Book Review

on musicians


© Aart van der Wal, August 2019


Frits Zwart: Conductor Willem Mengelberg 1871-1951 - Acclaimed and Accused

Volume 1: 1871-1920
Volume 2: 1920-1951

Amsterdam University Press 2019
ISBN 9789462986053
1354 pages, hardback, illustrated
Sales price € 199,--

Click here for the review of the Dutch edition

This edition is not just a translated version of the Dutch editions from 1999 (volume 1: 1871-1920) and 2016 (volume 2: 1920-1951), but also contains significant improvements and even more comprehensive appendixes. Unlike the Dutch edition, the English translation is published in one book.

The biography comprises two volumes in chronological order covering the nine most important stages in Mengelberg's musical and personal life in different periods: 1871-1895: youth, studies in Cologne, music director in Lucerne; 1895-1904: music director in Amsterdam; 1904-1911: The Hague Orchestra, abroad, Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss; 1911-1920: world conductor, First world War, engagements, opera, 25th anniversary, personal life; 1920-1930: Amsterdam, New York; 1930-1933: London, tax problems, horrors, overwrought and overworked, St. Matthew Passion, Mahler's Tenth, recordings; 1933-1940: interest in politics, allied with the German people, Hitler, Mussolini, setbacks, Mengelberg and Germany, financial disaster, Mengelberg through the eyes of musicians; 1940-1945: interviews, concerts, tours during the Second World War; 1945-1951: banned. Isolated, appeal, frustration, Chasa Mengelberg, death, settling the estate. A fascinating variety of interluding chapters and illuminating topics beyond their chronological context provide further enhanced reading.

Important steps
In 1981, author Frits Zwart started to work in the music department of the Hague Municipal Museum ('Gemeentemuseum'). His responsibilities and tasks included the Mengelberg Archives which had originally been housed at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Zwart's interest in Mengelberg gradually developed and as of 1989 he started researching and describing Mengelberg's 'facts of life'. His research became official after having received the museum's formal commission.

Zwart finished the first volume of the (Dutch) biography in 1999 as his PhD thesis, expecting to complete the second volume some six years later. However, the circle of events changed considerably by 2000, when the Netherlands Music Institute (NMI), specifically dedicated to the Dutch music culture heritage, was founded and Zwart was named as its director. Very extensive years followed, with no real opportunity to continue the Mengelberg biography. Moreover, in 2010, Dutch cultural subsidies were severely cut by the Government, also jeopardizing the NMI's future. Fortunately, the NMI was 'saved' by a merge in 2016 with The Hague Municipal Archive ('Haags Gemeentearchief'). A positive outcome which also opened the gates to further working on and finalising the second volume of the Mengelberg biography.

There are two editions, subsequently in Dutch and English. The latter is not just a translated version of both the Dutch editions from 1999 (volume 1: 1871-1920) and 2016 (volume 2: 1920-1951), but also contains significant improvements and even more comprehensive appendixes.

Willem Mengelberg conducts the Concertgebouw Orchestra in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw

Gains and losses
However, this is by all means the first biography in the English language that covers almost each and every aspect of Mengelberg's live as an artist and as an individual. Furthermore, new discoveries and additional fact finding have contributed to even more exposure of this fascinating character. At the same token we need to realise that despite the wealth of information still part of the material has been lost and most probably forever. This applies for instance to the complete archive of Mengelberg's personal assistant Ellie Bijsterus Heemskerk (a former violinist, nicknamed 'Aunt Ellie'), who played a very important role in his life. This happened in quite a later stage, in 1988, although a very minor portion could be recovered. Whether she was his lover cannot be ascertained (probably she was). She destroyed part of the documents in her possession, presumably because of their incriminating content.

However, other materials could luckily be acquired, among them lots of assorted documents from the period prior to 1908. In addition, in December 1997, a large collection of nearly two hundred letters could even be rescued from a planned auction in its last stage. These letters had been written by prominent musicians in the period 1904-1925, many of them addressed to Hendrik Freijer, at that time the administrator of the Concertgebouw. New materials were also found at Chasa Mengelberg*, the conductor's resort in the Swiss Engadin, where he spent much of his free time. As of 2004, the (Swiss) Willem Mengelberg Foundation prepared the sales of both the house, the surrounding buildings and the adjacent lands. It was finally sold, but the Swiss buyer declared that he would keep the house and all that belonged to it in its preserved state. The author stayed there more than once to search and study documents, annotated books, magazines, photo collections, invoices, letters, etc. One of his latest discoveries were substantial piles of newspapers with Mengelberg's own handwritten remarks on them. Part of these revealed that he considered Germany to be the victim of the allies, that he sympathised with Hitler and that he shared his resentments in respect of the Weimar Republic (as so many did at that time). It will also not have helped that major part of Mengelberg's deposited fortune in Germany had vanished due to the extremely high inflation rate which hit the nation deeply. His anti-Semitism may have been fostered by an occurence in 1936, when Sam Bottenheim, his assistant and a converted Jew, evaporated most of Mengelberg's funds deposited in the Netherlands through his irresponsible speculations in the stock market, of which the conductor had no knowledge at all. Mengelberg had earned most of the money in the twenties already, during his very successful tenure with the New York Philharmonic, until he was dismissed in 1930 by the board of directors (mainly occupied by Jewish bankers and patrons) in favour of Arturo Toscanini. Mengelberg would never return.

