THE WILLEM MENGELBERG SOCIETY
R. Klett 582 Basswood Street GREENDALE, Wisconsin 53129 U.S.A.
Newsletters on this page: #1
NEWSLETTER ISSUE No. 1, 1970
Mengelbergs herrliches Orchester ("Mengelberg's magnificent orchestra"):
Richard Strauss in a letter to Hugo von Hofmannsthal, dated January 29, 1924, Rotterdam.
REISSUE OF THE MENGELBERG ENGLISH COLUMBIAS
My conversations at London, in October of last year with several officials of the British record industry, held with a view to obtaining the reissue of electrical recordings that Mengelberg made for English Columbia in the late 20s and early 30s, were more encouraging than I had expected. Strong interest in these recordings of Mengelberg has been expressed by one official. There is now decided reason to believe that at least some of these recordings, as a first step, will be transferred to LPs and. again see the light of day. Very much work still remains to be done before our expectations can be realized. Success will be all the more certain in measure as the Society is able to attract a large and serious Memberhip that wishs to acquire these, and other, LP reissues of recordings by Mengelberg.
THE OTHER MENGELBERG RECORDINGS
In addition to the English Columbia issues, Mengelberg's other recordings will, or already have, come under view, with the hope of obtaining their issue or reissue. The most important legacy that we have of Mengelberg s greatness apparently are the many recordings made of his concerts by AVRO, the Netherlands Radio, a relatively small number of which were issued by Philips, in Holland in its Documenta Musicae series, and in Japan.
MENGELBERG'S PROGRAMS AT THE SALZBERG FESTIVALS
Altogether, Mengelberg conducted only three concerts, with the Vienna Philharmonic, at these festivals, a fourth concert, to have been given on August 30, 1939, 11:00 a.m., at the Festspielhaus, having been cancelled by the conductor.
Although the programs are so few in number, they still show his lifelong devotion to the music of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Richard Strauss. There also appears Johann Christian Bach's charming Sinfonia, which Mengelberg in part recorded twice, and conducted at eight different Subscription Concerts of the NYPO. Of all these works, apparently the only ones for which no Mengelberg recording exists are the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 and the Brahms "Variations".
July 31, 1934, 8:00 p.m., Mozarteum
J.C. Bach = Sinfonia in B flat major, Op. 18, No. 2
Beethoven = Symphony No. 6
Tchaikovsky = Symphony No. 5
13, 1942, 7:00 p.m., Festspielhaus
von Weber = Overture to Euryanthe
Brahms = Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, Op. 56a
R.Strauss = Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40 (Violin soloist = Willi Boskowsky)
16, 1942, 11:00 a.m., Mozarteum All Beethoven Program
Overture to Egmont
Piano Concerto No. 5 (Soloist = Cor de Groot)
Symphony No. 7
In her valuable little book in Dutch, Mengelberg Spreekt, (Mengelberg Speaks), Mrs. Edna Richolson Sollitt, Mengelberg’s close friend, vividly describes the rehearsal of the Beethoven Sixth (pp. 66, 67).
"In the summer of 1934 I heard Mengelberg prepare and conduct this symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on the occasion of the Salzburg Festival. The circumstances were very trying: the players were overtired and the weather waa extraordinarily hot. Can anyone, I asked myself, even Mengelberg, triumph under these conditions? The players began the first rehearsal with serious faces; we could see in them a reflection of the soldiers on duty outside of the Mozarteum, of the black pennants that hung limp in the burning sun.
"Mengelberg respected their mood; he did not begin with smiles and jokes. But this valuable, sa1utary balance, which is so much him, was like an elixir to these depressed men. Joy as well as enthusiasm came to them during the rehearsal, and they quickly gave their very best; no, more than that, they almost gave the impossible!
"At the end of long, hot hours they left the stage reluctantly. Before the next rehearsal the hail was filled with practicing musicians, who thought not on war, fatigue, heat., or danger, but only on the one fact that Mengelberg was again coming to work together with them!
"'What a privilege! What a privilege!' several of them said to me. In these words, and in these hours of perfect cooperation, I foretold the sensational success of the concert."
THE ONE-HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF MENGELBERG'S BIRTH
The Netherlands Radio AVRO, intends to honor the centenary of Mengelberg’s birth (March 28, l871) with a series of programs. The Society hopes that Mengelberg's ten seasons in the United States will be adequately recalled in these programs. My own research has uncovered details of Mengelberg's American activities and life that very likely have long since been forgotten or else appear to have gone unnoticed by those who in past have dealt at any length with the conductor's life.
It would be most fitting if Members of the Society would undertake to
ensure that at least one recorded concert is broadcast in their cities
in memory of Mengelberg. I do not think that radio stations normally broadcasting
classical music will reject the request out of hand. The chief difficulty
will be that their record collections will contain too little of Mengelberg,
and it is here
that Members can perform an invaluable service by offering to lend tape copies of their discs to the stations. Many stations today are unable to play 78s; but perhaps the chief considerations are the fragility and value of these discs, and the consequent danger of letting them into foreign hands. The worth of these programs will be increased if the Members themselves announce them or at least write the commentary, which should succinctly answer the two most important questions who was Mengelberg and what virtues of his performances are illustrated by the recordings played?
THE HARDIE MENGELBERG DISCOGRAPHY
Professor R.H. Hardie's discography, which is expected to be unusually thorough in its conception and execution, is supposed to be published shortly. I hope that details as to how it can be obtained will be printed in the next Newsletter.
JAPANESE AND DUTCH ISSUES
The name and address of a Japanese and of a Dutch record shop, together with a complete list of Dutch and Japanese issues, at present available, will be printed in the next Newsletter, for those who wish to order these Mengelberg recordings from a abroad.
THE MENGELBERG SOUND-ON-FILM ST. MATTHEW PASSION
This recording of a concert held on Palm Sunday, 1939, was once issued in the United States, by Columbia, as a three disc set, SL 179. The recording, which is still available in Holland and Japan, was made by Philips using a new technique that enabled the recording of the entire work.This technique, called the Philips Miller system, was used after the war by the British Broadcasting Company, and has in the past been employed by the Dutch in experimental stereophonic recording, although the Mengelberg recording was made, of course, before these latter experiments were undertaken. The scheme is well worth a few words, if for no other reason than because it is seldom described, even in the technical literature, and because the Mengelberg "Passion" may well be the only disc recording using it that was ever released commercially.
The system employed an electromagnetic cutter of the same general design as wax master recording cutters of that date. The cutter moved a saphire cutting stylus up and down relative to a film consisting of a transparent celluloid base coated with a layer of soft, transparent, gelatine that was covered by an opaque layer of finely divided black mercuric sulphide, only 0.003 of a millimeter thick. The film was moved at a constant speed past the stylus, which cut a V-shaped hill-and dale groove through the mercuric sulphide and into the soft gelatine. The width of the groove is greater as the cut is deeper, so as to form a variable width sound track, which can be reproduced in the same way as the variable area sound track of a motion picture film.
A more complete explanation is found in G.A. Brigg's Sound Reproduction, Second Edition, May 1950, pp. 130 133; and the system is thoroughly explained in Sound Recording and Reproduction, 1952, pp. 172 181, by J.W. Godfrey and S.W. Amos.
MENGELBERG AND MAHLER
At a time when Mahler was not the fashionable composer he is today, Mengelberg far more than any other conductor advanced his music. Although the adjective authentic, with which I have Englished. von Kralik's unverfälschten (literally, unfalsified) in the following quotation, is not one I should use to describe a performance not conducted by the composer himself, we can understand von Kralik to mean both the penetrating intellect and the wonderful clarity of texture that Mengelberg must have brought to his performances of Mahler: an intellect and clarity that are so evident in his recorded concert performance of the Fourth Symphony, an intellect and clarity that von Kralik would seem to be imply were a notable aspect of Mahler's conducting of his own orchestral works. Mengelberg's published opinions bear out von Kralik's explicit observations, and they will be quoted in the next Newsletter. All this is by way of introduction to the perceptive words of Heinrich von Kralik, the author of Die Wiener Philharmoniker. Monographie eines Orchesters, who refers, on page 80, to two concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic that Mengelberg conducted, these being held in the last year of World War I. "Even during the war years, the concerts of the Philharmonic remained far removed from world events withdrawn, peaceful, and secure. Among the notable and the unusual was the reappearance of Artur Nikisch before the Philharmonic or the interesting chance encounter with Willem Mengelberg. The famous Mahler conductor and Mahler's former orchestra offered in two concerts several of the composer s works. Mengelberg's art to clarify analytically and yet to see the whole his peculiar ability to disentangle and shape the many voices of the web enabled him to interpret each work with the authentic Mahler style."
THE PRESENT NEGLECT OF MENGELBERG
The widespread ignorance of Mengelberg his life, his recordings, and his views on music should be a spur to those of us who are his admirers to set the situation right. How can it be otherwise this ignorance when he has been dead nearly 20 years, when his last recordings were made shortly before the end of the war in Europe, and when some of his recordings were withdrawn 30 and more years ago? The efforts of the Society and its Members, when set unremittingly and intelligently against the present circumstances, will work wonders over a period of time, provided there are at the genesis Members in sufficient number to make the Society viable. The mere existence o.f the Society will increase interest in its conductor; and the reissue of records under the auspices, or with the assistance, of the Society will further enlarge the circle of Mengelberg admirers, until, finally, all those capable of a serious interest in the conductor will have been attracted. Once this is accomplished there should be possible the issue and reissue of the entire recorded repertory of Mengelberg, constituted not only by those discs-that were released commercially but also by the many concerts of his that were recorded.
It is not a question, I think, as to whether there are a sufficient number of persons who are, or could be, seriously interested in the conductor to make this Society and the issue and reissue of his records practicable; the real difficulty, to my mind, lies in making the conductor and the Society sufficiently widely known. Those interested in the conductor should naturally be attracted to the Society. Those as yet unacquainted with Mengelberg, and those having some acquaintance but inclined to be reserved, can be brought to know Mengelberg, in all his extraordinary richness, through the efforts of the Society and by the expected issue and reissue of his recordings. The Society, the conductor, and the records are each one corner of a triangle, having as its apex the conductor.
