How conductors sounded (7): Willem Mengelberg says ‘Beethoven was, like me, a Dutchman’

How conductors sounded (7): Willem Mengelberg says ‘Beethoven was, like me, a Dutchman’


norman lebrecht

December 01, 2013

The Concertgebouw founder, in an extremely rare spoken recording (auf Deutsch)

Igor Stravinsky en Willem Mengelberg)-611x397


  • Warren Cohen says:

    The date on the interview says Munich 1936. This is not possible. The opening music is the Bartok Violin Concerto which Mengelberg premiered in 1939.

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    What’s the piece beginning at 6:10?

  • Warren Cohen says:

    Cornelis Dopper Symphony no.7 finale. Incidentally, that recording was made in 1940, further putting the date of this interview after 1936′

  • Steve says:

    a champion of modern music, we should be grateful for these conductors,

  • Warren Cohen says:

    Also, not to be pedantic, but Mengelberg was not the founder of the orchestra. He was the second Chief Conductor. The first (and I suppose “founder” or “founding conductor” was Willem Kes.

  • Donald Wright says:

    About the date of the interview: The announcer begins by saying “anlässlich der niederländischen Kulturtage in München …” (“on the occasion of the Dutch Cultural Days in Munich …”). Now if we just knew when that event took place, we might be able to date the interview more closely. BTW, it is not at all apparent that the Bartok that plays at the beginning of the clip dates from the time of the interview; the announcer specifically states that Mengelberg is conducting Beethoven and Tchaikovsky in that evening’s concert, and has taken time out of his rehearsals for the concert to do the interview. There is no mention whatever of Bartok or of Dopper being performed that evening. It isn’t apparent that the musical clip (I’ll trust that it’s the Dopper finale 🙂 at 6:10 dates from the time of the interview either, for immediately before that musical interruption, the announcer states that if he understands correctly, they’re now going to hear Mengelberg *rehearsing* the middle movement of the Tchaikovsky symphony (I think they’re talking about the Fifth), whereas it’s clear from the applause that what we’re hearing is a *performance*, whether from that time or another is unstated. We don’t hear any of the rehearsal, contrary to what the announcer said. Mengelberg says that he knew Modest Tchaikovsky 40 years before in Moscow, and became very good friends with him, but at precisely the point where he is about to state that year (“zirka” (“ca.”)), there is a momentary interruption in the sound in the clip!

    • Donald Wright says:

      Ah, thanks to Michael Schaffer above for the date of the interview. (Hmm. Now this is strange though: at the time I posted my long comment above after listening to the interview, Michael’s comment wasn’t yet visible, and yet its time stamp is some 9-1/2 hours before mine! I’m guessing then that many comments are approved in a block, and retain the time stamp of their posting rather than of their appearance.)

      I’m still wondering though why the Bartok and the Dopper clips from an apparently later date were tacked into an interview about a performance of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky! Odd.

    • Warren Cohen says:

      I presume it is possible that for a rebroadcast at a later date they added in the Bartok and Dopper clips. Both the Bartok and Dopper come from live performances, not studio recordings, for what that is worth. I can’t figure out what the Bartok is doing there. The Dopper might have something to do with the theme of Dutch cultural heritage.

  • Anonymous says:

    Not sure that Mengelberg founded the KCO….KCO started in 1888, and Mengelberg, according to my reading, took over in 1895.