the market place (not, it has to be said, a good arbiter of quality) the Kaplan Edition is outselling Bernstein, Haitink, Rattle and Solti put together. Indeed, though not universally appreciated by musicologists (what is?), it remains the best selling version of any of Mahler’s symphonic works in the world today.
Now, as if his sole dedication to this work and a grandstand performance at the Salzburg Festival in 1996 was not enough, Gilbert Kaplan has just spent two years in Vienna consulting 14 autographed sources to arrive at the definitive edition of the score. More than 380 errors and oversights in the existing universal edition were picked up, from minor intonations to fresh bursts of brass and leaps from C-natural to C-sharp. Much of this painstaking work research was undertaken through the ministrations of world renowned expert Dr Renate Stark-Voit.
The ‘first performance’ of the new Mahler 2 was given recently at the Musikvereinsaal in Vienna, 95 years after the original. Stark-Voit was a special adviser. Expect the new Kaplan edition around April 2003. Whatever you think – and it will be fascinating to compare with the LSO recording – it is an extraordinary labour of love and academic devotion.
RIGHT SAID JACK
After their acclaimed Thirsty Ear releases ‘Masses’ and ‘Amassed’, the UK experimental breakbeat duo Spring Heel Jack & Friends assemble a formidable group of hi-res improvisers including Matthew Shipp, Evan Parker, J Spaceman, William Parker and Han Bennink for a Contemporary Music Network tour co-sponsored by The Wire magazine. Bath: Michael Tippett Centre (22 January 2003), London: Queen Elizabeth Hall (23 January), Exeter: Phoenix (24 January), Brighton: Dome/Corn Exchange (25 January), Birmingham: Medicine Bar (26 January), Leeds: The Wardrobe (29 January), Gateshead: Caedmon Hall (30 January), Kendal: Brewery Arts Centre (31 January). Definitely worth catching.