- Profession: Conductor, composer.
- Residences: Amsterdam.
- Relation to Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO). Friend. Mahler was deeply impressed by Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951)'s ability to empathize with his music. Promotor. At the rehearsals that Mahler led, Mengelberg wrote down i his score all kinds of remarks that the composer made to the orchestral musicians. Mengelberg wrote notes on "Spitzentechnik" on the front cover of the score of Symphony No. 5, a technique for the strings, writes Mengelberg, which must be used in all symphonys of Mahler, and of which it is important that all strings do this. His notes to Movement 4: Adagietto. Sehr langsam are the key to a good understanding of the music.
- Relation to Richard Strauss (1864-1949): Supporter and friend of Strauss. Often invited him to come to Amsterdam. Strauss for the first time in Amsterdam on 05-10-1904.
- Relation to Alphons Diepenbrock (1862-1921): Friend.
- Correspondence with Mahler: Yes.
- 00-00-0000, Year
- Born: 28-03-1871, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
- Engaged: 08-05-1898 Mathilde Mengelberg-Wubbe (1875-1943).
- Married: 05-07-1898 Mathilde Mengelberg-Wubbe (1875-1943).
- Died: 21-03-1951 Zuort, Sent, Switzerland.
- Buried: Friedental cemetery, Luzern, Switzerland.
- Roemer Visscherstraat 2, Amsterdam. Arranged by Van Rees. Too expensive.
- Parkzicht complex, corner Hobbemakade, Amsterdam. Etage. Arranged by Charles Ernest Henri Boissevain (1868-1940). Two piano's.
- House Willem Mengelberg, Van Eeghenstraat 107, Amsterdam. Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) stayed here.
- 1884 or 1885: Meeting Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) in Amsterdam.
- 1888: Study Conservatory Cologne (Piano and Composition). Pupil of Franz Wullner.
- 1891: First meeting Richard Strauss (1864-1949).
- 1892: Bayreuther Festspiele. Visitor.
- 1891-1897: Musical Director Luzern.
- 1893: Conductor Luzerner Liedertafel.
- 1894: Compositions by Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951).
- 1895: Leaving Luzern.
- 1895: Debut Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw and Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO).
- 1897: Bayreuther Festspiele. Visitor. 02-08 until 05-08-1897 Ring and 08-08-1897 Parsifal.
- 1898: Bergen.
- 1898: Meeting Mathilde Mengelberg-Wubbe (1875-1943)
- 1899-1900: Performance of novelties like Richard Strauss (1864-1949)'s Till Eulenspiegel and Ein Heldenleben in Amsterdam.
- 1899: Started the tradition of playing Johan Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)'s St. Matthew Passion on Good Friday in the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw. With the Toonkunst choir.
- 1900: Hendrik Jan de Marez Oyens (1843-1911) had a banking firm en did Mengelbergs finance. The fiancial postion of Mengelberg was weak.
- 1900: Engagement and marriage Mathilde Mengelberg-Wubbe (1875-1943) (june). Hendrik Jan de Marez Oyens (1843-1911) and Charles Ernest Henri Boissevain (1868-1940) best men.
- 1900: Honeymoon to Germany and Switzerland.
- 1900: Brussels.
- 1901: For the first time seen a Mahler score.
- 1901: Liege.
- 1902: Richard Strauss (1864-1949) invited the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) to Krefeld. See Willem Hutschenruyter (1863-1950).
- 1902: Summer: For the first time seen score of Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 2.
- 1902: Krefeld, 09-06-1902 First meeting Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) and Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951). 1902 Concert Krefeld 09-06-1902 - Symphony No. 3 (Premiere). Introduction by Richard Strauss (1864-1949). Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) invited Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) to conduct Symphony No. 3 in Amsterdam.
- 1902: Argument with Cosima Wagner (1837-1930) because he did not ask her permission to perform Parsifal in Amsterdam.
- 1902: 20-12-1902 and 21-12-1902 Performance of Parsifal with Betty Frank (1864-0000) as Kundra. Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) conducted by Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) She had a love affair with Gustav Mahler in Year 1885.
- 1902: Dutch Music Festival.
- 1903: Gustav Mahler himself in the Netherlands (1903, 1904, 1906, 1909 and 1910)
- 1903: Richard Strauss (1864-1949) Festival in London with the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO).
- 1904: Take-off career.
- 1904: Contact with Henry Wolfsohn and Hugo Gorlitz about a career in America.
- 1905: Meeting with Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) in Berlin.
- 1905: Meeting with Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) in Vienna (06-1905).
- 1905: New York, two concerts with New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYPO/NPO) (10-1905), Frankfurt, Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris, Italy and Russia. Visit to the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO).
- 1905: Letter by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) to recommend Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) to the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). (06-1905)
- 1906: Music Festival Dresden.