Wlllem Mengelberg conducting the New York Philharmonic in the twenties

Anti-Jewish sentiments are also found in a quotation from the diary of Nora Mengelberg-Wubbe, niece of Mengelberg's wife Tilly: that Mengelberg was happy with the Germans cleansing his country from the Jews.

In 1992, the newly found Willem Mengelberg Archive Foundation ('Stichting Het Willem Mengelberg Archief') acquired the complete collection from its Swiss counterparts. Although a limited number of valuable papers had been sold already, this important acquisition finally stopped selling anymore documents in the future. The substantial Mengelberg archives could from now on be preserved and kept in The Netherlands. The required funds to purchase the substantial legacy came from individuals, businesses, cultural institutions and the Dutch government. The collection included Mengelberg's (annotated!) scores, manuscripts, concert programs, correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings and memorabilia. All of this was available for further research and biographical explorations.

Outstanding builder
Was Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) the greatest conductor in Dutch musical history? According to Frits Zwart, the author of this quite substantial (over 1300 pages) and multi-layered biography, he undeniably was.

It is factually true that as the principal conductor of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra neither Mengelberg's predecessor Willem Kes (1856-1934) nor his immediate successor Eduard van Beinum (1901-1959) has ever come close to Mengelberg's international reputation and career. Moreover, he was undisputedly one of the most exemplary orchestral trainers, an outstanding builder of orchestral ensembles and above all a perfectionist in his own right. His notorious rehearsals boosted performances which were cherished all over the world by both musicians and audiences.

The famous Philips LP-set

It was Mengelberg and no one else who created one of the most renowned orchestras in the world: the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Within this tremendous artistic scope of global dimensions the annual performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw was nothing more than just a local sideline. Although a sideline that would become a strong annual musical tradition in this country ever since and up to this very day. And it was the live recording made on Palm Sunday 2 April 1939 that made consecutive generations aware of Mengelberg as a conductor after all.

L'art pour l'art
It is quite unfortunate that Mengelberg's imposing musical career is until this very day sturdily overshadowed by his pro-German wartime sentiments. In an interview in 'Völkischer Beobachter', a pro-Nazi German newspaper, Mengelberg clearly pointed to the Dutch capitulation 'as a great moment, with Europe arriving at new ways'.

Willem Mengelberg (left) with the German governor Arthur Seyss­Inquart in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, October 1940

This did not make him a pro-Nazi by definition, but his tireless touring to conduct all over Europe clearly reveals the opportunistic mindset of an artist who was foremost interested in how to practise his art and to take all financial and non-financial benefits from it under the most pressing wartime conditions. In this his attitude was not different from many that of many others in his and other professions. We know the most striking examples: Wilhelm Furtwängler and Richard Strauss. It was this behaviour that labelled him after the war a collaborator with the (former) enemy and finally terminated any still in his mind residing future perspective of his conducting in the Netherlands and even beyond. The (Dutch) Honorary Tribunal for Music ('Ereraad voor de Muziek') made it ultimately official by banning Mengelberg for the rest of his life from conducting again in The Netherlands. Moreover, the ban appeared to have a worldwide impact after the Dutch government took each and every effort to obstruct any of Mengelberg's attempts to grant him, a Dutch citizen, a passport that would permit him to conduct abroad. As a consequence, Mengelberg withdrew from public appearance and refuged in his house in the Swiss Alps. Facing almost complete isolation, he died in his chalet on 21 March 1951, just one week before his 80th birthday and shortly after the Honorary Tribunal for Music had lifted the ban.

With Richard Strauss en Hans Swarowsky

Compliant with the Nazi regime, Mengelberg had to pay a high price and not only in the last stages of his life. In most post war publications his name was either shunned out or only briefly mentioned, even in memoires and other publications by his contemporaries like Igor Stravinsky, Fritz Kreisler and Pablo Casals, important musicians who had intensively worked with him on more than one occasion. As if this influential conductor had never existed.

Mengelberg's importance
The underlying question needs to be answered: how important was Mengelberg as a conductor from both a native and international perspective? Was he really that great? No question about it that he achieved rapid international fame with his ensemble and he harvested admiration from his professional colleagues, musicians and composers. It must also be said that the Concertgebouw Orchestra under his baton became an important centre for contemporary music. His strong commitments to his composing contemporaries Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss ('Ein Heldenleben' was dedicated to Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra) were as important as his warm interest in the music of Alphons Diepenbrock, Max Reger, Ernest Bloch, Igor Stravinsky, Paul Hindemith and many others. But there were also composer he either neglected, rejected or even insulted, like Matthijs Vermeulen, one of his severest critics.

Mengelberg's copy of the score of Richard Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'

If his greatness is indeed undeniable, it does not by definition mean that he was also the greatest conductor in the history of Dutch music (Zwart). As always in matters like these, the question of how to qualify pops up.