FORTHCOMING ISSUES OF THE NEWSLETTER
There will be printed Stravinsky s letter of praise to Mengelberg and
the NYPO; a complete list of the relatively large number of Mengelberg
discs at present available in Japan, as well as of the several available
in Holland; Mengelberg .as quoted by Mrs. Sollitt; details on the progress
in the issue and reissue of Mengelberg s recordings; a first series that
will encompass, year by year, not only the programs of all of Mengelberg
s non subscription concerts with the NYPO and NYPSO, but also those of
his guest appearances with the National Symphony Orchestra, of New York
City, and with other orchestras in the United States; and a second series
that will list his numerous American broadcasts.
Go Newsletter: #1 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10
NEWSLETTER ISSUE No. 1,
(No. 2 of a series)
". . .und Mengelberg hat heute uns noch mit einer grossartigen
Auffuehrung des 'Heldenleben koeniglich beschenkt. Es war em prachtvolles
Leben und Klirigen im Orchester. Die Musiker in herrlicher Begeisterung,
das Publikum hoch erhoben." ("...and today Mengelberg royally presented
us with a beautiful performance of 'Heldenleben.'
There was a magnificent sound and vitality in the orchestra. The players
splendidly inspired, the audience very enthusiastic."):
Franz Schalk in a letter to Richard Strauss, dated Vienna, New Years Day, 1918.
(The orchestra conducted was the Vienna Philharmonic.)
MARCH 28, 1871 - WILLEM MENGELBERG - MARCH 22, 1951
This Dutchman, born of German parents in the city of Utrecht, hardly a year after his family's move (December, 1869) from Koeln (Cologne), Germany, represented a point of view of which Wagner had been an early, perhaps the earliest, literary champion. The composer, in his essay "On Conducting" (Ueber das Dirigieren), had castigated as belonging to a Musical Temperance League those musicians who avoided creating an effect in music. The line of those who in this regard can be considered Wagner's disciples includes von Buelow, whom Richard Strauss defended against Weingartner s strictures of bad taste; Artur Nikisch, who advised Sir Henry Wood to "make every performance a grand improvisation"; and Gustav Mahler, the conductor who cavilled not to introduce a ritardando into the opening measures of the Leonore Overture No. 3. Of the latter figure, Menqelberg wrote in 1950 ("Willern Mengelberg, an Appreciation" by Michael G. Thomas, Music and Records, an issue for 1951, page 7): "From my first meeting with Mahler at a festival in Krefeld in 1902 when he conducted his Third Symphony until his premature death in 1911 Mahler has been one of my dearest friends and his art probably became the most influential factor in my life." When we listen today to Mengelberg's recordings, most of us, I suspect, are struck by the uncompromising freshness of the spirit that lies behind each conception; but a spirit, we should remind ourselves, that is rooted in a perhaps expired tradition of which Wagner, von Buelow, Nikisch, and Mahier formed a part.
After early studies at Utrecht with Richard Hol, the Dutch composer, and at Berlin, Mengelberg studied composition and conducting with Franz Wuellner, piano with Isidor Seiss, and theory with Jensen, at the Conservatory of Music in Koeln. "To my teachers at the Koeln Conservatory," wrote Mengelberg to Edward Burlingame Hill, "I owe much, and if I ever become a good musician I must thank my instructors, Franz Wueliner and Isidor Seiss, unhappily both dead, who were teachers of rare ability, such as are seldom met with." When Mengelberg left the Conservatory, Wuellner, who a few years later recommended Mengelberg for the post with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, considered him to be already one of the finest pianists of the time. Even many years later Mengelberg still played the piano, at concerts of the Friends of the Concertgebouw. On one occasion in New York City (February 1, 1921) he accompanied his friend, the Russian violinist Alexander Schmuller, at a "piano with harpsichord attachment" in Pietro Locatelli's Sonata in F minor, arranged by Julius Roentgen, the Dutch composer. When the New York Philharmonic played Bach's Suite No. 2 in B minor, which it frequently did under Mengelberg, he directed from a piano altered to imitate, more or less, the sound of a harpsichord; in at least one other work, the Corelli Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 8 ("Christmas"), Mengelberg led the New York Philharmonic (December 22 & 23, 1927) from a piano-harpsichord. These spurious harpsichords (one of which can be heard, unfortunately, in Mengelberg's recording of the St. Matthew Passion) apparently were pianos of which the hammers were covered with copper to give a twangy sound: this at least was the case in the Corelli.
It was as a pianist that Mengelberg introduced himself in Amsterdam, October 24, 1895, playing Liszt's First Piano Concerto at the Farewell Concert for Willem Kes, the conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, founded in 1888. Three days later Mengelberg conducted this orchestra for the first time, an association that endured until 1944, nearly half a century, the longest known, I believe. It was an association that made Amsterdam the center of the Mahler cult, that gave to Amsterdam an orchestra of unrivalled plasticity, that transformed the musical life of not just Amsterdam (a change already begun by Kes) but all of Holland and stamped it with the personality of Mengelberg, and that raised Amsterdam to the level of Berlin or Vienna as a center for the performance of symphonic music.
To what pitch Mengelberg had trained the Concertgebouw Orchestra, in less than two seasons, can be seen in the touching incident at the concert of February 14, 1897. Grieg, who had conducted his works in the first half of the concert, asked Mengelberg to direct Tchaikovsky's Sixth after the intermission. So moved by the performance was Grieg that he spontaneously turned to the audience and implored all Amsterdam to be proud of the orchestra and its conductor. How far removed in spirit was this Amsterdam from the Amsterdam of January, 1882, when Brahms, rehearsing his Second Piano Concerto as soloist with the Amsterdam Orchestra under Verhulst, cried aloud: Wie kann man mich auf so etwas einladen! ("How can I be invited to something like this!") (A refreshing and admirable frankness!)
Not Grieg alone wondered at this orchestra and its conductor. They were the delight of both Mahler and Strauss. "Mengelberg's splendid orchestra," wrote Strauss to von Hofmannsthal so pleased was the composer with Mengelberg's preparation of the orchestra, when he came to conduct Ein Heldenleben, that he dedicated the score to both the orchestra and Mengelberg. "Dearest," wrote Mahler to his wife, Alma, from Amsterdam, 1906: "...the orchestra splendidly prepared and a performance not bettered in Vienna. The chorus (in Klagendes Lied) very well rehearsed and trained. Mengelberg is a splendid fellow!..." In another letter from Amsterdam, 1908 or 1909, to Alma: ". . .Everything goes perfectly here. Mengelberg absolutely wants to have the Eighth. The conditions for this would in any case be excellent, since I should have unlimited disposal of a highly trained chorus and orchestra, rehearsed as nowhere else. Vedermo! . . . The orchestra is magnificent and a true balm after the experiences in New York. . . ." At Mengelberg s personal invitation, Mahler visited Amsterdam in four different years to conduct the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Alma Mahler, in her recollections, describes the concert of October 23, 1904, at which first Mahler and then Mengelberg conducted the same work. "He [Mahler] had gone on to Amsterdam, where he always felt at home staying with the Mengelbergs. There he conducted the Second and the Fourth. Mengelberg had placed the Fourth -- being given for the first time in Amsterdam -- twice on the same evening's program. Fourth. Intermission. Fourth. First Mahler conducted, then Mengelberg. Mahler settled himself comfortably in the Parkett and let his work be played to him. He later told me when back home that it appeared to him that he himself had conducted -- so perfectly had Mengelberg understood his intentions."
When Mengelberg, in 1930, assumed command of the London Symphony Orchestra to repair its badly sunken fortunes, he spoke of Mahler with the same fiery conviction that had become characteristics of his view of the composer, and which marked his opinion on any subject that held his passionate sympathies. "Mahler may strike very sophisticated people as 'common' ; Mahler may have a 'bad press' [New York and London!]. But Mahler's day is coming--it is bound to come, for his music is essentially great, and it is acclaimed -- more, it is beloved -- by the great mass of people when they have been given a chance of knowing it. Londoners are not yet in a position to hold a considered opinion on Mahier. One or another of his symphonies is given once or twice and then dropped. Some of them, I believe, are quite unknown in England. Then there is a peculiar style of playing demanded by his music a very clear style, a very melodic style, with all the strands of melody clearly shown." [The reader should compare Mengelberg's view with the excerpt from von Kralik's book, quoted in the previous Newsletter.]
Never did two composers have an apostle who worked to so great an effect as did Mahler and Strauss in Mengelberg, although Mengelberg's sympathies were catholic; and his generosity to other composers reflected not only his own spontaneous and warm spirit but also the renowned hospitality of his countrymen. Aside from Grieg, Mahler, and Strauss, Mengelberg invited many another notable composer to conduct the Concertgebouw Orchestra in his works: Busoni, Gabriel Pierné, Stravinsky, Carl Nielsen, Elgar, Alf redo Casella, Schoenberg, Glazunov, and Hans Pfitzner.
When Mengelberg first conducted the New York Philharmonic -- a pair of concerts given on November 10 and 11, 1905, at Carnegie Hall -- he was offered the post as conductor of the orchestra. (For this information, I am indebted to Mr. Benjamin Kohon, first bassoonist of the orchestra during the nine seasons [1921/22-1929/30] that Mengelberg was a regular conductor.) Mengelberg refused, of course, and did not return to the United States until the season of 1920/21, when he conducted the National Symphony Orchestra, of New York City, in a series of 34 concerts. Attempts had previously been made to attract Mengelberg. Mahler wrote to him in 1908 from New York City.
"Dear Old Friend,
"You will receive (so
I hope) in the near future an offer from Boston to
become musical director of the (splendid) orchestra as Muck's successor.