- 1906: 1906 Concert Essen 27-05-1906 - Symphony No. 6 (Premiere). First meeting with Alma Mahler (1879-1964).
- 1906: Composition Rembrandtfeier, Honderdguldenprent in the atmosphere of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911).
- 1906: Mahler's help in searching for a flutist, horn player, trumpet player and second conductor.
- 1907: Museum Concert Frankfurt (Museumgesellschaft). Success.
- 1907: With the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) to Antwerp, Brussels and Paris. Munich.
- 1907: Meeting with Marion von Weber-Schwabe (1856-1931) (baroness, Baronin) in Dresden. With Max Schilling.
- 1908: Mahler talked again with Mengelberg about the vacancy in Boston. Mahler was in New York at the time.
- 1908: Frankfurt (work by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)).
- 1908: Brussels, Paris, Rome, Bologna.
- 1909: Moscow, St Petersburg, Rome, Milan, Napels.
- 1910: Rome (meeting Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957)), Milan.
- 1910: Moscow, St Petersburg. Meeting with the brother of Pjotr Iljitsj Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). (or 1909?)
- 1911: Argument with the Board of the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) about the priority between Amsterdam and Frankfurt.
- 1911: Brussels, Napels, Turin, St Petersburg, Moscow.
- 1912: London, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Berlin, Liverpool.
- 1912: Dutch Music Festival.
- 1913: Mengelberg becomes more autocratic.
- 1913: St Petersburg, Morscow, London, Paris, Berlin
- 1914: Year? Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) had a villa built in Graubunden, Switzerland (Chasa Mengelberg).
- 1914: London, Rome
- 1914: First World War. Mengelberg in Chasa Mengelberg, Switzerland. The arguments for not returning in time to the Netherlands were openly questioned. Although the Netherland were neutral Mengelberg wanted to play pro-German music.
- 1915: Mengelberg's sense of duty towards Frankfurt was not appreciated in the Netherlands. Arrival Rudolf Mengelberg (1892-1959) in Amsterdam.
- 1915: Contact Alma Mahler (1879-1964) about concerts in Vienna.
- 1917: Vienna with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (VPO). Das Lied von der Erde. (Durigo and Urlus). 30-12-1917. Alma Mahler gave Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) a manuscript-partiture and a manuscript-particel from Lied 6: Der Abschied (last movement of Das Lied von der Erde). The manuscripts were packed in a beautiful cassette given by Alma Mahler (1879-1964) in gratitude to the conductor. On the inside of the cover she wrote a flattering mission: "Dem Freunde Gustav Mahler / dem herrlichsten Interpreten seiner Werke / Willem Mengelberg / Der Abschied (Lied von der Erde)/ Partitur und Clavierauszug / am 30 dec. 1917 von Alma Mahler gegeben" which indicates how closely Mengelberg came to Mahlers musical intentions. From all of Mahler's work, Mengelberg had with Das Lied von der Erde the most intense band and he reached a definite highlight with his interpretations.
- 1917: Richard Specht (1870-1932) dedicated his biography of Gustav Mahler to Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951).
- 1918: Vienna with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (VPO). Symphony No. 4 (Gertrude Forstel (1880-1950)). 01-01-1918.
- 1919: Paris. Gabriel Pierne (1863-1937).
- 1919: Inflammation on his arm. Had to cancel three concerts. A few weeks in a sanatorium in Laag-Soeren.
- 1920: Gustav Mahler Festival Amsterdam 1920.
- 1923: New York: According to Samuel Bottenheim (1882-1957), in later years Mengelberg's secretary and manager, Siegfried Wagner (1869-1930) laid down the old Parsifal cattle at a dinner in New York in 1923. Long before, however, Cosima Wagner (1837-1930) had already attended a concert of Mengelberg in Frankfurt.
Joseph Willem Mengelberg was a Dutch conductor, famous for his performances of Mahler and Strauss with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Mengelberg was the fourth of fifteen children of German-born parents in Utrecht, Netherlands. His father was the well-known Dutch-German sculptor Friedrich Wilhelm Mengelberg.
After studies in Utrecht with the composer and conductor Richard Hol, the composer Anton Averkamp (1861-1934) and the violinist Henri Wilhelm Petri (1856-1914), he went on to study piano and composition at the Cologne conservatory (now the Hochschule für Musik Köln), where his principal teachers were Franz Wüllner, Isidor Seiss and Adolf Jensen.
In 1891, when he was 20, he was chosen as General Music Director of the city of Lucerne Switzerland, where he conducted an orchestra and a choir, directed a music school, taught piano lessons and continued to compose. Four years later, in 1895, when he was 24, Mengelberg was appointed principal conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, a position he held until 1945.