Eduard van Benum's reign (1945-1959) was far too short (he collapsed unexpectedly during a rehearsal) to ever reach Mengelberg's status, but also elementary changes in social relations and the fact that he was not the type of maestro with iron fist but foremost a primus inter pares, played their part. Also, Van Beinum's predilection for the French repertoire and the Bruckner symphonies did not stimulate worldwide recognition. That would change with Bernard Haitink, Van Beinum's successor. As from the sixties it would to be become quite a different ballgame all together. To put things in perspective: Van Beinum's artistry was undisputable, as was Haitink's, but times had changed. In addition, Mengelberg's uncommitted and elevated attitude towards the musicians (with newcomers among them) would never have worked in those years after the war anyway.

Mengelberg's musical skills and musicianship were never questioned. On the contrary, he was highly admired, although the orchestral sheen of gold mainly derived from rehearsing to the extreme, consequently taxing each and every orchestra he worked with to its upper limits. No wonder that many musicians found him on the edge of dictatorship or even a merciless ruler, which was not unusual in those days, not to speak of the period prior to 1920, when orchestral rehearsals were far from common. Mengelberg was the type of conductor who had not much grace or patience on offer and could there easily sparkle disrespect, awe or even fear. He did not show particular interest in the man behind the instrument, but instead focused on what he primarily wanted to achieve: a beautiful orchestral sound as a whole.

High quality in orchestral playing had to be build up, which was impossible without great efforts and sacrifies, both by Mengelberg and the orchestra. Subsequently, the rehearsals under his baton were highly stressful, but also accompanied by lots of his talking, his urge to explain each and every aspect of the music on hand. This was and stil is what most musicians in the orchestra do not like. However, it was Mengelberg's inevitable way of working, part of his 'method', but also in his character. In short a habit he could not rehearse without it. The author notes that the anecdotes and metaphors that Mengelberg used would reappear repeatedly and at the exact same places in the music, becoming in themselves something comical, contributing to his caricature. This verbosity was consistently characteristic of Mengelberg's methodology throughout his entire career. Quite different from the 'economical' Arthur Nikisch and the almost obsessive Arturo Toscanini (he was known for his meticulous fidelity, wanting each and every detail exactly in place and raged when it was even a mere shade less than that). Interesting to know that both these conductors got what they wanted and, compared with Mengelberg but also Mahler, quite quickly.

From left to right: Willem Mengelberg, Gustav Mahler and Alphons Diepenbrock in the surroundings of Hilversum,
10 March 1906

Control of craft
The Austrian musicologist Richard Specht (1870-1932) wrote in 1920: 'When other conductors concluded their studies, Mengelberg was just getting started'. It was compulsory to Mengelberg to prepare 100 per cent and that not a single note, accent, phrase or dynamic was to be left to chance. Mengelberg could drill any good orchestra to his specific wishes. In 1928, Stravinsky attended Mengelberg's performance of Strauss' 'Ein Heldenleben' with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, noting: 'what horrible music! And how much care and certainty Mengelberg put into its performance!'

Today we can hardly imagine Mengelberg's fame. Together with Arturo Toscanini he was on top of all orchestras and audiences. A mere example of his popularity was demonstrated in Frankfurt in May 1929, after the performance of 'Ein Heldenleben', when a frenzied audience made hem return to the podium no less than 25 times.

The rehearsals determined the performance from start to finish, with every member of the orchestra subordinate to his rules of interpretation. What he wanted to achieve in the first place was sheer beauty of orchestral sound by means of strict ensemble discipline. That was his ambition, thereby lacking almost complete interest in the musical and technical qualities of each individual musician. In these compelling principles lay his power. His mission, technical control, the most beautiful sound possible, could only be realised, as Mengelberg himself expressed, by control of the craft'.

Of course, this 'control of the craft' was also reflected in the performance itself. No coincidences, no 'let's see how it goes tonight', but each and every detail painstakingly rehearsed instead. This was surely not Furtwängler's 'method', which was just the opposite. But that did not make him a less successful conductor, on the contrary! While Toscanini's rehearsals where much more compressed, but more often than not with brilliant, for some even unsurpassable results. It is common fact that long, painstaking rehearsals do not necessarily make greater performances, let alone greater interpretations. 'Reading back' Mengelberg's performances (for instance of his Beethoven symphonies on the Philips label) only clearly shows Mengelberg's music making on the level of perfection, but in terms of interpretation it could only stretch so far as as he wanted it to be. Those listeners who feel that they are fairly outdated by now might be right, as time is moving on.

Zwart writes that 'Mengelberg's concerts were known for their technical perfection as well as interpretations that were built from the understanding and recognition of the fundamental architecture of a piece. The playing was homogeneous, the rhythms were precise, there was a strongly developed attention to detail, the tempi were flexible, and everything was of a transparent, clear sound thanks to close attention being paid to balance'. Consistent perfection on hand, so to speak, but technical perfection as such does not tell the full story of the score. The real determining factor is the interpretation as a whole.

Which brings us to Mengelberg's often excessive use of portamento (sliding from one note to the other). As we look at it today, even slight portamento can be a distraction of any performance, no matter its so-called 'perfection' (even if this means perfection as orchestral standards at that time demanded.