"The post at Boston is the most favorable imaginable for a musician. -- The
orchestra is the best and most highly reputed one of the entire continent (sic!).
A first class orchestra to which only the Vienna is equal.
"If you are approached, demand $20,000 (about 50,000 Gulden or even more).
.At the end of March I meet with Higgins (until now I have only corresponded
with him), and I could, in your stead, discuss everything with him and
perhaps bring to a conclusion matters that are difficult to arrange by writing. It
would be wonderful for me to know that you are again near by."
Although the offer was extended several times, Mengelberg could not bring himself to exchange his posts at Amsterdam and Frankfurt am Main for a new post at Boston. The reason was less money than having to give up everything in Europe. "The rumor that Willem Mengelberg demanded a salary of $75,000 for conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra is not founded on fact -- according to Mengelberg himself," wrote César Searchinger when reporting his interview with Mengelberg in June of 1919, at the latter's Dutch home (Musical Courier, July 10, 1919, page 13, Vol. 79). "'In fact,' he said, 'no such offer has been made. I suppose it is just as well to deny it?.. .But it is a fact that in years past the Boston Orchestra has approached me, and the manager, Mr. Ellis, has even been here to visit me. But this was years ago. And it is also true that in all these American negotiations, we have never been able to agree on the matter of renumeration. I was always the offers that have been made, one would not think so.'
"I protested and mentioned some of the large salaries paid to our conductors. 'Well, he said, 'that is quite satisfactory for a conductor who is at home there. But it would hardly justify me in sacrificing my season s work here. With nearly a hundred concerts in Holland, a great series in Frankfurt, and 'guest' engagements in all the neighboring countries, I have a most interesting as well as profitable season. For an artist there are two considerations -- artistic and commercial. I have at my disposal here an orchestra that is, I believe, unique in Europe. I hardly think there is anything better in America. It gives me all the artistic satisfaction I could desire. There remains the second consideration, and -- one can hardly be expected to make sacrifices for the sake of a change of scene.
"'Of course, I would like very much to go to
America again. Yours is a great and interesting country, and I liked it
very much when I visited it to conduct the New York Philharmonic Society
for one concert [actually, of course, a pair of concerts]. I should be
delighted to make a tour of the States, or to work with one of your fine
orchestras for a season. And if it could be arranged so that I would not
have to sacrifice an entire season's activity in Europe, the matter of
should not be difficult. "
Mengelberg was enticed back to the United States. He gave up his post at Frankfurt and conducted the National Symphony Orchestra for part of the season of 1920/21. When, following this season, the National Symphony Orchestra was disbanded and combined with the New York Philharmonic, Mengelberg and Stransky by agreement between themselves decided which musicians of the National Symphony would play in the reconstituted New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Mengelberg's remarks, in February 1922, suggest that he very likely played by far the major role in the selection. "One thing I would like to say and that is that the Philharmonic is a superb body of musicians. Above seventy percent of the present players were enlisted last season in the ranks of the National Symphony. When the question of the merger of the two bodies arose, I was called upon to select the personnel of the existing Philharmonic, and I am deeply pleased with the result." Thus began an interval of nine consecutive seasons with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and its successor the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra, the one period, according to David Wooldridge (Conductor's World), in which either orchestra could be called not just fine but great.
Before we leave Mengelberg -- the chief purpose
of the foregoing having been to let Mengelberg speak for himself and, in
a very (perhaps too) fashionable way, to link together Mahler and Mengelberg
-- I should end with Mengelberg's accountt of his first meeting with Strauss.
Since Mengelberg was not a solemn man he was at times hedonistic,
according to Mrs. Monteux a solemn note, despite Mengelberg's
cruel and unjustified exile from Holland and lonely death in Switzerland,
is not appropriate. The following story, aside from its humor, reminds
us that Mengelberg's technical command of the orchestra was the fruit of
many years of very hard work and study. "I met Richard Strauss while I
was still a student at the Cologne Conservatory. He was holding a rehearsal
in the Guerzenich Hall for the first performance of his Don Juan (in Cologne).
The qlockenspiel player could not manage his part, and at last Strauss,
turning in despair to Dr. Wuellner, called out, 'Lieber doctor, this will
never do. Dr. Wuellner motioned to me to take the part. I was ready enough,
sprang on the stage and played the instrument at once. Strauss, now quite
merry, called out laughingly to me, 'There, now it really goes famously.
Yes, it went, at rehearsal. I counted my rests scrupulously, beginning
letter so and so, a hundred and so many measures, rest -- and I come out
all right. But in the evening at the concert, I was naturally in
a state of nervous excitement to be playing under Strauss whom already
I admired extravagantly, and when the evil place came, I missed it, for
made a mistake in the counting. I was horribly ashamed of myself, and
now every time I conduct the Don Juan I
think of my solo on the glockenspiel. I made a vow then never to play in concert on an instrument without previous experience, and this promise I have kept up to now!"
- REISSUES -
Steady progress is being made in the planned reissues from the series Mengelberg recorded for English Columbia. It is intended to issue a first pair of discs of two major works the Brahms Symphony No. 3 on one record and the Tchaikovsky Fourth on the other are tentative choices. The chief problem remaining is one of finding metal parts in sufficiently good condition to ensure good transfers. The Society has furnished the English firm with a complete discography of Mengelberg's Columbias, listing all releases (known to me) the world round. I have stressed, in my correspondence, the necessity of the best and most accurate transfers possible; and the firm has assured me that if good metal parts cannot be found in England the search will be widened to include those EMI affiliates abroad that also pressed and released the Mengelberg Columbias.These recordings were widely published in their day Germany, Italy, France and Japan, aside from the United States, being only the more obvious countries in which the records were manufactured.
At the same time that the search for metal parts is under way, the EMI affiliates are being asked to "release" the conductor. I am informed that, although release in every case is expected to be granted, the matter takes a great deal of time.
From the original Philips series, Documenta Musicae, Vox will issue on Turnabout Mahler's Fourth, the Brahms Deutches Requiem and Symphony No. 1, the Mahler to appear first of all. The St. Matthew Passion will also appear "and subsequently, but slowly, the Beethoven symphonies and some of the other recordings of Mengelberg," I am informed in a letter. As much as this news gives us cause to rejoice (and rejoice we must!), we should realize that this might only be the beginning, provided that sales are sufficiently encouraging to Vox. Particularly in need of release, because they are everywhere withdrawn, are Strauss Don Juan, Franck's Symphony in D minor, and the excerpts from Schubert's Rosamunde. The Members can play a role in obtaining still further releases by introducing their friends and acquaintances to Mengelberg and to the Society, by spreading the news of the Turnabout releases, and by urging their record shops to display the record jackets prominently on the sales floors and in their display windows. Enthusiastic publicity can be of great help at just this critical time, when so much hinges on the marketplace and its acceptance of the Mengelberg reissues.
At the instigation of the Society, German Telefunken will issue a two disc set in honor both of the twentieth anniversary of Mengelberg s death and of the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth. The Brahms Fourth and the Tchaikovsky Fifth apparently will compose the set. We hope to publish full details, including ordering information, in the next Newsletter.
BOOK OF RECOLLECTIONS
With a view to publishing a book, the Society is collecting the remembrances of those who performed under or knew Mengelberg. Literary contributions are solicited and will be gratefully acknowledged.
THE MENGELBERG FOUNDATION AT AMSTERDAM
AND THE COMMEMORATIVE EXHIBIT AT THE HAGUE
The Willem Mengelberg Stichting (Willem Mengelberg Foundation), Holland, administers the terms of Mengelberg s will, among which is the use by musicians of Mengelberg s summer house, the Chasa, in Switzerland. Miss E. B. Heemskerk, who played first violin in the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Mengelberg and attended him during his years in exile, manages the Foundation and acts as hostess at the Chasa in the summer. The Foundation is grateful for donations that will enable it to carry on its work, which is both to support the Chasa and to perpetuate Mengelberg's name. Send donations to STICHTING CHASA MENGELBERG c/o ARMO BANK, VELERIUSPLEIN, AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND.
Miss Heemskerk kindly writes to me that there has been organized "an extensive exhibition of everything concerning his [Mengelberg's] life and activities in the Municipal Museum at the Hague, where they have a special department for music. It is to be opened on March 22, the date of his death. A book about Mengelberg that I have written will be published at the same time." The publishers are H. Heuff, Beethovenstr. 9, Amsterdam-Z., Holland. The Society hopes to publish further details of the Foundation, the exhibit, and of the book in the next Newsletter.
DUTCH AND JAPANESE ISSUES
In keeping our promise, made in the previous issue, there follows a list of recorded performances conducted by Mengelberg. As explained elsewhere in this issue, plans are to release all of these recordings (possibly excepting the Tchaikovsky Fourth) in the United States.
Dutch Issues (on Philips): Beethoven's S. #6 and Mahler's S. #4 (two disc set C 73AX204, 49 florins); Beethoven's S. #7 (Mengelberg), Schubert's S. No. 8 (van Beinum), Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite (van Beinum), and Mahler's S. #1 (Haitink) (three disc set H71AX~15, 39 florins) (These sets are available from Broekmans and van Poppel, van Baerlestraat 92-94, Amsterdam-Z., Holland. Postage is extra.)
Japanese Issues (on Fontana): Beethoven's S. #1 and S. #2 (SFON 10605), #4 and #8 (SFON 10603), #5 and Schubert's S. #8 (SFON 10599), Beethoven's S. #6 (SFON 10597), #7 and Fidelio Overture (SFON 10602), #9 (SFON 10593) Brahms S. #1 (SFON10600), Mahler's S. #4 (SFON 10598); (on Phi1ips): Bach's St. Matthew Passion (SFL 9567/69); (on Angel): Tchaikovsky's S. #4 (GR 2191). The Fontana records cost $3.43 each, the Philips set $15.23, and the Angel $4.87. (All records are available from Mr. K. Nakamura, Yamano Music Co., 5 6, 4 Chome, Ginza, Chuo ku, Tokyo, Japan. Mailing costs are extra.)
