Amsterdam and Leipzig at odds over Mahler

Amsterdam and Leipzig at odds over Mahler


norman lebrecht

May 22, 2020

The Concertgebouw has rescheduled its Mahler Festival to May 18 to 23 next year.

The Leipzig Gewandhaus has its Mahler Festival pushed back to May 13 to 24.

Did they even think of talking to each other?

And what are the odds that any Mahler symphony will be small enough for a distanced performance at that time?


  • Two places very specials for Riccardo Chailly… He must have been a go-between and a mediator for the calendars ahahhaaha

  • Alan says:


    • It’s very difficult to organise this kind of events… And I suppose that it was impossible to do that in Jully and August a moment for the festivals. But it’s true that the two events will be for the same public.

  • Eric says:

    Maybe this could be a good time to have the long-needed break from Mahler that many of us have been crying out for, and to explore some fresh repertoire for a change?

    • Jack says:

      Eric, here’s what you do. If you have long-needed a break from Mahler, JUST DO IT. It’s that easy.

      Me? With this orgy over Beethoven’s 250th birthday where I have heard the 9th fifty times on Sirius and my local station, not to mention the other five works people obsess over, I have taken my long-needed break from LvB.

  • Gustav says:

    The Gewandhaus didn’t push it back, it has always been scheduled from May 13 to 24. Obviously the Concertgebouw didn’t know about it (like Mr. Lebrecht), or they’re just ignorant…

  • sam says:

    Well, did the planners of all those Beethoven cycles talk to each other?

    Every orchestra can knock out a decent Mahler these days, and no conductor’s ego feels complete unless he or she has done a cycle of each.

    Except, Beethoven interpretations have developed distinct schools and approaches with different instruments and tempi altogether.

    No such variety for Mahler.

    I personally am waiting for a Haydn cycle of his complete symphonies.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      In Taiwan, Gilbert Varga launched a Haydn cycle some years ago. However, at one symphony per season, it’s unlikely that he’ll be the one to complete it…

      I imagine that a season could accommodate, say, three Haydn symphonies (one early, one middle, one late), so some people could hear the entire cycle. Three Haydn a year would not be too many.

    • Stuart says:

      well that would be boring.

  • phf655 says:

    A number of the orchestra/conductor/symphony combinations are common to both cities, and they are obviously not on the same day. This hardly suggests that one city didn’t know what the other one was doing. More likely it was the Leipzig cycle, with all of the musicians prepared to perform Mahler, that made the Amsterdam concerts possible.

  • Frank says:

    I believe they planned the Amsterdam Mahler Festival 2.0 this way, so that orchestras playing a symphony in Leipzig can hop on a plane and play the same program again in Amsterdam.
    Hopefully this will induce sufficient Mahler fatigue and maybe the Concertgebouw will plan a Shostakovich Festival in 2025 or a Sibelius cycle – a composer rarely ever performed in Amsterdam, because the Haitink era artistic director, Marius Flothuis, didn’t like Sibelius (nor did he like Shostakovich).

    • It’s true that the RCO don’t have a tradition very strong with Sibelius, he never came in Amsterdam during his long life like Richard Strauss Ravel and Mahler. I regret that there’s no recordings of the symphonies especially the second, one of my favorite and a pure master piece. It’s more a speciallity of the Göteborg orchestra. But there ‘s the first who must be played in September with Makela. I hope it will change.

      • Stephen Cera says:

        There is a classic 1957 recording of the Sibelius Second with George Szell conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra.

        • Barry Guerrero says:

          Not sure when, but that recording must be later than ’57. it’s in very good stereo.

          • Fact Checker says:

            Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43


            Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
            George Szell
            Recorded: 1957-12-02
            Recording Venue: Concertgebouw, Amsterdam

      • Alasdair Munro says:

        There is a recording of the 2nd conducted by Szell, originally on Philips.

        • Thanks for those interisting informations. I went on the archives of the RCO and I saw thant Sibelius never directed (maybe because of his alcool problems) the RCO and that several times the RCO played some Sibelius things. But the fact is that we never have the Sibelius coffret of the RCO with all the symphonies like the excellent one I recommand of Neeme Jarvi with the Göteborg orchestra

        • topcorniste says:

          The Szell/Sibelius 2 is indeed sublime. No one phrased like Szell. I love today’s RCO who play as precisely as Cleveland did/does. The RCO carries 12 violas and 12 cellos which makes for a deep, fat string sound.

      • Frank says:

        I suggested a Sibelius Festival, so that the the RCO plays the entire cycle. In the Jansons era the 2nd was indeed performed, but the funny thing is Sibelius completed seven symphonies and numerous tone poems, and the RCO needs to absorb this music, in my humble opinion.