Mengelberg's copy of the score of Mahler's Fourth symphony

It might now sound rather amazing, but the Concertgebouw Orchestra under the baton of Mengelberg was until the Second World War the only European orchestra left that still maintained a quite prominent portamento style.

It is no less remarkable that recordings show that the orchestra was not even fundamentally (by convention or tradition) wired for that, but that it was Mengelberg, assisted in this by his concertmaster, who required specific fingerings at specific places in the score. These eccentrics defied the general trend of orchestral playing in those years.

These frequently adopted and strongly exaggerated portamenti must therefore have been carefully prepared by Mengelberg, and - like vibrato - obviously for reasons of ultimate expression. Soloists of all kinds preferred to use portamento as well, with memorable violinists like Fritz Kreisler and Jascha Heifetz in the first ranks. It had the overall effect of a pouncing accent. Mengelberg also liked to carefully rehearse special portamento effects at the (even if only suggested!) climax of a melody, like in the slow movement of Tchaikovsky's Fifth symphony. Portamento was just a 'tool' in his hands to realise the ultimate expression. And he had the perfect example on hand: Gustav Mahler. But he may also have been reassured by talking to Modest, de brother of Pjotr Tchaikovsky. At least that is what he once said.

The 'Mengelberg portamento effect' was mainly reserved for 'his' Concertgebouw Orchestra. Remarkably, we do not hear something similar at his appearances as a guest conductor, as for example with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1940. The difference is even striking: slides are rare, the overall playing is even more linear but highly effective, with no 'special effects' to draw attention to. There is good reason to believe that during his short stay he was not able or not permitted to press his portamento style on the Berlin orchestra, which was at that time under the baton of another strong character: Wilhelm Furtwängler. That makes one thing certain: Mengelberg's portamento style was cultivated and preserved in Amsterdam over many years, but making it very hard or even impossible to introduce it to any other European orchestra.

And in the United States? At least one conductor shared some of Mengelberg's characteristics: Leopold Stokowski, Mengelberg's contemprary and principal conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He also adopted the portamento style, and in such a fashion that it finally became the orchestra's second nature, although much less explicity rehearsed than in Amsterdam. Stokowski also defended his rule that orchestral bowing should never be identical. At the opposite is Arturo Toscanini who used to conduct the New York Philharmonic in such a straightforwarded manner and with tempo changes as little as possible that his legacy still sounds modern even on this very day. No matter the composer or the work on hand.

Those readers who would like to verify the various playing styles including portamento with other orchestras and ensembles are, of course, referred to the vast discographic legacy from the beginning of recording.

Evaluating Mengelberg as an interpreter also means evaluating him as a censor, because this is what he frequently did: 'improving' part of the repertoire he conducted. No wonder that he was strongly criticized for his subjective 'tracheotomy', and aspecially after his lifetime. It was all based on Mengelberg's fundamental idea that composers did not always fully grasp the practicalities of their own work. It was the kind of blunt arrogance coming from both his character, his background (he was also a composer himself) and his own score studies and performance practises. And it must be said that in his era he was not the only one making important changes in the score. The list is even quite long, ranging from Wagner, Von Bülow, Mahler, Weingartner and Toscanini to Schoenberg.

Mahler's retouches were often even more invasive than Mengelberg, as can be seen from the scores kept in the Mengelberg Archive. Mahler made quite substantial retouches (in the notes), while Mengelberg restricted to adding or changing articulations and dynamics, or making changes in the original instrumentation.

Zwart remarks that to date, no systematic study of the substantial scale of retouches has been scholarly undertaken, even none comparing the various manuscripts, so a great deal of mystery remains concerning the origin of many of the alterations made by Mengelberg, but also of the retouches by Mahler and Wüllner in Mengelberg's own scores. The different ink colours used are unquestionably helpful, but they only offer a partial explanation. For the listener the main issue remains obvious that what is heard in Mengelberg's performance does not necessarily resemble the 'truth of the score'.

Mengelberg's copy of the score of Mahler's Fifth symphony

As a biographer, Frits Zwart has done more than an excellent job in exploring the life, works and times of Willem Mengelberg. In his critical biography even sensitive subjects are handled with great care, with not the slightest hint of covering something up. On the contrary, Zwart's clear writing and his aversion of shunning any unpleasant detail give the reader a deeply rooted and multi-layered insight in one of the most controversial personalities and greatest musical minds in the world of classical music to date. It took Zwart seventeen years to accomplish the huge task of framing what can be regarded as a habitually very complicated life with lots of ups and downs, but victorious when it came to music. It is all there, in both volumes, with also lots of insights 'behind the scenes'. Zwart did not trap into the pitfall of speculations or window dressing. His elaborations prove his sincerity in each and every aspect of what has become history.

One minor point: despite the great number of appendixes there is one missing: the Mengelberg discography. In only this instance is the author rather laid-back by simply referring to the Willem Mengelberg site, but this is not what it should be. It is the only minor point in a generously laid-out standard work that uncovers so much and in such great detail that it will effortlessly let the reader dazzle at first. In short, this is a biography of a lifetime on a subject that almost begged for explorations of this incredible magnitude.