- Mengelberg's acoustical
recording of Beethoven's Cariolan Overture [sic!] (New York
Phil. Orch.) is supposed to be played at 75 RPM, according to Dr. K. E.
Britzius (The Phonograph Monthly Review, March, 1928, pp. 215, 216).
- The Arturo Toscanini Society (812 Dumas Avenue, Dumas,Texas 79029) very kindly mentioned the Society in its Newsletter for Oct., 1970, a notice that brought a surprising number of inquirIes, many leading to memberships.
- The Society is very pleased to receive correspondence not only in English, but also in Dutch, German , and French. Replies can be written in English, German, or, at a later date, in French. Those persons writing in Dutch are asked to use a very clear hand.
A CLOSING PLEA:
The Society seeks for the Newsletter a person who can type neat copy from a clearly written manuscript. Renumeration will be agreed upon. Pages typed per year should not exceed 20.
Go Newsletter: #1 #2 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10
2132 North 70th Street Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
Newsletter Issue No. 2 of 1971
(Whole Number 3)
Mengelberg's own notation in his score of Mahler s Fourth Symphony,
measure: Mahler sagte in der Probe: Bitte splelen Sie das rall. so, als
ob wir in Wien einen 'Wiener Waizer' anfangen!
("Mahler said at the rehearsal: Please play the rallentando [ritardando] as though we are beginning a 'Viennese Waltz' in Vienna." ) The third measure reads
Mengelberg's score bears the printed indication Etwas zurückhaltend ["somewhat held back" ] instead of un poco ritardando. The first and second clarinets in A are marked at this point poco ritardando.
MEMBERS WILL PLEASE NOTE that the Society has
a new address, which is shown in the masthead.
THERE FOLLOWS part of a very informative and enthusiastic letter from Mr. A. Tybout, of Holland, who has collected "newspaper--and magazine--articles, books, photos and other material about Mengelberg" since 1934.
"I indeed have visited the Mengelberg--Exhibit (March 20-May 9, 1971) [please see page 6 of the last Newsletter ] at the Hague. I did so many times, because it was such a captivating and really unique Exhibit . . . . . .
"The Exhibit was composed, among other things, of painting, portraits, sculptures (Archipenko and.Ambrosi), photos and letters (Ravel, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, R. Strauss, Mahler (of course), Strawinsky, Furtwängler, . . . ,autographs [ scores in manuscript ], Mengelberg's batons (one of gold) and many other documents. During the Exhibit visitors could hear Mengelberg - - records in the Municipal Museum at The Hague House every Wednesday evening and every Saturday-afternoon. I have heard almost every record . . . . It was an enthralling experience to hear, for instance, Mengelberg "interpreting "Brahms's First and Fourth Symphonies outstanding and very remarkable performances, only a truly great cnductor of genius can give!
"A complete and wonderful surprise was the showing of a movie about the life and work of Willem Mengelberg, duration 50 minutes. [This movie has also been shown on television in Ho11and.] . . . This was shown at the opening of the Exhibit and -- this is a reason for rejoicing! -- on request of many visitors once more two times. Luck for me, because I did not know the ovie was shown at the beginning. Therefore I eagerly seized the opportunity to see the motion-picture the other two.times. One of the fascinating parts is Mengelberg conducting the 'Oberon’-overture. [This undoubtedly is taken from a sound film made of the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Mengelberg by Films Sonores Tobis at Epinay sur Seine, near Paris. This movie, which Mr. Tybout informs me was filmed between April 30 and May 2, 1931, included the Oberon Overture, the "Hungarian March" from the Damnation of Faust, and the "Adagietto" from L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1. No complete copy of this movie is known to exist today!] Those, who never saw him conducting during his life-time, can study his style now thanks to the movie. Another remark: After seeing the Mengelberg--motion picture a young Dutch composer was cornpletely amazed at Mengelberg’s conducting-style. He had expected to see a romantic conductor with bustling, broad gestures, a 'dancer’ . . . but now he saw that Mengelberg’s conducting--technique was sober, controlled and--this was for him most surprising -his interpretation more objective than some conductors of the present. Yes, this struck me too: Mengelberg’s performances--like Nikisch and Walter he also conducted with his eyes---are not old-fashioned, they sound fresh and new, as if one hears Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Mahler, etc. for the first time, one of the characteristics of a great conductor, which experience I also have when listening, for instance, to Furtwängler or Bruno Walter.
".. .The movie was produced by the Advertising Movie Company 'Cefima’ (Reclame-film 'Cefima’ ) which exists no longer, and composed by Miss Bijsterus Heemskerk and Mr. Rena v. d.Wubbe [Mengelberg’s wife Mathilde, who died in 1943, was a Wubbe.] in 1969." Aside from "the overture 'Oberon’ the soundtrack of the Mengelberg-motion-picture contains music from Mahler’s First Symphony, two parts of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and Beethoven’s Symphony, No. 6 . . . ,the latter sounding many times as, more or less, a sort of 'Leitmotiv’ (leadingmotive). But the 'Oberon’ is the only composition, during which one sees Mengelberg conducting." To these words can be added, those of Miss E. B Heemskerk, who writes that the "exhibition was a great success; approximately 25,000 people visited it."
About Miss Heemskerk s book on Mengelberg Mr. Tybout is full of praise: "A rare document.and a valuable gain. It not only consists of recollections [Miss Heemskerk for many years played first violin under Mengelberg, was his close friend,.and was his faithful attendant during his years in exile] but also of a wealth of photos, letters, autographs [manuscripts], programs, reproductions of newspaper-articles, drawings and other information, much of which is used in the engelberg-motion-picture." The book can be ordered from the publishers, as is explained below.
ALTHOUGH THE NEW YORK TIMES ignored
the 100th anniversary of Mengelberg’s birth, WQXR-FM, the radio station
of the TIMES, did broadcast, on March 24, an hour long program of
recordings by Mengelberg, a program that was accompanied by an often tendentious
and superficial commentary. The anniversary brought forth a short, but
very fitting, remembrance in the Neue Presse (March 27) of Frankfurt,
Germany, and an article (characterized by a rather too narrow and conventional
point of view.) written by Dr. Karl Schumann in the March issue of the
German records magazine fono forum. Both Radio Free Berlin (March
28) and the BBC marked the event by broadcasting one or the other of the
two recordings that Mengelberg made of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth. To celebrate
the anniversary, the Dutch Radio, AVRO, broadcasta series of five all Beethoven
programs in January, February, and March, consisting of the nine, symphonies
and the overtures to Egmont and Fidelio. 'In the United States,
our three major record journals entirely neglected the event; but Dr. Abram
Chipman, who is a member of the Society, wrote a perceptive
and warm remembrance that appeared in the New Haven (Connecticut) Sunday
Register, March 28 Mr Edward Tatnall Canby, on April 4, at the instigation
of the Society, devoted his half-hour program over WNYC, New York
City, to a comparison between Van Kempen’s and Mengelberg’s recordings
of the Romeo and Juliet Overture, both performed by the Concertgebouw
Orchestra Radio stations WFMR, Milwaukee, and WNIB, Chicago each broadcast
Mengelberg concerts, the latter station transmitting a series of (weekly?)
concerts throughout the entire month of March. I presume that the anniversary
was marked by both WFAA, Dallas, and KPFA-FM Berkeley (California.), in
each of which cases a Member was the animating pulse. For most of this
information I am indebted to Members who have kindly written to me and
in several cases have, enclosed clippings from publications.
THE TWO-DISC MENGELBERG COMMERATIVE RELEASE of German Telefunken (KT11010/1-2) consists of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, respectively played by The Berlin Philharmonic and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The recording of the Sixth, Mr. Tybout informs me, is supposed to be a transfer of the second of the two recordings that Mengelberg made of the work with the Concertgebouw Orchestra December 21, 1937, at Amsterdam, and April 6-23, 1941,at Berlin, these latter dates being quoted in the notes of the new Telefunken set The old American Telefunken issue (TH 97002) of the Sixth gives a recording date of April 22, 1941, with the place of recording unstated It has been generally assumed that the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Mengelberg never recorded for Telefunken except.at Amsterdam. The new dates (April 6-23) and the new venue (Berlin) almost presuppose that the Concertgebouw Orchestra gave a long series of guest performances in Berlin (or was touring Germany) during April, 1941 a supposition I cannot confirm Can anyone help?
Another confusion that surrounds the long playing reissues of the Tchaikovsky Sixth arises from the question as to whether a particular reissue is a transfer from the first (1937), or from the second (1941), recording The old American Telefunken issue (TH 97002) incorrectly was given the date of 1941, whereas the corresponding European issue (Telefunken HT-3) bears the. correct recording. date of December 21, l93L If the new Telefunken set. (KT 11010/1-2) is indeed a transfer of the 1941 recording, then we have available for the first time on long playing records. Mengelberg’s second recording of the symphony Dr Karl Schumann, in his review of the Telefunken set in the July issue of fono forum, remarks that the sound is generally better than it was of the earlier Telefunken long playing issues of these same two symphonies. Herr Alfred Beaujean, in the June number of the German magazine Hi Fi--Stereophonie, wrote a long review that is at once very discerning and highly favorable.
I am endeavoring to import this set for the Society directly from Telefunken, and hope that I can poll the Members in the next issue of the Newsletter.
THE JUNE SCHWANN CATALOG lists Mengelberg’s recordings of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony as a new release: Turnabout TV 4425, monaural. At the beginning of this issue of the Newsletter I have quoted Mengelberg’s notation in his score of Mahler’s Fourth because the very noticeable ritardando that Mengelberg makes in the third measure is always, and almost invariably unfavorably, commented on by the record critics. Whether Mahler himself made an equally noticeable ritardando in the third measure is a question that perhaps cannot be answered at this late date. Mr. Benjamin Kohon, who played under both Mahler and Mengelberg in New York City (seepage 3 of the previous Newsletter), writes to me that Mahler did not in the United States; but neither, tells Mr. Kohon, did he require a ritardando in the opening measures of the Third Leonore Overture in New York City, although we know that he did in Europe. Mengelberg’s conception of the Fourth, which Was recorded at a concert given on November 9, 1939, with Jo Vincent as the soprano soloist, is the splendid fruit of 35 years' of close study and innuerab1e performances of a score that he had conducted in the presence of the composer and which he had heard Mahler himself conduct.
