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Bernard Haitink lashes out again at ‘Mahler cult’

He has complained before that Mahler gets performed too much, at the expense of more beautiful and more important music. In an interview with the November issue of Das Orchester magazine, the Dutch conductor – once a champion of Mahler on record – let fly again at alleged Mahler excess. Here’s what he said (translation below):

Es ist ein Steckenpferd von mir und eine grosse Sorge. Dieser Mahler-Kult: Es gibt Leute, die nur zu einem Konzert kommen, wenn Mahler gespielt wird. Nach einer Aufführung von Mahlers dritte Sinfonie habe ich einmal einen Brief gekommen: ‘Ich war so gerührt, ich habe das ganze Stück über geheult.’ Fast hatte ichzurückgeschrieben: ‘Sie sollten einen Psychiater aufsuchen’. Das habe ich natürlich nicht getan. Es sind Einzelfälle, aber dieser Mahler-Kult – damit wird Mahler nicht gedient. Aber es ist so, und vielleicht wird es nach diesem Jubiläum wieder weniger werden.

It’s a hobbyhorse of mine and a major worry, this Mahler cult. There are people who come to a concert only if Mahler is played. Once, after a performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony, I received a letter, telling me: ‘I was so moved, I wept through the whole piece. ” I almost wrote back: ‘You need to see a psychiatrist.’ I didn’t, of course. These are isolated instances, but Mahler is not well served by this cult. Maybe, after the anniversary year, it will all die down.

Oh, yeah….? I guess he hasn’t read Why Mahler?

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Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more.

    • I’ll take Mahler over some of the other standards–Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saëns, Berlioz, etc.–any day. I also agree that there is a great deal of excellent music out there that we rarely hear, but what can one do? The symphonies make the decision about what to play, in part based on economics, and though one might want to hear concerts that drew upon the extraordinarily rich pool of fine music out there, many program directors are going to return to the most popular pieces that fill concert halls. Mahler’s symphonies are among those.

      It’s also perhaps important to note that Mahler’s symphonies, with their sometimes stitched-together quality, occasional hyper-expressiveness, and often very palpable emotion, feel right for this era in time. He was writing 100 years ago in part for the century to come. The hammer blows, the children’s tunes, the death marches, all of it is postmodern in a good way, and perhaps some of his fans cannot express why he they love his music in musicological terms, but they *feel* its power. I certainly do, though I don’t weep through it.

      Mahler was a special figure in European art music. Thank the gods we got enough out of him, including that overwrought 8th Symphony, the only one I cannot bear but which is many people’s favorite, that we don’t to listen to the same 3-4 works over and over. If you add in his song cycles, he is the gift that just keeps giving.

  2. Thank goodness – someone has said it at last! We’ve gone from compensating for unjustified neglect, to overcompensation, to a point where it’s starting to have a major distorting effect on the repertoire as a whole, and our relationship with it.

    It may sound silly, but colleagues have gathered (admittedly anecdotal) evidence that shows that audiences actually feel “short-changed” if the orchestra is not seen to be filling the entire stage – meaning that for a major symphony orchestra ina large hall, playing Brahms, Dvorak and Schumann, let alone anything earlier than that, there’s now an increased financial risk (and often a smaller crowd).

    That can’t be healthy, either economically (and the costs of the larger Mahler symphonies make it near-impossible to make a surplus on even a sold-out concert), or artistically: Mahler himself loses meaning when played in an artistic context that’s no longer centred on Bach, Mozart or Beethoven.

    There’s also a case to be made that Mahler (and those other C20th emotional blockbusters such as Shostakovich) feeds audiences’ addiction to music as massive emotional catharsis – fuelling the feeling that that any concert that isn’t a life-changing epiphany feels like time wasted, and a whole range of the equally valid life-experiences that music can communicate are elbowed from the stage. Witness the near-disappearance from mainstream concerts of the overture, the ballet suite, and the “lollipop” – all parts (like Mahler) of a balanced musical diet.