Table of Contents
List of Figures IX
Acknowledgements 1
First Period 1871-1895 11
The Mengelberg family 11
Youth in Utrecht: 1871-1888 18
Studies in Cologne: 1888-1892 26
Music Director in Lucerne: 1892-1895 41
The Concertgebouw Orchestra prior to 1895 54
Vacancy at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw 62
Second Period 1895-1904 69
Music Director in Amsterdam 69
Repertoire 74
Soloists 82
Reviews 86
Position at the Concertgebouw 92
Discipline 96
Salaries 100
Increased stature 101
Franz Wüllner 103
Nikisch, Strauss, and Richter 107
Conductor of the Toonkunstkoor 114
Netherlands Music Festival 1902 124
Parsifal, 1902 127
Concerts Abroad 133
Tensions Mount 140
Hutschenruyter’s Dismissal 147
Conflict Resolved 155
Filling the Vacancies 161
Personal Life: ‘Being together is the best for mankind’ 172
Third Period 1904-1911 185
Artistic Policy 185
The Hague Orchestra Question 195
Guest Conductors 201
Tensions between Mengelberg and the Board 207
‘Will Frankfurt usurp him?’ 213
Abroad I: America 220
Abroad II: Invitations, Conditions, Ovations 228
Abroad III: Russia, 1909-1910 239
Entr’acte 1: Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss 247
‘The only one whom I trust with my work with complete confijidence’ 247
‘Freund und Mitstreiter’: friend and comrade 264
‘Hotel Mengelberg’ 273
‘After all, I know your music through and through’: Strauss and
Mengelberg 278
‘Stand your ground, do not waiver’ 286
Fourth Period, 1911-1920 299
Repertoire: passing interests 299
Schoenberg 303
Mengelberg and music from The Netherlands 308
Diepenbrock 310
The Netherlands Music Festival 1912 314
‘Maestro’ 320
‘Aufschwung’ (booming) in Frankfurt 327
‘Des Helden Widersacher’ I: Paul Bekker 341
‘A world Conductor’: Berlin, London 351
The First World War 358
Engagements, opera 378
Vienna 381
‘Des Helden Widersacher’ II: Matthijs Vermeulen 388
A ‘coup’ by Evert Cornelis 397
Farewell to Frankfurt 404
Exploring engagements in America; a fijinal concert in Frankfurt 409
A major fête: Mengelberg’s 25th anniversary 413
Entr’acte 2: Personal life 433
The relationship between Willem and Tilly 433
Chasa Mengelberg in Switzerland: ‘favored by the gods’ 440
Interests in the arts 447
Fifth Period 1920-1930 451
Amsterdam, 1920-1921 451
Developments, 1920 451
After the Mahler Festival: on to Zuort 454
Rudi, Tilly, Willem, Nora 462
Schoenberg, ‘Composer in Residence’, 1920-1921 465
Tensions: Hendrik Freijer-Rudi Mengelberg, Autumn, 1920 470
In Amsterdam at last, November 1920 473
To America, December 1920 476
New York, ‘conquering America’, 1921 479
At work 479
First concerts with the National Symphony Orchestra 485
Novelties 489
‘Willem Mengelberg and Clarence Mackay have conquered the
old fortress’, February-March 1921 493
Farewell and Evaluation, March 1921 500
Amsterdam, 1921 503
A colleague for Mengelberg: Karl Muck in Amsterdam 503
Back in The Netherlands, April 1921 508
On tour to Spain and Italy, May 1921 511
Wonderful Zuort, 1921-1923 516
The Schäfer Incident, October 1921 525
New York, 1922-1924 530
Hectic New York 530
‘Mahleritis Under Control’ 536
Programming 540
Mengelberg’s Manager: Sam Bottenheim 543
Deems Taylor: ‘The Greatest of All is Undoubtedly Willem
Mengelberg’, Spring, 1922 547
Permanently in Charge at the New York Philharmonic 551
Amsterdam 1921-1925 555
Concerts in Amsterdam: ‘How Willem elaborates a new work
is fabulous’ 555
French Music Festival, September-October 1922 557
Finances, 1923 561
Trip to Paris, May 1924 564
Negative Repercussions for Amsterdam, a Crisis Concerning
Mengelberg’s Contract, 1923-1924 567
Mengelberg and Monteux: Mutual respect 572
Revitalized in Zuort 576
New York, 1924-1925 578
The Philharmonic is Nearly Perfect 578
‘The high-water mark in the annals of the Philharmonic has
been reached’: Mengelberg, Furtwängler and Toscanini at the
Philharmonic 586
Amsterdam, 1925-1930 593
Rudi Mengelberg’s ambitions to become Artistic Manager 593
Loyal to the Concertgebouw 595
Concert Tours 598
An Extensive Conflict with Dutch Tax Authorities, 1929 602
New York, 1927-1930 608
At any price: Toscanini in New York, 1927-1928 608
Honorary Doctorate from Columbia University 612
Merger with the New York Symphony Orchestra, June 1928 615
A European Tour? 1929 620
A Last Appearance in New York, December 1929-January 1930 625
The relationship with the New York Philharmonic ends, 1930 628
Reflection 632
Health 633
Sixth Period 1930-1933 639
Disappointed, overwrought and overworked 639
Conductor in London, 1930-1931 639
Problems with Taxes: A Question of Prestige? 642
Audiences with the Pope and Mussolini, 1930 646
Inundated with Honors, 1930-1932 647
Edna Richolson Sollitt: groupie avant la lettre 652
Huge Bill for Back Taxes, 1932 655
Absent from Amsterdam, 1933-1934 661
An End to the Tax Question, 1933 664
Entr’acte 3: Interludes 667
St. Matthew Passion: sacred practices with the Toonkunstkoor 667
Mahler’s unfijinished Tenth Symphony, 1923-1924 675
Mengelberg, Stravinsky, Respighi, 1922-1933 680
Mengelberg and Toscanini according to Sargeant and Saminsky 689
Repertoire 692
The Museum-Theater, 1925-1929 699
Plans for an Opera House, 1925-1926 699
Conductor of the Wagner Society? 1926 702
Strauss and Mengelberg, a signifijicant diffference in views, 1928 704