THE FOLLOWING FOUR BOOKS, recently published
in Holland, deal at length with Mengelberg.
Miss E. B. Heemskerk’s book on Mengelberg, published this year by Uitgeverij Heuff, Beethovenstr. 9a, Amsterdam, Holland, The price of $7.50 was quoted to me two, weeks before the devaluation of the dollar. Members should enquire of the price before ordering. Dutch text. Aside from what we know of the contents from Mr. Tybout’s enthusiastic description of the book, there are a chronology, a discography, and lists of first performances conducted by Mengelberg in the United States and Europe. The book comprises 160 pages and 130 illustrations (photographs, drawings, and documents).
Catalog of the Mengelberg Commemorative Exhibit,l97l, at The Hague. Available from Haags Gemeentemuseum, Stadhouderslaan 41, Postbus 72, Den Haag 2076, Holland Price Dutch Florins f5. Each of the.342 Items that were on display is listed and described in Dutch; 16 Illustrations, many of great interest, 32 pages. Dr. Paul Cronheim , who knew Mengelberg personally and was for many years closely associated with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, provides the catalog with a fine introduction. . (Those who have the American Philips record of Schubert’s Ninth (PHM 500-041) or of Mahler’s Fourth (PHM 500-040), conducted by Mengelberg, may recall Dr. Cronheim’s very informative jacket notes.)
Helene Noithenius: Concertgebouw spelenderwijs, published in 1969 by Uitgeverij J. H. de Bussy, Rokin 62, Postbus 289, Amsterdam, Holland. Price f37.50. A fascinating picture book--containing many fine photographs of Mengelberg--of the ConcertgeboUw and of the 'Concertgebouw Orchestra as regarded from six different aspects, of which the first five are composed of pictures and the sixth of pictures and of a, Dutch text written by Dr. Cronheim. A,7 inch 45 rpm record with three excerpts from the St. Matthew Passion (Mengelberg) and one excerpt from the Nutcracker Suite (van Beinum) is included. More.than 300 illustrations, 174 pages.
Otto Glastra van Loon: Onder de stenen her.
Het Concertebouw, published 1969 by Uitgeverij Ploegsma, Keizersgracht
616, Amsterdam, Holland. Price f16.90. A history of the Concertgebouw Orchestra
with many interesting photographs. Dutch Text. Handsomely bound in red
fabric with a nap. At least 60 illustrations, 160 pages.
All prices quoted include postage for surface mail. Although Dutch and German are by no means the same language, nevertheless they are closely related; and those,who read German well can fairly easily understand most of a Dutch text with the aid of a good dictionary. Books in a foreign language can be imported free of duty, and therefore should not be subject to the. recently imposed 10% surtax.
PERHAPS IT IS NOT WIDELY KNOWN that Joseph Szigeti's performance on November 9, 1939, of Ernest Bloch’s Violin Concerto, with the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Mengelberg, was recorded by the Dutch Radio, which holds the recording today. Szigeti gave the first performance anywhere of this concerto at Cleveland, December 15, 1938, the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra being conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos.
Go Newsletter: #1 #2 #3 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10
"He [Pierre Monteux] spoke of seeing Arthur Scbnabel and Willem Mengelberg and told me one day with a very stern face and with a voice full of decision, 'We ll play the Preludes (Liszt) the Mengelberg way. I [Mrs. Monteux] said, quickly, 'Oh, I like the way you play them darling, it s a bit zippier. 'Not We will play them the Mengelberg way, he replied testily." The conductor quoted on his deathbed by his wife, Doris G. Monteux. (This paragraph is reprinted with the kind permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc., from IT’S ALL IN THE MUSIC by Doris G. Monteux, copyright c1965 by Doris G. Monteux.)
I WANT TO THANK the members who sent Christmas cards and expressions of good will. To all of the Members I wish a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. Those members abroad who obtain the Newsletters by surface mail very likely did not receive the third Newsletter) because of the dock strike at New York City, until sometime in January of this year, although it was mailed in early November. If a member abroad has not yet received the third Newsletter, he should please write to the Society and a replacement copy will be posted by air mail.
THIS NUMBER of the Newsletter, although published in 1972, is the last for all members who have paid only ror the year 1971. The prospectus had promised three Newsletters for one calendar year (January 1 to December 31), but only two having been published last year, the present Newsletter appears as part of the subscription for 1971. The Society accepts subscriptions only for one or more calendar years (1971, 1972, etc.), because we lack both the staff and the money to check the Membership File and to mall Notices of Subscriptions Due. Aside from the two notices in this issue, the Members will not be reminded that subscriptions f or 1972 are now payable for all who have not yet renewed. The fees for 1972 are unchanged from last year: $3.00 for surface mail, $3.60 for air mail, throughout the world. The next Newsletter (No. 5) will be mailed only to paid-up members. I hope that I can look forward to your renewals, for the Society needs your support to continue its work. I hope, too, that the Members will assiduously propagate both Mengelberg and the Society among their friends and acquaintances. Now that the Society, as explained below, can offer to the Members the Telefunken set of Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6, there is an added, tangible, inducement to join the Society.
SEVERAL MEMBERS write to me that all of the Dutch issues that were listed in Newsletter No. 2 are now withdrawn. The Japanese issues that were catalogued in the same number are no longer available from Yamano Music Company, which has ceased to export. These discs instead can be imported from Mr. Terukazu Arita, President, ANZ Incorporated, 27 Higashlyama-cho, Itabashi-Ku, Tokyo 1714, Japan. The Japanese Fontana Mengelbergs now have new catalog numbers in an FCM-l series, only some of which I know: Beethoven s #5 and Schubert s #8 (FCM-2), Beethoven s #L. and #8 (FCM-].3), and Brahms #1 (FCM-10). Mr. Arita accepts payment only in Japanese Yen at the present time, and prices are as follows: FCM 1 series, Yen 1,000 per disc (about $3.25 at the present rate of exchange); the Bach St. Matthew Passion, Yen 4,500; and the Tchaikovsky #4, Yen 1,700.
ALL OF THE JAPANESE ISSUES that were enumerated in Newsletter No. 2, with the exception of the St. Matthew Passion, will also be stocked by Moe’s Books, once the dock strike on the West Coast Is over. Prices to the Members in the United States will be $6.00 for the FCM series and $7.00 for the Angel. Orders hould be sent AFTER MARCH 15 to Moe’s Books, Mr. Lee Schipper, 2148 Avenue, Berkeley, California 914709. These prices include postage.
THE MEMBERS are undoubtedly wondering what progress has been he scheme to reissue the Mengelberg Columbias and Odeons, referre irst and second Newsletters. An unexpected snag occurred, althoug hat will not deprive us of these recordings: when EMI polled its see Newsletter No. 2), one of them asserted its interest in these recordings, and is now preparing transfers. It remains to be seen whether the other firm that was itself interested in the same recordings will eventually be granted rights to some of them. The affiliate s difficulty in finding decent metal parts has hampered its progress; and nothing, so far, has been released. The Members will be kept fully informed as a matter of course. Before I close this paragraph I want to turn to what appears to be a rather unpleasant affair. A member writes to me that a shop in New York City is offering a set of records that is attributed to the Society. Any such attribution is false and fraudulent. The Society has published no recordings; when it does, they will be duly announced in the Newsletter.
THE HANDSOME MASTHEAD of the Newsletter (which also serves as our letterhead) was largely conceived by Mr. David Quackenbush, a member, who generously furnished the Society with the necessary art work. Miss Heemskerk kindly sent me a copy of the drawing (which appears In the masthead) of Mengelberg, done from life by Jan Toorop (l858-l928), the Dutch painter, lithographer, and drawer The words in the drawing (which I don’t suppose are legible in the masthead) read Aan W. Mengelberg van Jh. Toorop 1920 ("To W. Mengelberg from Jh. Toorop l920"). While mentioning Miss Heernskerk, I should not neglect to convey her invitation to the Members to visit the Chasa (see Newsletter No. 2) if they are in the neighborhood. "It was Mengelberg’s dearest possession, a small world of his own creation," she writes. ". . .visitors who happen to be In the neighborhood and are interested to see the house and the chapel should telephone in advance and give some kind of introduction if possible." It should be sufficient, I believe, to introduce yourself over the telephone as a member of the Society. When you reach the Chasa you can give to Miss Heemskerk a short note that I shall write on the stationery of the Society for any member on request. To avoid a misunderstanding, I should stress that it is only possible to see the Chasa and not to remain overnight, since, according to the terms of Mengelberg’s will, the Chasa is reserved to musicians of all nationalities. The address is Chasa Mengelberg, Hof Zuort 7551, Vnà, Unter Engadin, Switzerland. Telephone Val Sinestra 0.84 No. 9.31.16. I presume that 0.84 is the area code number for Val Sinestra, and that 9.31.16 is the telephone number of the Chasa. It would be prudent to telephone from within a post office in Switzerland, where on can ask for instructions. The Chasa is open only from June 1 to September 30. For those who want to determine the approximate location of the Chasa, find Vna (in the Canton of Graubunden) on a detailed map, the Chasa being not more than three miles north of this village. Miss Heemskerk’s book Over Willem Mengelberg (On Willem Mengelberg), containing as it does many very interesting photographs, most of which are reproduced with unusually good detail, is decidedly worth having, even for those who do not read a word of Dutch. In the opinion of a relative of the conductor, it is "the very best book ever written on Mengelberg." The Members can refresh their memories of the book by re-reading the third Newsletter, which quotes Mr. A. Tybout’s description of the book and gives instructions for ordering it. A member writes to me that the price of $7.50, quoted in Newsletter No. 3, is unchanged.