    Mahler performamces were once exceptional special occasions – and surely the music itself was all the better served for this? They should (IMHO) be unique experiences, encountered once a season or every other season; they shouldn’t be the backbone of a regular series, and they should be heard amidst the other music that gives them context and meaning. They’re just one peak in a range – and no-one, surely, could argue in all artistic seriousness that they’re the very highest?

    Maybe not the most coherently-argued position, but it’s just a thought. Intriguing to learn of Maestro Haitink’s views…but could he have been so insightful in his performances if his love for this music wasn’t tempered by perspective, and a dash of healthy scepticism?

    • Excellent post from Halidor. I speak as someone who likes Mahler! Things are not as special if they happen all the time. I like the concept on a musically balanced diet, and that life-changing is not a synonym for meaningful or valuable.

    • Yes. Mozart and Beethoven don’t get played much at all.

      • Maybe not Beethoven so much, but (without having the statistics to hand to back it up at this moment) I’d be willing to lay money that Mozart, Haydn and Bach all currently receive fewer performances by UK symphony orchestras per season than Mahler. And in my experience, they certainly draw smaller audiences.

  3. ruben greenberg says:

    Shostakovich also suffers from over-exposure. How about playing more French symphonic music? The symphonies of Magnard, Roussel and Honegger are superb and rarely played.

    • Shostakovich suffers from over-exposure? I’m not so sure about that, the problem with Shostakovich seems to be the selectiveness of a few hits that are recycled over and over again, while much of his massive oeuvre is neglected.

  4. Culdn’t agree more with Haitink and Halldor

  5. MISHUGINA says:

    LOL, what a statement coming from a conductor who has several recordings of Mahler 2nd under few orchestras now – Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw, Bavarian RSO, Chicago SO? On Youtube also you can get more than a handful of videos if you type “Haitink and Mahler” more than say, “Bernstein Mahler” Maybe if he stops milking the composer to flaunt his ego it will die down – a great deal!

  6. Someone show Maestro Haitink Brian’s Gothic Symphony.

    The argument that great music should be heard only rarely is self-defeating. The problem isn’t Mahler or even frequent performances of his music, rather unimaginative orchestral administrations who abandon most of their leadership role and don’t look for magnificent less known music because they haven’t bothered to figure out how to market it.

  7. “There are people who come to a concert only if Mahler is played.” – Well, we are talking about free countries. Someone even told me there were people who don’t go to concerts at all.

  8. Daniel Farber says:

    I would remind younger folks that Klemperer, who was of course a great Mahler conductor, was very skeptical of the cult that seemed to be developing around Mahler by the late 1960′s. In Philo Bregtein’s OK documentary, he says something to the effect that the over-exposure was as bad as the prior neglect. He himself did not conduct all the symphonies: e.g. never the Third, Fifth, or Sixth and the First only on one occasion. In all he did not consider Mahler as great a composer as Bruckner, but he performed Mahler more than he did Bruckner, he said with typical semi-irony, “because he was a Jew and got me my first job.”

  9. So why did he record the whole cycle … twice …

    • If your remark relates to Klemperer he did not even record the complete cycle once.He was very selective in the works that he did record,and to the best of my knowledge only recorded Nos 2,4,7 and 9 plus Das Lied von der Erde. My apologies if I have misunderstood your remark.

      • Daniel Farber says:

        I believe the person who asked “why did he record the whole cycle twice?” was referring to Haitink. Your numbers with respect to Klemperer are entirely correct. He was a highly “selective” Mahlerian as was his contemporary, Walter, who similarly did not perform or record the entire nine (or ten).

        • Klemps never did 5, Walter never did 7.

          • Daniel Farber says:

            According to Peter Heyworth, Norman, Klemps, in addition to avoiding No. 5, also never did No. 3, No. 6, or No. 8. He studied No. 6 on two occasions 57 years apart but claimed on both occasions not to understand the finale well enough to justify performing. He did want to perform No. 8, but until he was too old to go through with it, circumstances in his career did not permit him to do so. He performed the No.1 on only one occasion, because he disliked the “overly rhetorical” finale.

