It's Mahler day upstate tomorrow

It's Mahler day upstate tomorrow


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2010

The city of Syracuse, New York, will commemorate on Thursday the visit exactly 100 years ago by Gustav Mahler and his orchestra, with the consecration of a Mahler monument and a daylong Mahler broadcast on WCNY. It will include the program of his original concert.It might also serve as a reminder to the next manager of the NY Phil that it’s 100 years since they last ventured upstate.

Marie Lamb, the producer, has sent me these details: 

The commemoration was the idea of Mr. Hamilton Armstrong, who is from the Syracuse suburb of Fayetteville.  Mr. Armstrong loves the music of Mahler, and he brought it to the attention of our program director, Peter McElvein, that Gustav Mahler did a concert in Syracuse while touring with the New York Philharmonic on 9 December 1910.  It was in the Wieting Opera House, which stood from 1897 to 1932. In its day, the Wieting featured famous performers from all parts of the world, including many classical musicians. An office building called the Atrium is now on the site, on the south edge of Clinton Square, in the center of downtown Syracuse.  Mr Armstrong commissioned the creation of a permanent memorial bench in stone to be made by the Karl Lutz Monument Company of Syracuse and placed on the site of the Wieting Opera House.


To mark this important anniversary, WCNY-FM is doing a broadcast on Thursday, 9 December 2010.  It will start with Norman Lebrecht’s interview about his book Why Mahler?, which is hosted by Bill Baker.  We were originally going to start airing the interview at 12:15 P.M. Eastern time (1715 GMT). However, the complete interview ran to around 25 minutes, and frankly, we cannot bring ourselves to cut it down.

Thus, it will probably start airing at either 12:04 or 12:06 P.M., since there are two points where we can cut out of NPR top-of-the-hour news. The interview will run until just before 12:30 P.M., when we will cut to live coverage of the ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony in Clinton Square.  At 1:00 P.M. (1800 GMT), we will broadcast a re-creation of the program from the original Mahler concert.  Henry Fogel will be the host.  Mr. Fogel has a Syracuse connection as the owner and manager for many years of the former WONO-FM, a commercial classical station that was the predecessor of WCNY-FM.  Mr. Fogel has chosen recordings of the pieces that were played back in 1910.  They were:


1) Suite arranged by Gustav Mahler from J.S. Bach’s Second Suite in B minor and Third Suite in D Major

2) Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F Major

3) Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from “Tristan und Isolde”

4) Wagner: Siegfried Idyll

5) Wagner: Prelude to Act I of “Die Meistersinger”


I believe Mr. Fogel will use the Los Angeles Philharmonic recording of the Bach-Mahler suite, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. I don’t yet know which recording of the Beethoven 6th he plans to use.  However, for the Wagner pieces, he plans recordings with the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg, who was a director of the New York Philharmonic in the 1920s and, thus, would have worked with many of the same musicians who toured with Mahler in 1910.  Also, according to Mr. Fogel, Mengelberg and Mahler had some similarities in conducting style, and so the Mengelberg recordings might give listeners some idea how those pieces actually sounded on that night in Syracuse in 1910.


For people in Central New York State, our broadcast may be heard in the Syracuse area on WCNY 91.3 FM; in the Utica/Rome area on WUNY 89.5 FM; and in Watertown, New York and the Kingston, ON/1000 Islands region of Canada on WJNY 90.9 FM.  The program is also available in Windows Media streaming audio at this URL:,com_wrapper/Itemid,128/


People who are not WCNY members may listen by scrolling down to the link that says “Lawn Seating.”



  • Marie Lamb says:

    I have some updated information. First, the dedication ceremony may be moved inside the Atrium, the building that’s now on the site of the Wieting Opera House. This is because we’ve had weather of the sort that greeted Mahler and the Philharmonic in 1910! Things may be a bit better by Thursday afternoon, but participants should not be surprised if things go indoors.
    Second, here is what Henry Fogel will play during the concert re-creation, since I did not have all the recording details before.
    1) Suite arranged by Gustav Mahler from J.S. Bach’s Second Suite in B minor and Third Suite in D Major (Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen)
    2) Bach: Air on the G String (1929 recording by the NY Philharmonic conducted by Willem Mengelberg, including many musicians who played on the 1910 tour with Mahler)
    3) Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F Major(1957 recording with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler)
    4) Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from “Tristan und Isolde” (Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Otto Klemperer)
    5) Wagner: Siegfried Idyll (Orchestra of the Deutschen Oper conducted by Christian Thielemann)
    6) Wagner: Prelude to “Die Meistersinger” (1940 recording with the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg)
    This has been a team effort at WCNY, including program director Peter McElvein, announcer Bill Baker (host for your interview and the live ceremony), Henry Fogel of WFMT (host for the concert re-creation), engineers Terry Long and Joe Dolan, and some gal named Marie Lamb. Thanks again, Norman, for your interview and for your tireless help in promoting this event; it’s appreciated more that I can say. We hope our listeners, and Gustav Mahler, will approve!

  • Marie Lamb says:

    I am very pleased to report that the Mahler memorial dedication and broadcast went extremely well! Everything went off without a hitch, and even though Syracuse is digging out from four feet of snow, we had a healthy crowd for the indoor ceremony and the outdoor unveiling of the memorial bench. I was especially pleased to see people of all ages there; it always does my heart good to see young people represented at such an event! It was also good to see that Hamilton Armstrong, who was behind this memorial, was able to be there with members of his family, despite health problems and the cold weather. Of course, that’s the kind of love and loyalty that Mahler inspires. The Syracuse Post-Standard gave today’s events quite a bit of space, including an interview with Norman. Here is a link to everything, for those who couldn’t join us:
    Norman, all of us in Syracuse are eternally grateful for your help in making this happen!

  • Richard F. Somer says:

    I am curious, with the importance given this occasion by WCNY and the extended lead-time available, why was no piece of Mahler’s music (such as a couple of his songs) played in the interim between the downtown ceremonies and Henry Fogle’s program–about fifteen minutes. Instead, selections by Gabriel Faure were played. More than curious, I’m puzzled. Seems insulting.