WHILE WE ARE still awaiting Dr. R. H. Hardie’s discography (which is supposed to be published soon), the members’ attention is drawn to two discographies, neither of which is "complete." The first, which is contained in the March, 1971, program schedule of the Chicago FM station WNIB, is not properly speaking a discography. The schdule list the contents of the 31 programs, together with recording dates, where known (which in many cases they are), of the Mengelberg memorial series broadcast by that station. This edition of the program schedule also has seven photographs of Mengelberg and a poster (about 1 x 1 1/2 feet) of a full face view of him conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra. This remarkable series of broadcast concerts was planned by Messrs. Wolf, Holmes, and Tait of the station staff. Mr. Tait writes to me that "The Bach Double Concerto [Louis Zimmermann and Ferdinand C. Helmann, who were the pair of first ooncertmasters of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, recorded Fall, 1935, by Philips for English Deoca] was, I think, the only significant omission. . . . The response to the series was as great as I expected it to be." He makes the encouraging observation that in the past, broadcasts of programs devoted to recordings by Mengelberg engendered more interest among listeners than programs "devoted to any other artist (save, on occasion, Harty and Koussevitzky)." The program schedule and poster can be sent third class within the United States and as "Printed Matter" abroad. The total cost, including postage, is 62~ f or members in the United States, Canada, and Mexico; and 70~ f or members elsewhere. For members in the United States who wish the schedule and poster sent first class, the total cost is 82 cents. For members in Europe who want the schedule and poster sent by air mall, the total cost is $1.20; and for members in Australia, Hong Kong, and Japan the total cost for posting by air mail is $l.40. Please specify how the schedule and poster should be sent. Address orders to Mr. Donald Tait, Radio Station WNIB, 25 East Chestnut, Chicago, Illinois 60611, U.S.A.
BEFORE TURNING to the other discography, my attention is drawn to several errors and omissions in the second and third Newsletters. The anniversary program in honor of Mengelberg was not broadcast by WFAA, Dallas, but instead by WRR-FM, Dallas, on the date of the 100th birthday. I am also indebted to Mr. John S. Lewis, a member, f or further informing me that Mr. John Ardoin, who conducted the program, Collector’s Corner (WRR-FM), had Mahler’s Fourth played, and, aside from an extensive commentary partly based on Newsletter No. 2, very generously mentioned the Society. Another member, Mr. David De Voe, who regularly conducts a program, The Kaleidoscope of Sound, broadcast by WPTH-FM, Fort Wayne, Indiana, writes that on March 2I~, 1971, he included the 1812 Overture and "on subsequent Sundays the Scherzo from Schubert's Ninth and the first movement from Mahler’s Fourth." Continuing in this vein, I should mention that it was a Dutch member, Miss N.P.G.A. Quack, who kindly brought my attention to Mengelberg’s having sometimes played the piano at evenings of the Friends of the Concertgebouw. Whether these evenings actually were concerts, as I boldly stated in Newsletter No. 2, I really do not know: Miss Quack does not say one way or the other. The same Newsletter also told of Mengelberg’s having studied for six months at Berlin before entering the conservatory at Köln, a statement that was based on an article, "WiIllem Mengelberg," which appeared in The Musician for June, 1906. In the same paragraph in which we are told of Menge1berg’s studies at Berlin, the author, Mr. Edward Burlingame Hill, also quotes from a letter from Mengelberg to himself, it thus appearing that Mr. Hill might have obtained his information from this same letter. I was suspicious of this information, since I have never seen it elsewhere; and I am now informed that it almost certainly is untrue. This "fact" of Mengelberg’s life is apparently like the repeated assertion that Mengelberg often conducted in Chicago, which, in fact, he did not. Aside from a single concert of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra that Mengelberg conducted at Chicago (November 1, 1927, Orchestra Hall), he never again was seen on the podium In that city, so far as I can determine; it was, moreover, not the policy of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in those years to engage guest conductors, the only exception being where the conductor was himself the composer conducting his own work. In closing this paragraph, I must not forget to mention that the movie of Mengelberg (Newsletter No. 3) does not contain music from Mahler’s First, but Instead from Lleder eines fabrenden Gesellen.
TO TURN NOW to the other Mengelberg discography, the January, 1972, issue of Le Grand Baton, published by The Sir Thomas Beecham Sooiety, is devoted to Mengelberg. The discography it contains is supposed to be complete as to all commercial recordings (including several not issued), but does not comprise matrix numbers, take numbers, or recording dates. This issue, which I have not seen, can be obtained only by subscribing to the Beecham Society, a subscription including four single issues of Le Grand Baton. The January issue can be obtained as part of the subscription only so long as it is the current number. Once the following issue is published, the January issue can be had only by both subscribing to the Beecham Society and paying f or the cost of the January number as a back issue. Subscriptions cost $5.00 ($6.00 outside of the United States, Canada, and Mexico), payable to The Sir Thomas Beecham Society, and mailed to either Mr. William A. Holmes, Vice-President, The Sir Thomas Beecham Society, 51427 W. Gladys, Chicago, Illinois 6061414, U.S.A., or Mr. Thomas E. Patronite, Editor, Le Grand Baton, P.O. Box 6361, Cleveland, Ohio 44101, U.S.A.
THE SOCIETY can supply the two-disc Telefunken set KT 11010/1-2 (Tchaikovsky’s Fifth and Sixth, Berlin Phil. Orch. and Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch., respectively: see Newsletter No. 3) for $6.80, including postage for surface mail, packing, and insurance, to any member within the United States; for $7.90 (surface mail) to any address in Canada; and for $8.05 (surface mail) to any address elsewhere. Orders should please be sent immediately so as to enable me to place an early order with the supplier before my absence of several weeks, which will unavoidably delay the dispatching of the sets to the members. Any member who does not own these two recordings, or whose copies are worn, should want to order the set. A member may order as many sets as be wants for others, although the service is specifically provided for the Members. I hope that anyone who is sufficiently interested to obtain the set through someone who is a member will himself join us. I regret that, not yet having beard the set myself, I cannot say whether the Tchaikovsky Sixth is a transfer of the earlier or later recording. I do know that the notes to the set are incorrect in placing, as reported, the location of recording at Berlin. The Concertgebouw Orchestra apparently last played in Germany at Dusseldorf In 1932, and in any case did not perform in Germany at all during World War II. Dr. Hardie brings to my attention that the Mengelberg 1941 recording of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth was indeed released on a long playing record, namely on a Capitol disc.
IN THE NEXT issue of the Newsletter
I hope to be able to reserve sufficient space to publish a very perceptive
and extremely well written essay, The Brass Section in Mengelberg’s
Orchestra, by Chester K. Davis.
IN CLOSING, may I remind the Members please not to neglect to renew their Memberships.
Go Newsletter: #1 #2 #3 #4 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10
Newsletter No. 5
For lack or space, a quotation will not appear
In this Newsletter. I am very sorry that the Tchaikovsky sets (which
are now In the hands of all those who ordered) were mailed so late.
As it was not possible for me to place an "early order" (see Newsletter
No. 4), and as I was away much longer than I had expected, the sets could
not bo ordered until late April and, because of difficulty in finding a
local supplier of mailers, could not be posted until late May. (Orders
for the set can now be filled immediately). The members patience
and understanding were greatly appreciated. Following member Chester K.
Davis’ intelligent essay (why is nothing of this nature published In our
record magazines?), the Newsletter closes with details of further
and promised issues.
Mr. Davis, whose particular interest is Spanish and Mexican music, is a Master in Theory and Composition, University of Arizona, 195l, where he was a student in composition of Arthur Olaf Anderson. Aside from playing In military bands and jazz orchestras, among other ensembles, he has played trombone in the Phoenix (Arizona) Symphony under Robert Lawrence (who instructed him in orchestral conducting) and in the Tucson Symphony under Frederic Balazcs. He is a practiced arranger, and has considerable experience as a piano accompanist f or instrumental and vocal soloists, operatic ensembles, awl chamber groups in Arizona, New Mexico, and other western states. At the present time, he is employed as a professional librarian in Las Vegas, Nevada. In reply to his essay, Mr. Davis Invites comments and views, mailed to him at 5094 Blanton Drive, Las Vegas, Nevada 89109, U.S.A. Enquiries about reprinting the essay should also be addressed to the author. (I have provided the score illustrations. Being unable to refer to my own recordings, any blunders are mine.) I believe that when I heartily thank Mr. Davis for his generous contribution, I am also expressing the feelings of the Members.
THE BRASS SECTION IN MENGELBERG’S ORCHESTRA
A recent arrival in the orchestra and the latest to be thoroughly exploited by symphonic composers is the brass section, composed of two or three trumpets, four horns, three trombones, and tuba. Although descended from ancient prototypes, these instruments were severely limited before the addition of valves to the trumpet and French horn in the early 19th century. Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven generally restrict what brass they use to supporting harmonies, accents, tonal weight in the tutti passages, and military calls. In subsequent times composers continued to ask for these same effects, but from Berlioz on there was an ever expanding use of brass instruments f or melodic and other more elaborate passages. Although the slide mechanism made the trombone capable of greater things even in the 18th century, it seems to have been used for little more than harmonic support. Performances of concertos written for these instruments, the four French horn concertos of Mozart, f or example, must have been primitive sounding in the extreme -- unless a few really incredible virtuosi existed at that time.
Stylistically, brass sections in symphony orchestras before 1920 traditionally fell in two "schools". The central European or "German" style of playing required large bore Instruments with wide flaring bells which produced great weight and volume of tone rather than brilliance. The "French" school used smaller, lightweight instruments which had a very brilliant, cutting sound but not so much volume. A discussion of these differences and characteristics would be worthy of a lengthy article. To oversimplify considerably, Russian and British brass sections had their own character but were rather similar to the French. Early American orchestras were staffed by Germans and performed in that tradition, the Chicago Symphony being a good example which has survived to this day without fundamental change in its brass style.