          • He went to hear Berthold Goldschmidt conduct 3 in 1960 and considered doing it for some time after (according to BG). In 5, he said he didn’t believe in the finale. Nobody asked him to do 8 until it was too late…

          • Daniel Farber says:

            Thank you, Norman, for the story of Klemperer and No. 3. Had not heard that anywhere. He also thought the adagietto of No. 5 was close to being “salon music”. I think the bottom line here is that although he could easily have ridden the waves of the Mahler tide (as others were soon to do), he had too much integrity to do so. Nor did he generally permit himself to be pushed around by the business people.

  10. Robert Berger says:

    Yes, Mahler’s symphonies have now become over exposed , rather like those of Beethoven,Brahms and Tchaikovsky etc. But they’re still very great works. However, we’re fortunate to have conductors like Neeme Jarvi and his son Paavo, James Conlon, Gerard Schwarz , Alan Gilbert , Joann Falletta , Leonard Slatkin and others who are willing to think outside the box and perform and record interesting works which have fallen into neglect .

  11. I ‘got’ Mahler the first time I heard the 2nd; & to me, what he says in music is both universally applicable, & life affirming (even the 9th). I owe a debt of gratitude to the person who loaned me the LP! I wouldn’t want to spend the entirety of the 3rd in tears, however it’s not uncommon for the music to clutch me at the finale. I’ve read – and much enjoyed – ‘Why Mahler’.
    But Halldor and David are correct: if a composer is played frequently, the music ceases to be ‘special’, and that concert won’t be ‘an event’. No gainsaying that Mahler symphonies are far more frequently played than 12, or 25 years ago! I have enormous respect for the conducting of Sir Bernard – incidentally, one of the most memorable performances of the 6th I’ve heard was when he conducted a student orchestra at RCM – but if he’s weary of Mahler, why, there are many other pieces of good music for him to conduct.
    So much music, so little time!

  12. Bob Burns says:

    Let me get this straight. If I enjoy going to a museum and looking at, say, Picasso’s “Three Musicians” once or twice a year, I’m overexposing myself – not to mention Picasso – to great art? Or maybe the museum should take down the Picasso and replace them with [fill in the blank] ??

    If the concert goers come to hear Mahler and pay to hear it, what is the problem? In Mahler’s day they filled halls to hear Brahms and Beethoven every *week* in Vienna. Beautiful art is what it is.

    Frankly, I get annoyed at orchestra conductors and administrators who put some totally forgettable hack on their program whose work will evaporate in a moth or two, under the pretense of being arbiters of what is important music and what is not. I get tired of them assuming the role of the giver of what is important art and foisting the role of the receiver on me.

    Haitink has made plenty of money recording Mahler. He should burn a candle at his shrine.

    “Cult?” I daresay his music simply appeals to millions because it is, like the “Mona Lisa” or “Three Musicians,” art which touches us at our core.

  13. I heard a Haitink interview on Mahler some time ago and I had a completely different impression:

    If memory serves, he did NOT call Mahler second rate or overrated. He thought that inexperienced conductors play Mahler in a very crude fashion, get away with it and are are most tyrannically clapped for’t because the audience cannot tell a good performance from a crude one and just respond to the noise inherent in Mahler’s orchestration. I find nothing in the quote above that says otherwise. I cannot understand Dutch, but is it possible the quote was misunderstood?

    Speaking as a brass player, playing ONE Mahler Symphony is more satifying than two thirds of the solo repertoire ever written for e.g. Trompets or Trombones. I am sure other members of the orchestra feel likewise. What other way to show off the true qualities of an orchestra than e.g. Mahler III?

    Especially now that the baroque and classical (and early romantic) repertoire is increasingly played by period style specialist ensembles, Bruckner, Mahler and Strauss certainly have a core place in the repertoire of grand symphony orchestras. But do bring on other symphonies, please! (RVW, Bax, Walton, Simpson, …., and that’s just the Brits!)

