Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025

Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025. Blog, program, orchestras, conductors, soloists, tickets, accommodation, lectures, exhibitions, transport. Mahler Festival 2025.

Blog Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025

  • 14-03-2023: Mahler ringtone (listen and download): Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen – “Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht” (8s).
  • 04-03-2023: Informal confirmation that a Mahler Festival Amsterdam will be held in Amsterdam in May 2025. Source is not disclosed. Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025.
  • 08-06-2021: Mahler Festival is likely part of the celebration of Amsterdam’s 750th anniversary. Festivities in Amsterdam 750 from 27-10-2024 to 27-10-2025. 
  • 18-05-2021: Reconfirmation by Simon Reinink in The Mahler Hour of the Mahler Foundation. 
  • 16-05-2021: First mention of a new Mahler Festival Amsterdam that is being prepared by Simon Reinink in the TV program Podium Witteman.
  • 2021: Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2021 canceled due to the Corona pandemic.
  • 2020: Mahler Festival Amsterdam Online 2020.
  • 2020: Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2020 canceled due to the Corona pandemic.
Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025. Concertgebouw 1886.
Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025. Concertgebouw 1886.
Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025. Program book 1903.
Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025. Program book 1903.
Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025. Gustav Mahler 1907.
Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025. Gustav Mahler 1907.
Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025. Cornelis Dopper (1870-1939), Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), Hendrik Freijer (1876-1955), Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) and Alphons Diepenbrock (1862-1921) in Amsterdam 1909.
Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025. Cornelis Dopper (1870-1939), Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), Hendrik Freijer (1876-1955), Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) and Alphons Diepenbrock (1862-1921) in Amsterdam 1909.
Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025. Concertgebouw 2023.
Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025. Concertgebouw 2023.

Dutch commitment to Mahler

The Dutch commitment to Mahler began just over 100 years ago on the evening of June 9, 1902, when Mahler conducted the first performance of his Symphony No. 3 in the concert hall of Krefeld, a west German city near the Dutch border.


Among the audience caught up in the rapturous reception of the piece (the first big and unequivocal public success of Mahler’s composing career) were three Dutch musicians: Martin Heuckeroth, chief conductor in the Dutch city of Arnhem; Henri Viotta, director of The Hague Conservatory and founder of the city’s Residency Orchestra; and, most significantly, the 31-year-old Willem Mengelberg.


Mengelberg had been plucked from youthful obscurity in 1895 at the age of 24 to become chief conductor of Amsterdam’s still fairly young Concertgebouw Orchestra. He remained its director until 1945, spanning an amazing half-century. By 1899 his international reputation was already such that Richard Strauss dedicated his symphonic poem A Hero’s Life to him.


The Dutch response to the Krefeld performance was decisive. Heuckeroth programmed the first performance of Mahler’s Third outside Germany and Austria at his Arnhem Festival in 1903. Soon after, Mengelberg persuaded Mahler to travel to Amsterdam to conduct the Concertgebouw Orchestra and its associated choral forces in the same work.


Used to having to work hard to bring other orchestras up to somewhere near the standards he expected in Vienna, Mahler raised his baton at the first rehearsal and was stunned at the splendid sound that greeted him. “It’s breathtaking,” he wrote afterwards. “The orchestra is excellent and has been very well prepared.” A children’s choir of 200 voices and a 330-strong women’s choir were exemplary.

Mahler wrote after the first performance: “Musical culture in this country is stupendous. These people really know how to listen!” His remark still holds good. Amsterdam is a city where the Concertgebouw (“Concert Building”) fills rapidly in response to a program of new music.


Three years later Mahler was back in Amsterdam to enjoy conducting “superbly prepared” performances of his Fifth Symphony (“such as was not bettered in Vienna”) and his early choral work Das klagende Lied, and to record a strong success with “first-class reviews” in the Flemish city of Antwerp in neighbouring Belgium.


By this time Mahler was ready to hail Mengelberg as his principal champion: “The only one to whom I feel I could entrust a work of mine with complete peace of mind.”


Mengelberg never lost his enthusiasm for Mahler, placing the composer second in his personal table of loyalty only to Beethoven, or his determination to support him in performance. After years of regularly programming Mahler’s works, in 1920 he directed at the Concertgebouw a complete cycle of his standard orchestral pieces in nine concerts organised by his musicologist-composer nephew, Rudolf.


The Austrian musicologist Kurt Blaukopf, author of several studies of the composer, has acknowledged in handsome terms what the Netherlands meant to Mahler: “In Holland … he immediately felt himself to be understood. The devoted advocacy of the conductor Willem Mengelberg, and the musical comprehension shown by audiences and performers alike, created for him the ‘musical homeland’ that he had elsewhere sought in vain.”


Alas, Mengelberg in wartime showed much less ability than the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwaengler (subject of a recent film, Taking Sides, on the meshing of artistic and political integrity) to understand how his activities could serve an unsympathetic propaganda purpose. Of German parentage, Mengelberg was apparently unable to comprehend the foulness of the Nazi regime and made personal gestures of support for it.


At least his championship of Mahler did not falter. Rehearsing the Vienna Philharmonic during World War II he rapped his baton angrily at the orchestra’s subservience to current policy and called out: “And the most beautiful that there is, Mahler, you do not play!”


The Dutch banned Mengelberg from conducting in the Netherlands after 1945 (something he never understood) and he died in Switzerland in 1951. After his death, however, the Concertgebouw Orchestra dedicated a concert conducted by the indomitable Otto Klemperer to him and included in it the sublimely lingering farewell movement (Der Abschied) that ends The Song of the Earth.


Edo de Waart, unlike his elder contemporary Bernard Haitink, was too young to have more than a small child’s impression of the Mengelberg legacy at first hand. He was a child of the Concertgebouw, however, where all his professional tutors were members of the orchestra, and his first conducting teacher had been an assistant to Mengelberg.


Neither de Waart nor Haitink (each of whom has recorded complete sets of the standard Mahler symphonies) resembles in style the extravagantly wilful manner of Mengelberg, who pulled tempos about for the sake of vivid pointing and didn’t hesitate to rescore passages on the basis of claimed personal communication or tradition.


Each, of them, however, was able to draw effectively on the firm Dutch assumption, instilled by Mengelberg and other musicians, that Mahler could be regarded as one of the cornerstones of an interpretative musician’s career. That assumption is now universal. Mahler Festival Amsterdam 2025