Update: Two Mahler Festivals are cancelled

Update: Two Mahler Festivals are cancelled


norman lebrecht

February 11, 2021

The Concertgebouw has lost its central piece of programming. Here’s what they are telling ticket-holders:


According to our records, you have purchased one or more tickets for the Mahler Festival 2021. Due to the restrictions for concert halls and traveling orchestras due to the pandemic, we regrettably have to cancel the festival. This follows consultation with all the orchestras and conductors involved.

What should I do with my concert tickets?
You can exchange your concert tickets for a voucher, which you can then use to purchase tickets for a different concert of your choice at The Concertgebouw. The voucher will be valid for a period of two years from the date of issue. Should you not wish to attend another concert, you can choose to convert your concert tickets into a donation, or request a refund.

If you donate your tickets, we share the proceeds with the performers of the relevant concerts. Every amount donated is received with great gratitude. Your donation is regarded as a contribution to the ANBI The Concertgebouw Fund and is deductible with your income tax return (if you are a resident of The Netherlands).

UPDATE: Leipzig has also pulled out.

The international Mahler festival, which should have taken place in the Gewandhaus in mid-May 2021, is postponed to 2023 due to the pandemic-caused framework conditions.
The dynamic changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic bring great uncertainties for event and travel planning. In order to ensure timely planning security for the audience, the invited orchestras, conductors, choirs, soloists and the Gewandhaus as organizers, it is therefore necessary to postpone the festival until 2023
Tickets already purchased do not apply for 2023 and will be refunded.
The two announcements have clearly been synchronised.


  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    I’m disappointed, as I was going to two concerts but I’d rather be safe than sorry and thank them for taking all precautions.

  • sam says:

    “If you donate your tickets…”

    New fund raising method: announce an ambitious, pie-in-the-sky, completely unrealizable program, then cancel, and hope that some percentage of patrons will forego the hassle of a refund.


  • Maria says:

    What a surprise! You can’t reinvent a pandemic with endless hope, only to be followed by even more disappointment. Then people wondering why, coming up with all manner of solutions, bashing up those who have to make such difficult decisions on the advice of world advisers. I don’t envy them but the cancellation of this is just one event of many.

  • Derek H says:

    Not a good sign for full scale concerts with audiences returning any time soon.

    In the absence of live music, any recommendations for the best recordings of Mahler’s symphonies 2 and 3?

    • phf655 says:

      Bernard Haitink’s performances in the ‘Kerstconcert’ box issued years ago on Phillips are extraordinary. For a time Haitink and the Concertgebouw performed a Mahler symphony for broadcast each year on Christmas Day. All of them were then issued in one box set, including symphonies 2 and 3. These are not to be confused with the studio recordings. The ‘Kerstconcert’ box is long out of print, but you can usually find copies on ‘e bay’. All of the performances in the box are worth owning.

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        Haitink’s Kerstmatinee box is great, as you suggest, but it’s also a tad expensive and not always easy to find. If I may make two less expensive recommendations . . . For M2, I’m not sure you could do a whole lot better than the recent Osma Vanska/Minnesota Orch. one on BIS. Not only is the sound quality excellent, but Vanska is surprisingly ’emotionally involved’. There are many others, of course. Even Bernstein’s first N.Y. Phil. one is excellent. Abbado’s last M2 recording, made at the Lucerne Festival, is also really good. . . . For M3, I like the recent Jaap van Zweden/Dallas Symphony one. N.Y’s Joe Alessi plays the trombone solo on that one (he was subbing). Abbado’s later Berlin one is also very recommendable (DG). For me, Bernstein’s earlier N.Y. Phil. M3 is preferable to his DG remake. Others may feel differently.

    • ShamelessMahlerWorshipper says:

      It can be a little unorthodox (dare I say blasphemous at times) but Mehta’s Symphony 2 with the Israel Philharmonic is absolutely insane. Probably the most action packed and climactic Symphony 2 recording I’ve heard. You have to experience it once even if you end up not liking it. I second the suggestion for Haitink, I’m not entirely sure if I possess the same Philips recording but Haitink’s Wunderhorn Symphonies are impossible to go wrong with. His older recording for the 3rd is mesmerising.

