Amsterdam names 6 orchestras for Mahler Festival

Amsterdam names 6 orchestras for Mahler Festival


norman lebrecht

August 21, 2018

The Concertgebouw will mark the 2020 centenary of Willem Mengelberg’s 1920 inaugural Mahler cycle with a Mahler fest.

Six orchestras have been named. Four have historic links to Mahler – the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna, New York Philharmonic and the Concertgebouw Orchestra itself.

The other two are Ivan Fischer’s Budapest Festival Orchestra (Mahler was music director of the Budapest Opera) and the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, a modern construct.

This festival means, more or less, that the C’bouw will need an experienced Mahlerian as its next music director.



  • Pedro says:


  • barry guerrero says:

    Markus Stenz (Oehms) and Jonathan Nott (Tudor) have each recorded a complete cycle – quite well, actually. They know these works and still have plenty of ‘fire in the belly’.

    • Ilio says:

      Nott has conducted the orchestra only twice in the last 20 years. Probably not liked well enough to be asked back.

      • barry guerrero says:

        He’s now conductor of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, which, these days, isn’t that bad of a group. They even do good Bruckner.

        • Steve Vasta says:

          Actually true. I loved Ansermet’s OSR on the old recordings, but Bruckner from them would have been a scary thought. Their more recent sound, however, is both firm and full enough to make the music work. (From Janowski’s cycle, I’ve only heard the First, which I reviewed for MusicWeb; I didn’t think Janowski quite had the style down, but I liked the playing just fine.)

  • Olassus says:

    Overdose. Sick of it. No, thanks. Pass.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    And when, where do we get tickets? Cannot miss this!

  • Musician says:

    Jonathan Nott!!!!

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Ivan Fischer?

  • Simon Brown says:

    Why does it follow that this festival means the next Concertgebouw music director will need to be an experienced Mahlerian? Will he/she conduct all the concerts with all the orchestras at the festival?


    • Simon Brown says:

      Well to partly to answer my own question – the 1st concert in the festival will feature the NYPO and Jaap van Zweden according to this news item (from 2 years ago!):

      It’s also interesting that these days we consider that conductors need to be “experienced Mahlerians”. When the NYPO held its Mahler festival in 1960 the conductors included Walter and Mitropoulos (who were obviously experienced) and Bernstein as music director (who as far as I know had only conducted Mahler 2 a few times before that)


  • anon says:

    Choosing orchestras with historical links is a silly criteria, because 1) a sense of tradition no longer exists in playing style, not even in Vienna, and certainly not in a transmittal of knowledge from Mahler!, and 2) if the current director sucks at Mahler, who wants to hear a bad Mahler interpretation even with an orchestra that supposedly retained a Mahler tradition?

    Better to have chosen the greatest living Mahler interpreters to conduct the C’bouw.

    I would’ve paid real money for that, not to hear, sorry, a mediocre Mahlerian like Jaap van Zweden conducting a loud and brassy NY Phil.

    • Frank Stevens says:

      Here is a live broadcast of this brass section you speak of that surpasses any recording.

      Sometimes some music is supposed to be loud and brassy. Mahler 1 and 2 certainly fit this bill.

      Don’t be a disrespectful moron. You don’t have to like but don’t write it off an entire generation of musicians.
      Conversely, some might write off C’bouw as having enough power in the brass to play this music. I wouldn’t be that petty either.

      • anon says:

        Thank you for that video. Let me revise my evaluation of “loud and brassy” to “asthmatic and tinny”.

        This is what a noble brass section sounds like:

        Don’t even get me started on the NY Phil’s anemic string section.

        I’m sure they’ll get better by the time they land in Amsterdam.

        By the way, don’t call me “moron”, I’m not your son.

        • John Kelly says:

          The NYPO strings sounds just sensational at Carnegie Hall (where they rarely play) the anemic sensation is completely to do with the barn of an auditorium that is Geffen Hall. They will sound very good at the C’bouw.

          In terms of the brasses, the Amsterdam Orchestra play completely different trombones than the NYPO and they are less loud, more “french horn like” in their timbre and as such sound mellifluous in, say Brahms or Schubert, but lack “penetration’ in Bartok and Stravinsky. The NYPO sound is heavier and more brass heavy mostly because of the instruments and the use of C trumpets as well as US made trombones (which Denis Wick was the first to bring into British orchestral playing in the 1960s with the LSO for example – you hear that very clearly on Previn’s RCA Walton #1).

          • barry guerrero says:

            Exactly. Much of the ‘problem’ with the N.Y. Phil. is within their efforts to compensate for the dead and ‘bass shy’ acoustics of Geffen Hall.

          • Rgiarola says:

            Since 1962? 63? Even if we consider NYPO top-notch, that’s too much time. I don’t believe it does not affect anything of the inner quality of the orchestra, playing season after season in such a place.
            What do you thing is worst folks? Geffen or Barbican?

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      Calling a brass section, “loud and brassy” on Mahler is not an insult. It is a complement, actually. Every section and instrument should have its character. You hear that in the recordings of the great orchestras, like Cleveland, with Szell. Why would anyone want to hear a muffled brass section or trumpets that sound like a french horn when its their moment? But “tinny and asthmatic”? They have a lot of fans including most brass players.

  • Rob says:

    Manfred Honeck does a great Mahler 1 !

    • barry guerrero says:

      Agreed. Fabio Luisi recorded a really good one with the Dresden Staatskapelle that was out on dvd (coupled with Beethoven’s first piano concerto).

    • David Schildknecht says:

      I’ll second that: Attended his Grafenegg performance with the Pittsburghers last summer simply because I happened to be there and was invited. It was one of the most idiomatic, insightful performances of the Mahler 1st that I have heard, which meant it was also just great fun, offering lots of passages at which to crack a smile and some at which to swoon, but without ever descending into self-parody.

  • Pedro says:

    I hope Gatti will be there conducting the Vienna or Berlin orchestras. He is a great Mahlerian.

  • dc-reading says:

    Ilan Volkov? Thrilling Mahler 6 with CBSO a few years ago; Mahler 9 this season cw. Klein and Ullmann. Lots of R.Strauss, Debussy, proto-minimalists (unrecorded). Not sure if he’s ever guested there. Any odds on the runners? Who saw K.Petrenko coming?

  • slim says:

    Don’t rule out Nagano, who performed a Mahler cycle with Montreal and has recorded some of the lieder (magnificent recording with Gerhaher) plus Das Lied.