    • ‘What other way to show off the true qualities of an orchestra than e.g. Mahler III?’ Perhaps, but when your orchestra requires 22 extra musicians to mount such a piece, I wonder if it’s more a case of disguising the true qualities.

      I share Halidor’s views, but wonder if we’re romanticising about a time when most audience members were season subscribers and the term ‘standard repertoire’ actually meant something.

  14. I think we should be more concerned that a significant number of young people, and quite a few older ones, don’t even know who Mahler was.

  15. Hey Bernie, do the words ‘pot,’ ‘kettle,’ and ‘black’ mean anything to you?

  16. Alexander says:

    I don’t think orchestral music, considering the state it’s in, is well-served by a conductor who ridicules the genuine enjoyment experienced by a (presumably) loyal patron, no matter what repertoire it concerns.

  17. Michael Endres says:

    I have no problem with that. Repertoire preferences come in waves,and now we have a Mahler boom,so what ? His music obviously speaks to many people in our present time,no doubt,and I am delighted about that. I do not worry that Bach and Mozart will ever be forgotten ,they are some of the truly timeless giants of music,like Shakespeare and Kafka in literature. Rubinstein once said that in the end he always crawled back to Mozart. I personally always crawl back to a good Bordeaux, though I often divert to Australia and Chile…..

  18. He’s right. Orchestras don’t now how to put on an ‘event’ concert any more without doing Mahler. How many times a year do you think he gets asked to come and do a Mahler symphony? More than 52 I think.

  19. William Safford says:

    I love Mahler, and I encourage conductors to program his music more often. If nothing else, it provides me job security.

    (Back to practicing Mahler 1 for an upcoming gig….)

  20. For years I have held a view similar to maestro Haitink’s about the uncritical overexposure to the music of Gustav Mahler.

  21. Johan Korssell says:

    Maestro Haitink could easily do his share in reducing Mahler-performances (if he wanted) or rather help reduce the overproduction of Mahler on record. Some of his recent live recordings don’t really live up to his earlier efforts in these great masterpieces! The major exception here would be his new BR Klassik release of the Ninth Symphony. A record demands some sense of motivation behind it, more than just a documentative value. And here a man of Haitinks stature as conductor could use his mandat with more active interest. But his rather more satisfied living in the realms of music, not a man of music-politics and he often seemed uncomfortably speaking about musical matters. But this was a rather funny and ouspoken comment from HaitinkI think. I can say this as a man who adores both Mahler and Bernard Haitink. Haitink himself has done such a broad specturm of music, greater than he is usually being credited for. He finds the beauty in scores from Beethoven to Lutoslawski, not to mention great recordings of composers as different as Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams, Bruckner and YES Mahler.

    • I agree that it was an odd comment for a great conductor to make about a great composer who is finally becoming familiar to us. My feeling is that that silly remark epitomized the kinds of emotionally laden irrational praise he would hear after a concert. A self-indulgent response to and use of any art drives the artist nuts, given the amount of rational work involved in making it, and he’d probably had enough nonsense that day for some reason. A lot of people in fact don’t understand the difference between emotional outbursts and the use of feeling. Mahler’s work will be conducted and played badly by musicians who also don’t get it. But don’t we who are in the “biz” also need to know that audiences learn the language of (for them) more recent repertoire very slowly? Maybe over several generations. How many times will I have to play Mahler’s Fifth to really “get it?” As often as I have played Beethoven’s Fifth? Dear Lord! As well, whether a composition is very expensive to perform is not another form of musical criticism, like the horrible reports about how expensive a movie was to make or how much the box office made after the opening weekend used as a substitute for a good review . If the public (that managers demand we cultivate all the time) really want a lot of Mahler it could be that this is how a very large mass of people (millions of non-players around the world) learns? And yes, of course musicians will get sick of the repetition before the audience finally learns the new language. Is this the first time our generation has experienced this cycle? Also I even hear a hint of a tone of anti-semitism in some of the remarks above. I think too that each composer’s work is also of his time and shares its zeitgeist. Mahler and his world faced a moral and global cliff edge very like our own, and I think we are responding to him because we need to hear ourselves living there, in it.