Finale, 1928-1929 706
Tilly’s vacation home in Krefeld 711
Performing for Grammophone and Radio 714
Filming at Epinay-sur-Seine, 1931 717
Recordings for Telefunken 721
Toscanini to Amsterdam? 723
1 Friedrich Wilhelm Mengelberg in his atelier 12
2 Richard Hol 23
3 J.C.M. van Riemsdijk 25
4 Isidor Seiß 27
5 Anton Bouman 31
6 Willem Mengelberg, Cologne, May 1, 1891 33
7 Willem Mengelberg and the Lucerne Men’s Choir. 47
8 Willem Mengelberg, 1894 53
9 The Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, c. 1895 56
10 Willem Kes c. 1890 70
11 Willem Hutschenruyter, 1900 75
12 André Spoor 85
13 Willem Mengelberg, 1900 110
14 Martin Heuckeroth 162
15 Evert Cornelis, Felix Weingartner, Hendrik Freijer,
Cornelis Dopper, Amsterdam 1904 163
16 Willem and Tilly Mengelberg, Lucerne 176
17 During the inauguration of Queen Wilhelmina,
September 6, 1898. 180
18 Willem Mengelberg, Marco Enrico Bossi, Cornelis
Dopper, Hendrik Freijer, Amsterdam, March 31, 1909 191
19 Gebouw voor Kunsten & Wetenschappen, The Hague 197
20 At home with Mengelberg: Hendrik Freijer, Mina van
Diermen, Tilly and Willem Mengelberg, c. 1910. 203
21 Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra,
the Toonkunst Choir, boys choir, soloists, Amsterdam,
April 16, 1916 209
List of Figures
22 Willem and Tilly Mengelberg at Central Station,
Amsterdam before departure to Russia, 1910 240
23 Charles Boissevain, August 1905 252
24-25 Gustav Mahler, with Cornelis Dopper, Hendrik Freijer,
Willem Mengelberg and Alphons Diepenbrock,
Concertgebouw, September 29, 1909 257
26 Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, Willem Mengelberg’s
conducting score 259
27 Program of the Dutch première of Mahler’s Seventh
Symphony, October 2, 1909, The Hague 262
28 Baroness Marion von Weber with her daughter
Mathilde and the dog Moloch, July 6, 1907 271
29 Richard Strauss, Pauline Strauss-De Ahna with their
son Franz, The Hague, March 29, 1905 280
30 Performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in the
Messehalle in Frankfurt a/M. April 1912 290
31 Alma Mahler and Willem Mengelberg, Frankurt a/M.
April 4, 1912 291
32 The Board of the Concertgebouw, April 11, 1923. 296
33 Sergej Rachmaninofff, September 17, 1908 337
34 Willem Mengelberg, caricature by Hans Schliessmann 384
35 Flyer for the 1920 Mahler Festival 416
36-39 Boat trip during the Mahler Festival, May 14, 1920. 419
40-43 Trip to Zandvoort during the Mahler Festival, May 1920. 423
44 Willem Mengelberg with Tiger at Chasa Mengelberg 444
45 Ellie Bijsterus Heemskerk, Ginette Elmiger, Aaltje
Noordewier-Reddingius, Tilly Mengelberg and Tiger at
Chasa Mengelberg, 1918 446
46 Tilly Mengelberg and Dr. Gustav Spiess 455
47 Visit by Prince Hendrik of The Netherlands to Chasa
Mengelberg. 457
48 Adolf Stöckenius, Schuls, January 1934 461
49 Cornelis Dopper and Karl Muck 468
50 During a rehearsal, Amsterdam, December 4, 1919 475
51 A farewell for Willem Mengelberg at Amsterdam
Central Station before his departure to New York,
December 1920 477
52 In the garden of the country home of Ernest Schelling
at Céligny. 487
53 Richard Specht and his wife, May 14, 1920 509
54 Tilly Mengelberg, Baroness van Rhemen, Joseph Kronig 513
55 Dr. A. Bredius and Tilly 513
56 Delivery of the bells for the chapel in Zuort by
Rüetschi, 1927. 523
57 Mengelberg’s birthday, March, 28, 1923, at the home of
Mrs. Alexander, New York. 531
58 Josef Stransky 551
59 Willem van Hoogstraten 551
60 In the concert hall at Hamburg, October 1922 559
61 At the house of the Günther family at Frankfurt a/M.,
Frankfurt 1927. 562
62 Willem Mengelberg, Darius Milhaud, Ernest Schelling
and Ludwig Wüllner, Amsterdam November 29, 1923 568
63 Willem Mengelberg with Julia and Frederick Steinway,
Chasa Mengelberg, July 1924 575
64 Silver goblet presented to Willem Mengelberg, March
28, 1925 580
65 Steak dinner tendered to the members of the New York
Philharmonic Orchestra, April 14, 1924 581
66 At the inauguration of Steinway Hall, 57th Street, New
York. 583
67 Dinner in honor of Willem Mengelberg at The Bohemians Club, New York, December 1925 584
68 Visit by Mengelberg to Toscanini at Bellagio, May 25, 1925 588
69 Carl Schuricht, Willem Mengelberg, Otto Neitzel in
front of the concert hall at Wiesbaden, 1927 597
70 While on board crossing to New York, 1925 607
71 Richard Strauss, Ein Heldenleben; Willem Mengelberg’s
conductor’s score 611
72-73 Willem Mengelberg and Charles Mackey 613
74 ‘Dr. Mengelberg and taxes’, caricature by L.J. Jordaan. 643
75 The Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam 645
76 Edna Richolson Sollitt 654
77 Playing cards. Chasa Mengelberg, January 1934 664
78 Poster for concerts on April 11 and 14, 1925, New York 668
79 With Igor Stravinsky in the Gebouw voor Kunsten
&Wetenschappen, The Hague, November 1924 684
80 Rudi Mengelberg, Ottorino Respighi, Willem
Mengelberg, Igor Stravinsky, Cornelis Dopper, Tilly
Mengelberg, Sam Bottenheim, Elsa Respighi, Arthur
Lourié. Amsterdam, March 2, 1926 687
81 Richard and Pauline Strauss at Chasa Mengelberg,
September 4, 1928 712
82 The vacation home of Tilly Mengelberg in Krefeld 714
83 Recording for Tobis at Epinay-sur-Seine, 1931 719
84-85 Willem Mengelberg in his suite in the Amstel Hotel. 723

