Concert programmes in the Deryck Cooke archive

Deryck Cooke (1919 – 1976). Copyright holder unknown. We welcome any information that might help us identify copyright holders. Please contact

In a previous blog post, Mark Doran introduced Deryck Cooke’s archive and wrote about his work on Mahler’s tenth symphony. Since then, work to document the concert programmes in the archive has been completed and I thought it would be interesting to see how Cooke’s programme notes on the tenth symphony developed as his editorial work progressed.

First, a few words on the programme collection itself: there are about 360 items spanning the years 1953 – 1976, some are full programmes, some typescript notes, some galley- or page-proofs. Almost all of them are marked up with textual alterations and/or word counts for paragraphs showing how Cooke used existing notes about a work as the basis for future commissions. By far the majority are notes for what we would consider “mainstream” orchestral repertoire of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to accompany concerts given by the major London orchestras at the Royal Albert Hall (usually the Proms) and the Royal Festival Hall.  There are also some programmes for Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra concerts, for events at the Edinburgh Festival and for the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta. Records for the programmes have been added to the Concert Programmes Project database.

Programmes for Mahler 10 performances

To Mahler’s tenth now. There are programmes for six performances: the first performance of Cooke’s full-length performing version given at the Proms on 13th August 1964 with the LSO and Berthold Goldschmidt, then on 23rd April 1968 with the RLPO and Charles Groves, 21st May 1970 in the Festival Hall with the New Philharmonia and Eliahu Inbal and in City Hall Glasgow on 30th January 1971 with the Scottish National Orchestra and Alexander Gibson. These are followed by two performances of Cooke’s revised version, on 28th January 1975 given by the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra and Bryden Thompson at the Free Trade Hall and on 2nd July 1975 at the Royal Festival Hall with the Hague Philharmonic Orchestra and Jean Martinon, for which the note is by Colin Matthews.

Cooke’s note for the first performance at the Proms concentrates on the process of creating the performing version from Mahler’s full-length sketch rather than an analysis of the music itself. “It is extremely difficult to give an accurate description of this score…the most exact definition of it is: A full-length performing version … as far as he had got with it in his comprehensive full-length sketch of the work which has only been achieved by making some subsidiary additions to the texture and orchestration, and in the second half of the work by actual orchestration from Mahler’s short score.” The note for the RLPO performance is much more extensive, elaborating on the background and the material left by Mahler in the full-length sketch of the symphony.  This is followed by a section on the form and thematic structure of the music including musical examples. Whilst the note for the SNO performance is virtually the same text, that for the New Philharmonia concentrates on the description of the original material (perhaps simply reflecting the amount of space available focusing Cooke’s choice of emphasis).

Mahler conducting his first symphony. Sketch by Zasche, 1906 (public domain)

Not surprisingly, Cooke’s note for the BBC Northern’s performance of his revised version is quite different. Here we see the distillation of understanding brought through long and close association with the original material reach its maturity in a note which sets the work in the context of the canon of Mahler’s output, explains the genesis of the performing version and subsequent revisions. “The score is still not, and never could be, Mahler’s Tenth Symphony as he himself would have completed it; but … it enables us to experience in living sound his last musical testament…”


This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.