  22. Alan Olshan says:

    I have 3,500 classical CDs that I’m very happy to listen to — but there are some works I simply must hear performed live, and Mahler symphonies are among them, the 2nd and 8th in particular. It was at so moving a 2nd at Carnegie Hall conducted by Rattle that I first became aware of something in me that I can only term “a soul.” Forgive me, Maestro Haitink, but few other composers’ music have ever done that for me.

    • Michael Endres says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Mahler has to be heard live . I do not understand the aggravation over too much Mahler being performed, I am at a total loss here…..

  23. These “fads” go in inevitable circles: Mahler, and other composers who originally were not instant hits with the audiences, would not have become so popular if orchestras didn’t brave antagonism and programmed him again and again. Once the repetition translates into popularity, those orchestras would have to be crazy to stop playing the composer of the moment – they do, after all, exist to please and to make money, besides other loftier goals. Presumably, once everyone has had enough of Mahler, he will again fade from programming and become unjustly underplayed until someone… and so on. But the “cult” does not really exist among lovers of music whose spectrum of knowledge and enjoyment is wide. Cults are built by those who follow a rising fad and latch onto it in order to say “I was there,” because they don’t know what else it would be acceptable and popular to listen to. Living in a world where being “in” is everything, we shouldn’t be surprised. As for Haitink berating the audience member who was moved to tears, that’s unfair. I love a relaxing couple of hours at the concert, where I can’t actually swear that I’m 100% present, but I prize the moments when the music takes over everything – that’s the concert I will actually remember years later. With Mahler, the former is not acceptable, his composition is not exactly conducive to relaxing absent-mindedness. I think you need to be deeply moved in some way, whether it’s by emotion or by didactic satisfaction at the rendition of the score.

  24. Is Mahler overrated? No, even if some symphonies are better than others. The problem is over-saturation. There are other voices that need to be heard, from both past and present.

  25. Johan Korssell says:

    Watch the Christmas Day DVD:s of Haitink leading the Concertgebouw Orchestra in all of the Mahler Symphonies except the Sixth and the Eight. These are some of the greatest performances of Mahler i know and the best testament and proof of what Mahler means to Haitink. He is producing incredible committed performances and shows himself being completely under the spell of the music. After such an experience, Bernard Haitink’s scepticism of Mahler can indeed seem a bit odd. Perhaps he is actually afraid or rather shy of Mahler and the incredible emotional power of his music and what it demands of him as a performer. Next thing on my list to see and hear his interpretation of the Ninth Symphony on av new C major DVD, from the complete cycle of Symphonies recorded in the Concertgebouw in 10/11 season. We all know there are many possible ways to do Mahler. The sober, late approach of Haitink can be convincing, especially together with the angels of Concertgebouw Orchestra…

  26. At a time when symphony orchestras in the US are struggling for their very existence and European
    austerity will certainly affect the arts (if it hasn’t already), I find these comments downright
    condescending, bordering on offensive. We are long past the era when the old maestro
    has the authority to sit on a high horse and tell audiences what music they should and shouldn’t
    love, and even how they should feel about it (!!). Young people simply don’t care what Mr. Haitink thinks.
    As an earlier poster said, we need to be a lot more worried
    that many of them have never heard of Mahler. If they want to join a Mahler cult
    and be moved by every measure, why on earth would Mr. Haitink want to stop them?
    What good do such comments do to spread the joy and beauty of music?