At the very time Koussevitzky was Introducing "French Russian" brass into the Boston Symphony In the 1920's, Mengelberg and Stokowski were experimenting with new approaches to orchestral wind playing combining the best qualities of all older schools. Between them these two conductors were revolutionizing the sound of the entire symphony orchestra and developing the "international" sound heard in nearly all major ensembles today. Stokowski will be remembered for the glorious new woodwind sonorities he championed in Philadelphia, but it remained for Willem Mengelberg to develop In the sound of his brass section in Amsterdam an improved, refined, unified, and instantly recognizable character.
Mengelberg’s brass combined considerable weight and volume with maximum brilliance. The instruments used must have fallen somewhat between the older "German" and "French" instruments In size - closer to our modern Ins truments, which have become larger in America and Britain, smaller in Germany and Austria. From his knowledge of the piano Mengelberg must have derived many of his techniques for achieving the impressive clarity, accentuation, and balance characteristic of his brass section. Certainly, then, as today, little of value about these points can be derived from texts on conducting, orchestration treatises, and manuals for learning the instruments themselves. I am too young to have heard Mengelberg In person, but from the recordings a number of important points about the conductor s approach can be gleaned. We may be certain that the brass parts from which the players rehearsed were as carefully marked and annotated as the string parts described by Bernard Shore in his revealing book, "The Orchestra Speaks" (London, Longmans, 1938). We may be equally certain of a great expenditure of energy in section rehearsals and much greater attention to the adjustment of ensemble balances, phrasing, and nuance than any previous conductor (possibly excepting Mahler) had provided.
The brass and percussion were rehearsed together in a very thorough manner. In recordings the Amsterdam trumpets and tympani regularly display a unanimity In accentuating which can only have been accomplished through painstaking attention and repetition in rehearsal. The brass In such passages become an extension of the percussion. Mengelberg’s Telefunken recording of the overture to "Prometheus" contains vivid examples throughout as trumpets and tympani seemingly combine into a new and more arresting instrument. The effect of this on a single chord Is demonstrated on the last note at the end of the introduction on the Odeon-Colurabia recording of "Oberon". [the ff chord in bar 22], and that Mengelberg could accomplish the same as a guest conductor can be gleaned from his recording of the Tchaikowsky "Symphony No. 5" with the Berlin Philharmonic (First movement, bars 84-115 and 455-470 ).
In the orchestral ensemble the brass rate just below the percussion in sheer amount of volume they can produce at full cry. Several trumpets and a similar number of trombones can easily overpower the full complement of strings and woodwinds. Consequently, many conductors never allow their brass to attain a full forte, demanding only a mezzo-forte even when the rest of the orchestra Is extended to fortissimo. Though the strings are never covered, this practice has two serious drawbacks. The orchestral sound In loud passages loses intensity because any player not playing forte simply will not sound forte. Second, the glowing richness of a truly surging brass choir is dulled.
Some conductors solve the problem of brass
massiveness by having the highest part played louder than the lower parts
-- the first trumpet forte (as wriitten), the second and third trumpet
or less. This does prevent covering the more delicate instruments and may
even help emphasize melodic contours (Toscanini was fond of this approach),
but the virile strength of Beethoven ‘s chords or the gorgeous iron-velvet
spread of Brahms wind writing is dimmed. Mengelberg’s performances
derived much of their clarity of texture from his insistence upon exactly
equal volume in all the harmonic parts. The entrance of the brass at the
first appearance [bar 35, Andante maestoso] of the main theme in
Liszt’s "Les Preludes" (Odeon-Columbia) or at Ihe coda to the 4th movement
(bar 490) of Tchaikowsky’s "Symphony No. 5" (Telefunken-Berlin Philharmonic)
provide good examples of balance.
The great masterpieces of European music are built on a harmonic framework and are actually constructed from bottom to top. The melodies were often derived from the harmonies, or melody and harmony were often conceived simultaneously. Mengelberg, superb musical architect that he was, built every chord and every harmonized passage from a firm bottom to intense top. If there was any special emphasis, Mengelberg often had the bass progression slightly predominate. One consequence of this is the fact, recognized by Mengelberg among a very few conductors, that the third or bass trombone is the foundation of the brass section and one of the most important orchestral parts. The tuba with its rather woolly sound can add weight, but it lacks the cutting edge necessary to give support to a chord spread over several octaves. Notice the use of the bass trombone in Mengelberg’s recording of "Romeo and Juliet" by Tchaikowsky, particularly in the "conflict" or "duel" section and its reappearance [bar l50] . The bass trombone in a passage for full orchestra has equal responsibility with the double basses for the harmonic foundation, and often the two parts are identical or In parallel octaves. It is worthwhile to listen to the final movement of Beethoven’s "Symphony No. 5" concentrating throughout on the bass trombone part. For this purpose the Telefunken recording with its slightly better acoustics is preferable to the "live" performance on Philips.
With all the tonal strength available why didn t; the Concertgebouw Orchestra brass cover that ensemble’s string section? Often Mengelberg has his trumpets and trombones begin a loud, sustained chord at full volume, perhaps even with en accent, only to immediately reduce volume slightly. More subtle than an actual aforzando, the result is similar to the diminution of tone after a chord Is struck on a piano. The listener is hardly aware of any change in volume, but the rest of the orchestra can be heard through it. Recorded examples occur often in the 4th movement of Beethoven’s "5th Symphony" (Telefunken). That Mengelberg was far more meticulous with the execution of the wrttten sforzando than most conductors is apparent in the final movement of the "Symphony No. 9" by Schubert (bars 10-35). The demonstration is equally impressive on the Telefunken and Philips versions, and the lighter-than-air feeling in spite of the considerable volume attained by the trumpets is not often met with in the work of other conductors.
A major uncorrected fault of most orchestral performances (and recordings!) is the lack of precision between players seated at the rear of the stage and those nearer the podium. The time lag in seeing and responding to the conductor s signals Is proportionately greater with increased distances, and there is an additional time lag before the audience hears those instruments farthest away. Since brass, percussion, and double basses are usually placed at the back of the stage, the listener hears these parts last and late. Indeed, we have become quite accustomed to this state of affairs -- particularly late tympani strokes. Mengelberg effectively compensated for this problem in some pre-arranged manner so that his attacks are very crisp and precise. Perhaps a Concertgebouw or New York Philharmonic veteran could enlighten us. Other conductors and orchestras have, of course, attempted to solve this problem; it is just that Mengelberg was uncommonly successful. Contemporary music critics often seem to find Mengelberg’s readings "exaggerated", and I believe this is due as much to the unaccustomed precision of attack as to "romantic" phrasing or broad ritards.
Mengelberg’s use of a more detached, marcato
style of playing aided clarity and also assisted the weaker strings and
woodwinds in their competition with the brass. The insistence upon exact
precision in the release of the note is partially responsible for the unanimity
of attack on the next note as well. These precise releases are possibly
the most obvious characteristic technical feature of Mengelberg’s style.
Every recording of the conductor will present examples, but the famous
unison horn solo passage in "Don Juan" of Richard Strauss (Telefunken-Mercury)
is a particularly telling example. The well-known melody takes on a new
and more vital character, much like the precise enunciation of a fine operatic
There remain to be mentioned some special effects obtained by Mengelherg on certain recordings. In the third movement of Tchaikowsky’s "Symphony No. 4" the famed staccato entrance of the brass at measure 170 was obviously meant by the composer as continuation in spirit of the pizzicato with which the strings begin the movement. Most conductors do not really achieve the intended effect. In the Concertgebouw recording (Odeon-Columbia) the notes are absolutely as short as they can be played and still achieve tone, a brass pizzicato feeling unique on discs.
At the very end of the third movement of the "5th Symphony" Beethoven indicates a crescendo for eight measures just before the attack of the fourth movement. In most performances the horns and trumpets, which enter in the fifth measure, begin their crescendo at once. Mengelberg holds these instruments in check until the final two bars, and the resulting increase i.e far more powerful in effect than conventional interpretations.
Many other recordings could be cited as Interesting examples of Mengelberg’s brass players In action. I would nominate four items which together could stand as equivalent to a conservatory course in this area. These are the Telefunken versions of the Beethoven "5th", the "1812 Overture", and the Brahms "Symphony No. 2", and finally the Victor "Ein Heldenleben" with the New York Philharmonic. Any young conductor or instrumentalist will find these four recordings invaluable for study.
Chester K. Davis
In the last Newsletter E. David DeVoe’s name was inadvertently printed as David DeVoe. Members A. H. Richardson and Dr. H. Hardie kindly write to me that the transfer in the German Telefunken set (KT 11010) of Tchaikovsky s 6th is from the earlier version (December 21, 1937), as was the American Telefunken issue HT-3. Vox has now issued on Turnabout the Brahms German Requiem (TVII4S/146: Vincent, Kloos, Toonkunst Chorus, Concertgebouw Orch.: concert of Nov. 7, 19140) the fourth side being devoted to choral parts from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (performance of Palm Sunday, 1939). The Turnabout set should confirm that Mengelberg was as great a choral conductor as he was an orchestral conductor, a fact that is too little recognized outside of Continental Europe. BOVEMA (Dutch EMI) will shortly issue the first two discs of transfers from the Mengelberg Co1umbias: HMV-047 01297 (Beeth. S #8, 2nd movement; Mahler S #5, Adagietto; Grieg-Two Elegaic Melodies; Liszt Les Préludes; Berlioz-Hungarian March and Sylphs Dance); HMV-0147-01298 (Cherubini: Anacreon 0.; Wagner-Tannhäuser 0.; Tchaikovsky-Romeo and Juliet 0.). In Japan, there have now been is on. Fontana: Beethoven 5 and Schubert 8 (FCM-2); Brahms 1 (FCM l0); Beethoven 4 and 8 (FCN-l3); Schubert 9 (FCM-18); Franck S in d and Strauss Don Juan (FCM-20); on Telefunken: Beethoven 1 and Strauss Death and Transfiguration (MZ-5l02); Beethoven 3 (MZ-5l00); Beethoven 5 (MZ 5l01); Brahms 2 (MZ-5103) and 14 (MZ-5104); Franck S in d (MZ-5l05) ; on Angel: Tchaikovsky 4 (GR-2l9l). The Society will carry the two BOVEMA discs (and future Issues), The Society Is considering offering to the Members the Japanese Fontana (about $5.5o) and Telefunken (about $6.00) issues, the Japanese Angel Issue ($4.50), and the American Turnabout issues ($2 .40). (Prices include postage, packing, and insurance within the United States; the prices of the foreign discs do not take into account a possible furtber devaluation of the dollars Prices to members abroad necessarily will be higher, because the postage is more costly). Although I shall not have time to acknowledge all replies, please let me have your views as to which of these issues you would like to see carried by the Society.