      • Peter van Laarhoven says:

        Jansons recorded Sibelius 2 with RCO on their own label

      • Fact Checker says:

        Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43


        Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
        George Szell
        Recorded: 1957-12-02
        Recording Venue: Concertgebouw, Amsterdam

    • Anarhimik says:

      They have scheduled Sibelius’s First for 20/21, though. But otherwise I fully agree – the great Finn is criminally, rarely performed by RCO

  • William Lau says:

    It’s really unfair to pick on Concertgebouw for trying its best to reschedule the Mahler Festival. Too much reshuffling and negotiations to get 5 prestigious and 1 up-and-coming orchestra to take part. Too easy to point the finger.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Let’s just hope that Leipzig happens. With all the scary stuff we read about singing and the coronavirus there’s potentially a lot of Mahler to cancel. Or change it to a composer whose symphonies have no vocal content, are well worth hearing, are beautifully written and are rarely performed – Sir Arnold Bax.

  • Arthur says:

    Talk to each other? Why would they, when each is in its own eyes very obviously the geographic and cultural center of the known universe?

  • Victoryman says:

    Tempest in a teapot. Mahler would not be pleased.

  • Gerhard von der Linde says:

    Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

    this is not true – the Gewandhaus Festival is not changed. The dates are set like this since over two years, since I have my tickets.

    Gerhard von der Linde

  • Barry Guerrrero says:

    My guess is that Marina Mahler and the Mahler Foundation may have been behind getting Amsterdam rescheduled so that it ‘piggy backs’ the Leipzig one – greatly as a matter of convenience and financial necessity. This way, many of the same artists don’t have to make two separate trips. If everyone is now onboard with this, it must have been a dazzling bit of negotiation skill to make it happen. The musical necessity or advantage of it is an entirely different debate.

  • MezzoLover says:

    Why should anyone criticize the two concert halls for staging dueling Mahler Festivals? Isn’t this a vindication of Mahler’s own claim “My time will come!”?

    In a letter of 31 January 1902 to Alma Schindler, then his fiancée, Mahler wrote about the evening they had had to spend with Richard Strauss and his wife Pauline, probably after the première of Strauss’s opera Feuersnot at the Vienna Court Opera:

    “…du hast mit Deiner Bemerkung über ihn in’s Schwarze getroffen. Und ordentlich stolz bin ich darauf, daß Du so spontan das Richtige getroffen. Nicht wahr, lieber zusammen das Brot der Armuth essen, und im Licht wandeln, als sich so verlieren an das Gemeine! Kommen wird die Zeit, da die Menschen die Spreu vom Weizen gesondert erblicken werden — und meine Zeit wird kommen, wenn die seine um ist…”

    “…you hit the bull’s eye with your comment about him. And I am really proud that you hit the truth so spontaneously. Is it not better to eat the bread of poverty together and walk in the light, rather than lose oneself thus in the dirt! The time will come, when men will see the chaff separated from the wheat — and my time will come when his is over…”

    Me? I will gladly skip both and plan for attending Leipzig’s 2022 Mendelssohn Festival commemorating the 175th anniversary of the composer’s death.

  • Dennis says:

    There has been ample evidence that there is very little risk that orchestras exacerbate the spread of this or any other virus (and never mind that the IFR is around 0.15-0.2% – about that of a severe flu season – and the general threat for the vast majority of people has been vastly overblown). Yet all we hear here and elsewhere is continual harping on the alleged need for “distancing,” even a freaking year from now, and banal exhortations to accept the “new normal.” No! This is not normal and a sane and free people should never accept it as such.

    Do yourself a favor and spend some time on Lockdown Sceptics, UnHerd, and Swiss Propaganda Research. Ditch the paranoia, stop parroting the Blob’s Narrative, get away from the bubble of self-reinforcing groupthink, and regain your mental and spiritual health and freedom (though it should also spur outrage and what is being done to the world using the virus as justification).

    The real disease destroying the world is mass fear and paranoia over what is in fact no more serious than a severe seasonal flu (no worse than the Hong Kong Flu of 1969 as well, and yet the world went on then, even music festivals like Woodstock!). Everything that gives the slightest bit of joy and beauty in the world is being willfully destroyed, for no good reason. And the worst virus is the world’s media and politicians.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Have that discussion with someone who ended up in a hospital. Or worse, someone who lost a family member to Covid – perhaps even a major ‘bread winner’ for a family. Go to northern Italy and Spain and peddle your line. Deaths in the U.S. are fast approaching 100,000. How many would it take before you admit that it’s something more and different than the flu? Have a look at how ‘herd immunity’ is working out for Sweden. And even more to the point, be sure to have a conversation with yourself, if you happen to get it and it turns into something a bit more nasty than a seasonal flu. Grow up.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Herd immunity is working pretty well for Sweden. Ultimately, without a vaccine, it will end up being the solution everywhere.

  • Pulat Tacar says:

    This a war between Amsterdam and Leipzig.According my humble opinion Leipzig started that war.That was not fair according Concergebouw.

  • Patrick G says:

    Amsterdam, do they have a general director and a conductor now?

  • Les says:

    The real shame is that both Festivals conflict with Colorado MahlerFest, the preeminent North American Mahler Festival which is scheduled for May13-17, 2021.

  • Marks says:

    Unacceptable not to have a coordination a synchronization
    Amsterdam should respect Leipzig dates and reschedule their festival long after or long before the dates taken by Leipzig !!
    Think about those who are coming from far away
    Thks for your consideration
    Liliane Marks