  27. O dear my heart bleeds for the anti-Mahler claque. It’s like the on/off switch on your radio…if you don’t like it, turn it off. If you don’t like Mahler or have had it up to here with seeing his name constantly on a billboard….don’t patronise the concert. But why bleat about it? So what if some long-forgotten person thought the adagietto from number 5 was ‘salon’ music…if you enjoy it, then listen to it. Mahler to me is the greatest. I have read all the books I can devour on him, including Norman’s latest, I have 36 recordings of ‘Song of the Earth’ and my collection is growing(!), I have 16 recordings of the ‘Resurrection’ including one I recently bought (and among one of the best) of Armin Jordan conducting the Suisse Romande and I patronise every single 2nd Symphony live concert that I can afford. Some are good, some are bad, but I enjoy the atmosphere of every single one of them. I don’t patronise concerts by Renaissance or Baroque composers but then I don’t bleat about it either.

  28. Mahler’s music is simply extraordinary; it is also different. I don’t think an orchestra can ever program too much of it. That said, I am also quite comfortable listening to my numerous sets of CDs and sometimes comparing them, so you won’t find me in line insisting on Mahler, only Mahler.

    On the other hand, can an orchestra really call itself ‘great’ if it doesn’t play consistently great Mahler? I find this has been a watershed for me. It is really difficult to play well, and takes a very good conductor. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, I have found myself with only a handful of orchestras that I even bother to follow with any real interest, just for that reason.

    Hmmm…does this mean I am a member of a cult? :-0

  29. Joan Grimalt says:

    There ‘s 3 things I dislike about Haitink’s statement.
    1) His unsympathetic way to interpret Mahler’s music. I never had the feeling he knew what the composer meant with all its expressive idioms. It seems to be a completely foreign language to him. Not only Mahler though; to my taste, Haitink has been widely overestimated.
    2) His lack of arguments, whether musical or otherwise. All he does is to disqualify the listener for being emotional. Is that a contribution to any serious discussion? Or the evidence of having nothing to offer?
    3) The attitude of condemning his audience, instead of trying to understand them. Lebrecht’s book e.g. is an honest attempt to ask “Why Mahler?” There must be some good reason indeed why his music has occupied the central role Beethoven used to have in the classical repertoire, during most of the 20th century.
    Or maybe the people are all wrong, and he is right? But if Haitink thinks so, who should be interested in whatever he writes or interprets?
    I would like to recommend instead the interpretations of Kubelík, Abbado and Boulez. Very different, but all sensitive, insightful, respectful.

  30. paul myers says:

    Why the fuss? There are other concerts. In the words of the great Sol Hurok: “If people don’t want to come, nothing will stop them!”

  31. Here is a quite amazing performance of No 7 from Haitink and the BRSO. Hope it comes out on CD.

  32. Of course there is a Beethoven cult. And a Mozart cult. And I am a member of these cults as well as the Mahler cult and the Shostacovich cult. And, if indeed, listening to great music by the greatest composers means you belong to cults, we should all be members of many cults.This is so much nonsense. Haitink should continue to conduct and not attempt to be a music critic. Three cheers for Mahler!

  33. I like my Mahler – and I like an occasional lollypop

  34. Duncan McGibbon says:

    Haitink’s concern about a Mahler cult seems to arise from his having lost the position of arbitur which his interpretations once had. If the tradition began with Walter, it was taken up by Jascha Horenstein, then Kubelic. Klemperer missed the boat, leaving Haitink as the standard interpretation until Boulez and Rattle came along.Mahler is a very great composer who has yet to reach consensus on interpretation. Haitink should quell his rages and get back to the rostrum with some new ideas.

    • Daniel Farber says:

      How, exactly, do you think Klemperer “missed the boat”? In the early 30′s, he countermanded the NY Philharmonic management by performing the Resurrection Symphony. The orchestra lost a lot money and K. was not invited back. Perhaps he got to the pier too SOON! Do you mean his advocacy was not broad or energetic enough in that he avoided certain works and came to others (the 9th Symphony) only very late in the game? Or do you mean that his illnesses and accidents put him out of commission for long periods around the time the “boat” was leaving the harbor? Or are you saying that he was not temperamentally suited to conduct Mahler? (Boulez is certainly not of that opinion.)