    • Micaelo Cassetti says:

      I’ve always had a big soft spot for Klemperer in Amsterdam, 1951, with Jo Vincent and Kathleen Ferrier. Certainly agree with others that Haitink is an excellent choice for no. 3

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        I think the knock-out Klemperer one, is the 1965 stereo recording of a live performance in Munich (Bavarian Radio S.O.) with Janet Baker. I love that one.

    • J Barcelo says:

      These two symphonies demand the best sound possible. If you have good surround system, both symphonies are well served by Ivan Fischer and his Budapest orchestra on Channel Classics.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      I can already see the downward thumbs, but after being raised on Mahler (my dad had/has Bernstein’s first traversal on Columbia in this huge black box of LPs with a fake bronze medallion on the spine), I have to go with Boulez/Wiener Philharmoniker (DG) for both II. and III. I heard him/them do both live and they totally changed the way I listen to Mahler. These were life-changing experiences for me, as was Gatti’s IX. with the Concertgebouw.

    • Derek H says:

      Thank you all for your great suggestions.
      You have given me plenty of further exploring and listening to do!

      We all know it is worth hearing several versions of these symphonies before choosing any favourites.

  • Alank says:

    I guess you just earned yourself a “Dutch Treat” The Leipzig festival had a better line up in my view anyway. Now we also know that if anything goes awry, Leipzig will refund the international traveler.

  • If there’s only one orchestra, the local one, for this kind of event it’s possible to make the show with 50% of the tickets sold, but if you want to invite foreigns orchestras it’s impossible to make some money

  • Tony says:

    I wonder if this means May and June are off at this point for Europe too…

    • Christopher Culver says:

      Probably. Romania’s major health adviser for this pandemic just recently said that chances are, even in August large gatherings of people (like, for example, concerts) will not be allowed. If that is the outlook in Eastern Europe, I would expect it to be just as bad in Western Europe where the authorities have generally been more heavy-handed with restrictions.

    • Ilio says:

      UK is banning non-essential travel in 2021, so music festivals featuring UK orchestras will be affected.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      I know this is wildly optimistic, but in Austria’s bizarre “traffic light” system to rate COVID danger in which all nine states have been stuck in “red” for months, Wien and Oberösterreich have just been dropped a notch to orange.

      Of course, the rest of the country – especially Tirol – remains “red” so there goes Salzburg, Bregenz, and the Early Music Festival in Innsbruck.

      Another possibility is that, prior to becoming a full-time opera house in 2006, Theater an der Wien was used for musicals from September through June, and in the summer months the now-defunct KlangBogen Festival would stage at least two operas at the house, and possibly more in other locations, plus a lot of concerts. It was managed by Roland Geyer, who has been Intendant of the house since it was rededicated, and they did some truly wonderful stuff (Bloch’s “Macbeth”, Leoncavallo’s “La bohème”, Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta” 20 years ago with a young unknown tenor named Beczała).

      The theatre now has new productions or “Figaro” and “Thais” all ready to go (both have been taped for broadcast and/or DVD release), and announced this week they are going ahead with rehearsals for “The Fiery Angel”. My ticket for “Thais” was not automatically refunded: they guaranteed a seat for a future date, and if Wien manages to drop its rate of new infections, maybe there will be music in the summer again.

      I was there in September for “Zazà” and regulations were strict: specific entries/exits, masks mandatory during the performance, no intervals, hand sanitizers all over the place, regulated bathrooms, no buffet, and less than 50% capacity (I was seated on the aisle so I came at the last minute and was out the door with minimum contact; no one next to, in front of, or behind me).

  • Chris says:

    Moscow though is going ahead with performing all 15 Shostakovich symphonies beginning next week…


  • JussiB says:

    i’m still getting bra ads, only on Norman’s website. don’t know why.