In this position, Mengelberg was to premiere a number of masterpieces. For example, in 1898, Richard Strauss dedicated his tone poem Ein Heldenleben to Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, telling journalists that he "had at last found an orchestra capable of playing all passages, so that he no longer needed to feel embarrassed when writing difficulties." Among other notable premieres were those on March 29, 1939, when Mengelberg conducted the premiere of the Violin Concerto no. 2 by Béla Bartók with violinist Zoltán Székely, and on November 23, 1939, he premiered the Peacock Variations of Zoltán Kodály.
Mengelberg founded the long-standing Mahler tradition of the Concertgebouw. He met and befriended Gustav Mahler in 1902, and invited Mahler to conduct his Third Symphony in Amsterdam in 1903; and on October 23, 1904, Mahler led the orchestra in his Fourth Symphony twice in one concert, with no other work on the program. Mahler wrote to his wife Alma Mahler that this programming idea (presumably Mengelberg's) was a "stroke of genius."
Mahler regularly visited The Netherlands to introduce his work to Dutch audiences, including also his First, Fifth, and Seventh Symphonies, as well as Das Klagende Lied and Kindertotenlieder. Mahler edited some of his symphonies while rehearsing them with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, making them sound better for the acoustics of the Concertgebouw.
This is perhaps one reason that this concert hall and its orchestra is renowned for its Mahler tradition. In 1920, Mengelberg instituted a Mahler Festival in which all the composer's music was performed in nine concerts.
Mengelberg also founded, in 1899, the annual Concertgebouw tradition of performing the St. Matthew Passion of Johann Sebastian Bach on Palm Sunday. One criticism of Mengelberg's influence over Dutch musical life, most clearly articulated by the composer Willem Pijper, was that Mengelberg did not particularly champion Dutch composers during his Concertgebouw tenure, especially after 1920.
24-06-1915. Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) to Arnold Josef Rose (1863-1946) from the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw, filed 09-07-1915: The Concertgebouw Orchestra needs a first horn player with a good sound for Mahler. Can Rosé help? Mengelberg mentions the past season's Mahler performances: Symphonies 1, 2, 3, 4, 7; Das Lied von der Erde; Das klagende Lied; Kindertotenlieder; and various orchestral lieder.
Mengelberg was music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra from 1922 to 1928. Beginning in January 1926, he shared the podium with Arturo Toscanini; Toscanini biographer Harvey Sachs has documented that Mengelberg and Toscanini clashed over interpretations of music and even rehearsal techniques, creating division among the musicians that eventually resulted in Mengelberg leaving the orchestra.
However, the maestro did make a series of recordings with the Philharmonic for both the Victor Talking Machine Company and Brunswick Records, including a 1928 electrical recording of Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben that was later reissued on LP and CD. One of his first electrical recordings, for Victor, was a two-disc set devoted to A Victory Ball by Ernest Schelling (friend of Mengelberg in New York, composer and piano player).
Mengelberg was described by Fred Goldbeck as "the perfect dictator/conductor, a Napoleon of the orchestra"; Alan Sanders writes, "his treatment of the orchestra was autocratic. In later years his behaviour became extreme, and there are extraordinary stories of abusive verbal exchanges between him and his players at rehearsal". Berta Geissmar records an incident in 1938 when Mengelberg rehearsed the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the Vorspiel und Liebestod from Tristan and he gave them tortuous lectures as though they had never seen the music before.
The most controversial aspect of Mengelberg's biography centers on his actions and behavior during the years of the Nazi occupation of Holland between 1940 and 1945. His biographer Fritz Zwart writes (for Radio Nederland) of an "interview Mengelberg had given with the Völkische Beobachter, the German Nazi newspaper...the gist of it was that, on hearing of the Dutch surrender to the German invaders on May 10, 1940, he had brought a toast with a glass of champagne and had also spoken about the close bond existing between the Netherlands and Germany."
Zwart also notes that Mengelberg conducted in Germany and in German-occupied countries throughout the war, and was photographed in the company of Nazis such as Arthur Seyss-Inquart. Explanations have ranged from political naiveté in general, to a general "blind spot" for criticism of anything German, given his own ancestry.
After the war, in 1945, the Netherlands' Honour Council for Music banned him from conducting in the Netherlands for life; in 1947, after an appeal by his lawyers, the Council reduced his ban to six years, though also in 1947, Queen Wilhelmina withdrew his Gold Medal of Honor.
This notwithstanding, he continued to draw a pension from the orchestra until 1949 when cut off by the city council of Amsterdam. Mengelberg retreated in exile to Zuort, Sent, Switzerland, where he remained until his death in 1951, just two months before the expiration of his exile order. Willem Mengelberg was the uncle of the musicologist and composer Rudolf Mengelberg and of the conductor, composer and critic Karel Mengelberg, who was himself the father of the improvising pianist and composer Misha Mengelberg.
