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Cleveland Orchestra to display gift of Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ manuscript

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Cleveland Orchestra
Manuscripts of Mahler's works are held in collections in Europe, New York City and now Cleveland. This 1894 manuscript of his Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," sold at auction for $5.6 million in 2016. It has been gifted to the Cleveland Orchestra.

The Cleveland Orchestra opens its 105th season on Thursday and Friday with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection.” Ticket holders can view the piece’s original manuscript from 1894, handwritten by the composer, which has been donated by an orchestra trustee. Part of the document will also be on view, free to the public, Wednesday from 4-6 p.m.

The 232-page manuscript was written in “intense black ink” according to Sotheby’s, which auctioned the piece in 2016. It also includes Mahler’s handwritten revisions in both blue crayon and violet ink. It will be housed at the Cleveland Museum of Art and made available for scholars and public viewings.

Cleveland Orchestra Archivist Andria Hoy says it's the first time in 30 years that such a significant manuscript has come up for sale. She describes Mahler's work as "meticulous."

“He's drawing his own staves. He's writing all of his key signatures, putting his instrumentation in and then he's also altering it,” she said.

“You can see where Mahler sometimes has taken something he didn't like and, instead of crossing it out, he's actually scratched it out," she said. "You could actually see the little marks on the paper where he scratched off the ink. You can feel them with your finger, little indents in the paper.”

Hoy said the pages are on thick manuscript paper, about 31 cm by 38 cm, and unbound. That's unusual, but she said, "in some ways it makes it easier to preserve because we can extract single pages if they needed preservation."

Mahler’s widow, Alma, gave the manuscript to the Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg. After Mengelberg’s death, the Mengelberg Foundation retained ownership and it was eventually put on deposit at the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague in 1982. In 1984, American publisher Gilbert Kaplan purchased the score. Following Kaplan’s death in 2016, the manuscript was purchased at auction by Austrian media executive Herbert G. Kloiber for $5.63 million. He’s been a Cleveland Orchestra board member since 2010. His company, Clasart Classic, has produced several DVDs of performances by the orchestra.

Music Director Franz Welser-Möst said via a news release, “To see Mahler’s handwriting on the page and to follow his process, one feels even closer to the composer and to this masterpiece.” Orchestra President André Gremillet called the manuscript “one of the great touchstones in the history of Western music.”

Mahler made his only trip to Cleveland in December 1910, to conduct a concert of the New York Philharmonic at Grays Armory. He would pass away five months later. A program from that performance is in the Cleveland Orchestra archive:

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Cleveland Orchestra archive
Mahler's 1910 trip to Cleveland was arranged by Orchestra founder Adella Prentiss Hughes. He conducted the New York Philharmonic on the first stop of its inaugural tour west of New York City.

The Cleveland Orchestra provided a list of Mahler symphonic work manuscripts and their locations in the world.

No. 1 – Beinecke Library at Yale University, CT

No. 2 – The Cleveland Orchestra

No. 3 – Morgan Library, NYC (on deposit from Robert Lehman)

No. 4 – Musikverein, Vienna

No. 5 – Morgan Library, NYC

No. 6 – Musikverein, Vienna

No. 7 – Dutch Musical Institute (owned by the Concertgebouw), the Netherlands

No. 8 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, Germany

No. 9 – Morgan Library, NYC (on deposit from Robert Lehman)

Das Lied von der Erde – Morgan Library, NYC (on deposit from Robert Lehman)

Thursday's season premiere will be broadcast live on 90.3 WCLV.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.