You now have the chance to get an inside look at one master’s take on another. Mahler’s marked score of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, Romantic — “one of the more important treasures in the New York Philharmonic Archives,” says Philharmonic Historian/Archivist Barbara Haws — is now digitized and available to view in the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives.
Mahler used this score, his own copy, when he led the Philharmonic’s first performance of the work, on March 30, 1910, during his tenure as Music Director. Over the years the score, published in 1889, had become too fragile to handle. In 2013, through the generosity of Jan and Mark Schapper, the score was preserved so that it could be photographed, included in the Leon Levy Digital Archives, and studied.
Clark University music professor Benjamin Korstvedt is the first scholar to make a careful study of Mahler’s extensive markings and cuts in this score. On Friday, July 17 he will present his findings at the North American Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music in his paper, “Mahler’s Bruckner.”
An example of Dr. Korstvedt’s observations: “Mahler’s treatment of the Finale, which removes more than a third of the music, is quite remarkable. Mahler radically altered the nature of this movement, effectively transforming it from an epic statement into a shorter and lighter piece by systematically deleting each appearance of the stormy third theme group, adjusting some dynamics and a bit of the orchestration, and reworking a key modulation. The result clearly goes against Bruckner’s intentions, but does have a certain logic of its own.”
The New York Times hailed the 1910 Philharmonic premiere of Bruckner’s Fourth for its “truly superb interpretation ... at the hands of Mr. Mahler — a performance that proclaimed even more unmistakably than they have been proclaimed before the mastery and authority of the conductor. It showed his insight and entire sympathy with Bruckner’s music.”
Mahler left the score in the Philharmonic’s music library, but he brought the orchestra parts with him to Europe. Noting in the library catalog why the parts were lost, the Philharmonic librarian at the time wrote, “He died.” Those orchestra parts now reside in the Vienna City Library’s Music Department. Dr. Korstvedt studied both Mahler’s score in New York and the orchestra parts in Vienna, and he reports that the markings line up.