Table of Contents
Seventh Period 1933-1940 727
Mengelberg: interest in politics 727
Allied with the German people 727
Adolf Hitler 734
Benito Mussolini 737
Informed? 738
Setbacks in Amsterdam, 1933-1934 741
Crisis at the Concertgebouw 741
Monteux departs 744
Return to Amsterdam, 1934-1935 747
A Great Demonstration of Respect, April 1934 747
The Stadium Concert, May 1934 750
Professor in Utrecht, 1934 754
‘Exhausted, dysfunctional nerves’, Summer of 1934 761
Mengelberg conducts Mahler in Vienna, November 1934 763
Fortieth Anniversary: Netherlands Music Festival 766
A sincere letter to Marchant 774
Mengelberg and Germany, 1935-1936 776
Discussions, 1935 776
To Berlin? 1936 781
Mengelberg and politics, 1936 784
A fijinancial disaster: ‘the Bottenheim case’ 787
April 1935-January 1936 787
Catastrophic Revelations, February 1936 789
March-April 1936 790
Forgiveness? 794
Beyond Despair 795
Difffijicult relationships 797
Leadership at the Concertgebouw 797
Failed Liszt Memorial, December 1936 800
Chaos 802
A flirt with the Residentie Orchestra 805
Guest Appearances 807
Guest Conductor in Demand 807
‘Horror Stories’? 1936-1937 816
Large Number of Concerts in Germany, 1938 824
According to the Original Manuscripts 829
Copenhagen, 1938 832
Honored in Budapest, 1939 834
Amsterdam, 1938 835
Eduard van Beinum, First Conductor, 1938 835
Jubilee, 1938 840
Rudi Completely Disillusioned 845
As it used to be? 847
To Austria after the Anschluss 847
Help Us! 849
Still Fascinated by Mahler 851
Lucerne Festival, August 1938 854
The Rembrandt Prize in Hamburg, 1938 857
Tilly and Willem 860
Amsterdam 1939-1940 864
Loved by Many 864
A Pension for Mengelberg, 1939 868
1939-1940 Season: Highlights 873
Willem Mengelberg through the eyes of musicians 881
A demanding conductor 881
Treatment of orchestral members 882
Repeats and Explanations abound 885
‘One can Ruin Everything’ 887
Restless Rehearsals 888
Efffective rehearsal? 890
Knowledge of orchestral instruments 894
Articulation and Balance 895
On the tick 897
Soloists 898
The Concert 903
Eighth Period 1940-1945 905
May-September 1940 905
May and June : Under Treatment in Frankfurt and a Cure in
Bad Gastein 905
Concerts in Berlin, July 1940 910
Interview in the Völkischer Beobachter 913
An interview about an interview 917
H. Erman: Profijile, Deutsches Gästebuch, 1939-1940 923
The brochure by politician Hendrik Colijn: ‘On the Border of
Two Worlds’ 924
What did Mengelberg think? 927
Autumn 1940-Spring 1941 931
The New Concert Season 931
Mahler once more: October 10 and 26, 1940 935
A shocking incident 938
Mahler Betrayed? 940
Dubious Company: Concerts for Vreugde en Arbeid 943
And what about the Jews? 949
A lengthy concert tour 954
Seventieth Birthday 958
‘Gerne bereit zu helfen’ 963
De Nederlandsche Cultuurkring, De Kultuurkamer 963
Dr. Joachim Bergfeld 965
The NSB, Winterhulp, and Propaganda 967
Amsterdam, March 1942-1944 970
Mengelberg and concerts in Amsterdam 970
Censorship? 975
A trip to Vienna with the Concertgebouw Orchestra 977
Interventions 982
Concert tours: 1942 until the summer of 1943 990
Despite everything, a Concert tour, January 1942 990
In bad company: Salzburg, August 1942 991
All over Europe, October 1942-March 1943 994
Concerts in Paris, 1942, 1943 997
Illness and death of Tilly Mengelberg 1000
