Inevitably, only once the entire collection has been unpacked and examined will a comprehensive picture be gained of what it contains; it is currently estimated that the processing and cataloguing of all the materials will be complete by the end of 2012. In the meantime, some interesting items have already emerged which promise to illuminate various aspects of Cooke’s life and work.
Among these materials are several items relating to Cooke’s production of a ‘performing version’ of the draft of Mahler’s unfinished Tenth Symphony. This is the achievement for which Cooke’s name is best known among music lovers; the challenging task was one that occupied him between 1959 and the end of his life (the score of his final, revised version was published by Faber a few months before his death in October 1976).One of the items in the Archive is Cooke’s copy of the 1924 ‘Zsolnay facsimile’ of Mahler’s draft score. This is a rare item (only 1000 were produced), and such copies as are encountered today tend to be in very good condition: the worn and tattered appearance of Cooke’s bears witness to the many thousands of hours he must have spent examining what he himself described as ‘a chaotic manuscript’.
In addition, comparison with the pristine copy already held by the UL reveals that Cooke’s pages are somewhat darkened – presumably by the countless pipes and cigarettes he smoked as he struggled to fathom Mahler’s hasty and almost illegible notations!Also in the Archive is Cooke’s (corrected!) copy of the booklet that he wrote in 1959 to accompany the BBC’s celebration of the 1960 ‘Mahler Centenary’. It was while writing this booklet that Cooke – aware that he would have to comment upon the Tenth – began to examine the facsimile of Mahler’s manuscript: at that time, little information was available about the Tenth Symphony as a whole. The result of this was the famous radio broadcast of December 1960 in which Cooke delivered an illustrated lecture on the symphony (the script for this is in the Archive) which was followed by an orchestral performance of almost all of the draft in a version edited and orchestrated by Cooke with the assistance of Berthold Goldschmidt.
Cooke’s early death meant that the full story of his work on Mahler’s draft of the Tenth Symphony was never told. Greater familiarity with the working materials he left behind can only sharpen our appreciation of the tremendous musicianship and intelligence that have earned his ‘performing version’ a secure place in the repertoire.