Back in 2003, I had raved on Boulez's recording in this work in Concertonet (Sorry in French ...) where the biggest surprise came in the treatment of the last pages of the work. Whereas all conductors have accustomed us to a huge crescendo to go to a rousing fff along the slowing down of tempo, the text is telling us a different story.
It is one of these rare cases where Mahler just asks for a steady forte with the indication: "Nicht Abreisen".
Here is the trumpet part
Notice both indications of a simple Forte. The other movements have clear FF and FFF indications but not this one.
To the best of my knowledge, only Boulez in his recording with the Vienna Philharmonic respects this straight forte. The effect is very different from the Tchaikowsky-esque Crescendo which never fails to bring the house down. It becomes thus a confident ending where the composer expressing a serenity in Nature. It would have been thus a strong transition to Mahler's original plan to complete the already huge work with what is the 4th mouvement of the 4th Symphony.
A friend of mine has given me access to the Radio broadcast which Boulez and the VPO did before the recording and surprise, as said by Fred, Boulez indeed does the Crescendo and play a stong ff in the live performance.
There are a few lessons from this:
- It pays to get Mahler's scores and go thhrough them while listening to the works and analyze them like a paragraph from the Talmud ...
- In the right works and the right hands, a record can still be a distinctive more risky artistic venture than a concert. As a consumate professional, Boulez would not chance losing the impact of the last pages of this work in the concert hall, he can take a different approach in the studio.
- Finally, it reminds us that feelings and expression in music are derived from technical choices, tempis, balances, phrasing, ..., not the other way round.