Mengelberg’s fijinal concert season, 1944 1003
Back at work, Paris, January 1003
The Pathétique, Once More, Amsterdam, February 1005
Beethoven Cycle in Paris, May & June 1007
From Paris to Switzerland, June to August 1009
The wrong horse? 1013
Ninth Period 1945-1951 1017
Banned & An Appeal 1017
Banned by the Tribunal, July 1945 1017
Isolated in Zuort 1020
An appeal to the Centrale Ereraad, May 1946 1023
Selling Manuscripts? 1028
The letter from ‘Prominents’ 1029
Testify before the Tribunal? 1033
A Passport for Mengelberg (part I) 1039
The Appeal, 1947 1042
The Defense by Attorney Bottenheim 1042
Court Session 1: Tuesday, May 13 1043
Court Session 2: Tuesday, May 20 1045
Court Session 3: Tuesday June 3 1047
Court Session 4: Tuesday June 10 1050
Court Session 5: Tuesday June 17 1052
Final Court Session and Closing Remarks for the Defense:
Tuesday, September 16 1056
Verdict of the Centrale Ereraad: Tuesday, October 21 1067
Continuous Frustration 1071
A passport for Mengelberg (part II) 1071
Even more humiliations, 1948-1951 1076
Chasa Mengelberg, far from the angry world 1079
Memories of Carl Jenal and his daughter Ursula 1079
Exile in Zuort 1083
The end: March 22, 1951 1089
Memorial in Amsterdam, March 31, 1951 1092
Settling the estate, 1951-1952 1094
Willem Mengelberg Stiftung 1094
A New Gravestone 1095
Auction of Mengelberg’s Dutch Possessions 1096
The undeniable importance of conductor Willem Mengelberg 1099
Recapitulation and conclusion 1099
Characteristics 1099
Influences 1101
Rehearsal: ‘The desire for perfection’ 1103
Fundamentals 1105
‘The Ultimate Interpreter’ 1107
Mengelberg’s scores 1109
Retouches 1114
Modeste Tchaikovsky 1115
Repertoire 1118
‘I am, of course, a genius too’ 1120
‘Negative Cash flow’ 1126
The Object of national pride: ‘He became a god to his listeners’ 1129
Years without music 1132
Commitment 1133
Clearly not out of touch 1136
Politically Involved 1138
Occupation in The Netherlands 1140
Gustav Mahler and the Concertgebouw Orchestra 1142
Appendix I 1145
Letter from W. Mengelberg to W. Hutschenruyter, January 12, 1903:
Appendix II 1147
Notes made by Mengelberg for the Concertgebouw Board, December
Appendix III 1151
Fragments from Interviews with Willem Mengelberg in New York
Appendix IV 1155
America: survey of soloists and repertoire, fijirst performances
Appendix V 1159
Joseph Deems Taylor on Mengelberg in New York
Appendix VI 1161
Interview by Dr. Hans Erman published in the Völkischer Beobachter
on July 5, 1940
Appendix VII 1165
Letter from Hermann Scherchen to Willem Mengelberg, June 18, 1933
Appendix VIII 1167
Review of compositions by Willem Mengelberg
Appendix IX 1173
Works by Gustav Mahler performed by Willem Mengelberg 1904-1940
Appendix X 1191
Works by Gustav Mahler performed by Willem Mengelberg while
conductor of the Frankfurter Museums-Gesellschaft 1907-1920
List of Figures
Appendix XI 1193
Works by Gustav Mahler performed by Willem Mengelberg while
conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra (1921) and the New
York Philharmonic 1922-1930
Appendix XII 1195
Survey of concerts given abroad 1895-1944 (in cooperation with Eric
Appendix XIII 1219
Survey of the repertoire of Willem Mengelberg
Bibliography 1287
Archives 1307
Index 1311

*Chasa Mengelberg, 'dochter' in de Zwitserse Alpen (Dutch version only)