      • Duncan McGibbon says:

        I mean exactly what you said earlier about how he could easily have ridden the waves. We differ over what stopped him. Klemperer, as one one of the greatest conductors history has ever witnessed, could have given us a strong criterion of Mahler interpretation. Instead the baton passed to Haitink, from whom it is slipping. Klemperer could never come to believe a Jew could be the equal of Mozart or Beethoven, which Mahler certainly is. Klemperer is seared by the shadow of anti-semitism

        • Daniel Farber says:

          Where are you getting this stuff, Duncan? I mean you seem to living out some delusion here. For starters Haitink has NEVER been considered by serious Mahlerites to be among M’s best interpreters or at least he finishes way down the track behind many, beginning with the older generation (Mengelberg, Walter, Klemperer) and then followed by Mitropoulos and Horenstein, and then in more recent times Bernstein, Boulez, Abbado, Tennstedt, and the not-widely-known Benjamin Zander.

          As for your remark about Klemperer’s having been “sear[ed] by the shadow of anti-semitism,” the mixed metaphor makes for something confusing and obscure: do you mean he was “influenced” by German anti-semitism? You do know that Klemperer was himself a born Jew (re-converting to the faith in his last years)? You do know that he claimed that his loyalty to Mahler consisted partly in the fact that Mahler WAS a Jew?

          • Duncan McGibbon says:

            Haitink regards himself as a standard in Mahler interpretation. I think the much-lamented late Tony Duggan underestimates him a little. You leave out Kubelik and place Tennstedt with Boulez, when I would view Tennstedt as backward-looking. Klemperer’s early sympathies were with Hindemith, Schoenberg and Stravinsky. They were not popular in America where he had emigrated. Although Mahler was a friend, I still think Klemperer looked on him as superseded. Klemperer had confused views about his own Jewishness. He was critical of Israel, as a socialist, and I think he felt insecure about the position of Mahler and was too-conscious of him being Jewish.His medical and psychological difficulties compounded these feelings

    • What’s the point of singling out one conductor at a given time for holding the holy grail of Mahler interpretation. That’s a silly notion.

      • Duncan McGibbon says:

        The fact is there are pace-makers and followers as in all creative work. There are are also dead-ends and eccentrics. When I heard Horenstein’s 3rd aged 16, this was exactly as I wanted to hear it. Then two years later I heard Boulez ‘s 5th (Both in London) and I knew Mahler would never be performed in the same way again. At first I was hostile, then I came to accept that a new Mahler was emerging from the Sacher-tort and portamento of Walter and Horenstein (both of whom I revere in their context). Incidentally I do think that at at any one time one conductor does lead interpretation in a given field. I just can’t hear enough music to prove it.

  35. Felice Homann says:

    Regarding what Oakmount said about the possible mistranslation of Haitink’s remarks, They were not in Dutch at all. They were in German. They were also 100% correctly translated into English.

  36. David Forder says:

    I wish an orchestra would play a Mahler symphony or 3 within a 2 hour travelling distance from my home!

  37. Escenbach’s Mahler 9. Something a little bit different!

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Most Eschenbach performances of varied repertoire are a little bit different. That’s why he isn’t in Philadelphia anymore. I have heard and watched this performance several times on MezzoHDTV in Europe. I’m still not totally convinced but his Mahler 7 with OdeParis was musically more interesting than with Philadelphia but the PO is certainly the superior band. I heard them both in person within a one month period. It was as if the Phila Orch was resisting while the Paris gang was willing to indulge him in his exaggerations. I’m a fan of CE and accept the hills and valleys.

      What ever happened to Haydn? He has all but disappeared from concerts today. Memorable concert: Haydn Sym. No 7 (le Midi) followed by Mahler Das Lied, conductor? Ormandy around 1966. Richard Lewis and Lili Chookasian were the singers. Orch? Philly, in the acoustically challenged Academy of Music. It was, to say the least, memorable.

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