Mahler vs. Braxton

Gustav Mahler’s 10th Symphony went unfinished, and there are competing completed versions that vie for attention. The most radically speculative, by Clinton Carpenter, fleshes out the body with pieces of the other symphonies, apparently.

Which led to this interesting comment in a Gramophone review:

“For instance, there’s the ludicrous Clinton Carpenter version where he brings in themes from other symphonies to plug gaps… this is just not the way composers work.”

That’s a comment from the May 2008 edition, which was quoted in the March 2011 edition as part of a review of the latest Carpenter-version recording.

The relevance here? “Not the way composers work” made me smile inside and think of Anthony Braxton, whose mammoth compositions include/encourage spots for other compositions to be poured in. Take the 4-CD Six Compositions (Rastascan, 2001; see also here). It opens with “Composition No. 286 (+ 147, 20, 69D, 256, 173, 6J, 162, 23A),” a 92-minute piece performed by 10 musicians.

There’s a difference in intent between Braxton and Carpenter, I know. I just thought the comparison was amusing.

Mahler’s 10th is an intriguing study in history and musicology. You can read about it on Wikipedia, but I prefer the detailed account found on the Petzold Book Blog.

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