Mengelberg's recordings with the Concertgebouw Orchestra are marked by frequent use of an unusually prominent portamento, the sliding of the string players' left fingers from one note to another. The scholar Robert Philip has shown that Mengelberg's recordings with other orchestras do not show this portamento, and that "the unusual approach to portamento... was a stylistic feature which he developed with the Concertgebouw over a long period of rehearsal, and that it was not a style which could be transferred to other orchestras when Mengelberg visited them" .
Philip also notes that this portamento required the strings to use uniform fingering prescribed by Mengelberg, and that this was also unusual for the time, when much orchestral fingering was typically "free," with different players fingering a passage differently. Freely bowed portamento sounded lighter than that we hear in Mengelberg's recordings, as not all players would slide on the same notes. Philip mentions recordings by the Vienna Philharmonic under Bruno Walter as examples of this style.
1920. Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951). Mahler Festival in Amsterdam.
In addition, Mengelberg employed fluctuations of tempo that were extreme even in an era in which tempo fluctuation was more common than in modern practice. While admirers of Mengelberg value his tempo inflections, detractors have criticized them.
For example, the musicologist and music theorist Walter Frisch has argued that "in the Brahms performances recorded by Willem Mengelberg, tempo fluctuation too often tends to obscure the broader shape of a passage or movement." Frisch argues that this obscuring of structure does not result from the tempo fluctuations of two conductors he admires who also used much tempo inflection, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Hermann Abendroth.
Mengelberg made commercial recordings in the United States with the New York Philharmonic for Victor (1922-30) and Brunswick (1926-27). In Amsterdam with the Concertgebouw Orchestra he made a series of records issued in various countries on the Columbia and Odeon labels (1926-32) as well as two works recorded for the Dutch branch of Decca in 1935. Mengelberg recorded with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic for Telefunken (1937-42).
After his death, Philips issued recordings of live performances recorded by Dutch radio services, and these have been reissued by Decca. In addition to his recordings of Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben, Mengelberg left discs of symphonies by Beethoven, Tchaikovski and Brahms, and Bach's St Matthew Passion.
1926. Rudolf Mengelberg (1892-1959), Ottorino Resphighi, Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951), Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Cornelis Dopper (1870-1939), mrs. Mathilde Mengelberg-Wubbe (1875-1943), Sam Bottenheim, mrs. Lourié and Arthur Lourié.
Some of his performances in Amsterdam were recorded on the innovative German tape recorder, the Magnetophon, resulting in unusually high fidelity for the time. Sound films of Mengelberg conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra, during live concerts in Amsterdam, have survived. Among these are a 1931 performance of Weber's Oberon overture and a 1939 performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion.
His most characteristic performances are marked by a tremendous expressiveness and freedom of tempo, perhaps most remarkable in his recording of Mahler's Fourth Symphony but certainly present in the aforementioned St Matthew Passion and other performances as well. These qualities, shared (perhaps to a lesser extent) by only a handful of other conductors of the era of sound recording, such as Wilhelm Furtwängler and Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), make much of his work unusually controversial among classical music listeners; recordings that more mainstream listeners consider unlistenable will be hailed by others as among the greatest recordings ever made.
Many of his recorded performances, including some live concerts in Amsterdam during World War II, have been reissued on LP and CD. While he was known for his recordings of the German repertoire, Capitol Records issued a powerful, nearly high fidelity recording of César Franck's Symphony in D minor, recorded in the 1940s by Telefunken with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Due to the Dutch government's six-year ban on Mengelberg's conducting activities, he made no more recordings after 1945.
- Conducting style: More lively during conducting than his predecessors. He made broad gestures. Used his left hand more intensively. Less analyzing. More emphasis on sound beauty like Hans von Bulow (1830-1894). Varying tempo that was used as a means of expression.
- In the beginning he had difficulty in maintaining discipline within the orchestra. Age 24 years.
- His second conductor was Jean J.Th Renard and did not conduct much Anton Bruckner (1824-1896).
- Mengelberg is 11 years younger than Mahler.
Eben kommen alle Programme (aus Amsterdam) an. Das ist ja fabelhaft! - Ja Gustav hat an Ihnen den Freund, den er immer in Ihnen sah - Wenn er das nur erleben konnte! - Aber Sie sind einer der seltesten Menschen - die Ihm auch bei Lebzeiten Liebe und tiefstes Verstandnis gegeben haben. Denn aber was sich "heute" alles sein Freund nennt - tot mir Weh ... Heute ist es leicht.
All programs (from Amsterdam) have arrived. This is fabulous! - Yes, you are Gustav's friend he always thought you were - If only he could see it! - You are very special and gave him love and deepest understanding during his lifetime. If one sees who is calling him friend now - it hurts me ... today it is easy.