Go Newsletter: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #7 #8 #9 #10
Newsletter No. 6
An Ihrem herrlichen Concertgebouworchester habe ich wieder die grösste
Freude gehabt; was ihm etwa an Ohrenroutine fehlt, hat es durch rührenden
Eifer recht gemacht und den “Tristan" prachtvoll gespielt. Wie in allen
ausschlieSlich Concert spielenden Orchestern sind nur dieBläser etwas
hart in Ton und Ansatz. Im Holz fehlt em weiches, Ohrenpianissimo, den
Hörnernund Trompeten sogar em wirkliches Piano und die ?bung im Gebrauch
der Sordinen. Aber das wird sich von selbst ge en, wenn sie erst mehr Opern
von Mozart und regelmäSig die “Meistersinger” und “Elektra’
spielen müssen.. Jedenfallskönnen Sie immer auf Ihr Orchester
stolz sein; es hat Ihnen Ehre gemacht. Prachtvoll sind Thre Solisten bei
"Your glorious Concertgebouw Orchestra has again given me the greatest joy; what its musicians perhaps lack in practice in listening to each other [Ohrenroutine], the orchestra pleases with a touching fervor, and has played "Tristan" splendidly. As with all orchestras that play solely in concert, only the winds are somewhat hard in tone and attack. The woods lack a soft audible pianissimo [Ohrenpianissimo], the horns and trumpets even a true piano and practice in the use of mutes. But all this will come of itself when the orchestra must play more operas by Mozart, and regularly performs "Die Meistersinger" and Elektra.
"At all events, you can always be proud of your orchestra; it has done you honor. Your soloists in the strings are splendid... .."(Richard Strauss in a letter to Mengelberg, dated April 22, 1926, Amsterdam. The German text and my translation are published with kind permission received from Hans Schneider Verlag, Tutzing, West Germany. The German is quoted from the book Der Strom der Töne trug mich fort. Die Welt um Richard Struass in Briefen. In Zusammenarbeit mit Franz und Alice Strauss herausgegeben von Franz Grasberger. Verlegt bei Hans Schneider, Tutzing 1967.) The two terms Ohrenroutine and Ohrenpianissimo apparently were part of Strauss private vocabulary: my translations are those that appear to me to be the most reasonable.
Mengelberg’s own view in respect of Strauss complaint of the hard attack in the winds was expressed in his remarks to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, at the rehearsal on February 14, 1939, Berlin. "Gentlemen, an orchestra has Tedisten and Tedeisten. This is particularly true of the winds. I only need Tedisten; that is, the tone of the instrument must begin immediately with the attack; and no Tedeisten, from whom I first hear noise and only then the tone." (My thanks to Herr Gerassimo Avgerinos, solo tympanist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, for having written to me of his experiences under Mengelberg as guest conductor, from which contribution my preceding translation is taken. Miss E. B. Heemskerk kindly informs me that the terms Tedisten and Tedeisten were invented by Mengelberg to illustate his point.)
NONE OF THE three major American record journals having yet reviewed the Mengelberg Mahler Fourth on Turnabout (TV-4425), the June Issue (page 478) of the German record magazine fono forum is of interest for the trenchant and generally favorable appreciation of the recording by Ingo Harden, the Editor, who wrote, in part: "If when listening to this concert performance we put behind us those superficialities [portamento and rubato] that are obvious and characteristic of their time, we find an interpretation that takes each note of Mahler’s score with a seriousness of great sensitivity and imagination; that portrays the moods and sudden changes of mood in great detail; clearly exposes melodic climaxes, even those of secondary voices; shows a fine perception of all harmonic subtleties - yet without ever losing sight of the relationship between the parts and the whole. But so seen, Mengelberg’s exposition is even extremely modern, since the endeavor to lay bare the inner, logic of a composition entails a certain emotional emptiness; the relationship of this 'late romantic exposition to Mahler’s style must not be overlooked."
So rarely is Mengelberg’s imagination recognized (or does it pass under the name mannerism among the unsympathetic?) that I can hardly be accused of dull repetition when I quote from another German review, this by Alfred Beajean, appearing in Hi-Fi -Stereophonie, March, 1971, page 471 (Tchaikowsky’s Fifth and Sixth; Telefunken K 11010). "Mengelberg’s emotional directness; the downright phenomenal color of his music making . . .; the extremely wide dynamic range; the most precisely calculated construction of the general design in the presence of whatever seemingly capricious details (magnificent, the first movement of the Pathetique) the dramatic imagination, which in the Allegro con grazia [ssecond movement] so completely differently illuminates the beginning and end of the movement; the downright explosive entrances of the strings in the astonishingly energetic, and tearlessly performed, Adagio-Finale [last movement] ; the inimitably beautiful phrasing: in the end, all this mocks every petty objection."
HUBERT WENDEL, a French member and student
of music, took exception to George Cherière’s review of the Mahler
in the French record magazine Diapason, and wrote a letter
of protest, which was printed in issue No. 168 (June - July, 1972). Although
the review (strikingly short, it seems to me, being less than 200 words)
was quite favorable, one has the distinct impression that the performance
did not inspire Monsieur Cherière, for his remarks are rather commonplace
on the whole. My translation of Monsieur Wendel’s letter omits the last
two paragraphs, which refer to the Society and to the series of
programs broadcast by Radio Station WNIB (see
"I am writing to you in respect of your review, which appeared in Diapason, No. 165, of the Fourth Symphony by Mahler, conducted by Willem Mengelberg.
"With reviews of this kind, Mengelberg will continue to remain forgotten, and the various recording firms for which he made records will never re-issue his discs. From your review, one truly has the impression that this version is only one among many others, its only interest being 'historic - to use a very fashionable word. You seem to forget the words of Mahler; ‘Mengelberg is the only one to whom I can entrust a work in perfect tranquillity.’ When listening to Mengelberg, it seems to me that one is far - very far indeed - from these pseudo musicians, such as Haitink, Solti, etc. Obviously, they have stereo - perhaps even 'Phase 4 ? I am only 21 yeears old, but all of these stars of the musical world, such as the singing stars, scarcely touch me at all. Among them there is only false lyricism, false joy, false drama. With Mengelberg, whatever he conducts there is never a note~that is not completely sincere. I do not have a single -friend who has not been bowled over by the individuality of Mengelberg. A thought grand as the world and the universe runs through his interpretation. (Do you know his St. Matthew Passion?)"
CHESTER K. DAVIS article on the "Mengelberg" brass in the last number brought Mr. Davis a letter from member Dr. Harry Wells McCraw, who asked1 the question that has long puzzled me (and anyone else who has my ignorance of wind instruments). "One point," he wrote, "you didn’t mention, though, that I would like your comments on is that trademark 'burr , somewhat like a power saw, which I hear especially on solo trombone work with the Concertgebouw (I don t hear quite the same effect in the BPO Tchaikovsky Fifth)." Mr. Davis replied, "The characteristic 'burr of the trombones in the Concertgebouw, I believe, was a definite Mengelberg demand and not the result of any single player. The same thing can be heard in the New York Philharmonic recording of 'Ein Heldenleben , which is an unusually vivid recording for its period (and particularly well re-recorded on the RCA Camden LP of the 1950's). The other New York Philharmonic Victors are mostly inferior in sound, although just a hint of this trombone sound comes through in the recording of the Overture to the 'Magic Flute, faint and fleeting as it is, Technically, the 'burr effect is possible only on the medium-sized instruments which I have theorized must have been used by the Concertgebouw rather than the larger German or smaller French instruments of the time. The large instruments will not produce this 'bite in the tone, and the smaller instruments simply produce a raspy sound, such as can be heard on many British (London Syinphony, etc.)Wagner recordings of the late 1920's. To produce what Mengelberg demanded in trombone tone requires some minute adjustment of the fundamental tone to the overtones, and I think any sensitive brass player could be taught to produce this sound. (Many 'swing bands of the 1940's had this characteristic, too, among them Woody Herman’s 1945-46 ensemble.) As a contrast, Furtwaengler’s brass in the Berlin Philharmonic of the '30 s, using larger-bore instruments produced an organ-like sound, full, but without the 'edge of the Concertgebouw. The passage for brass alone beginning about 1/3 of the way through the Prelude to 'Parsifal by F. and the Berlin Philharmonic illustrates this perfectly. This also explains why you do not hear the 'burr on the Mengelberg-Berlin Tchaikovsky '5th ."
WHAT I HOPE was only a temporary aberration resulted in my neglecting to stress in the last issue that Vox Productions will continue to publish Mengelberg recordings on the Turnabout label. These issues are fom the original Philips series, and are very much cheaper than the corresponding Japanese Fontana discs. For the first issue, the Mahler Fourth, Dutch Philips* wi1l continue to do so for all of the Mengelberg Turnabouts. The American members should stongly support the Turnabout releases, for sales alone will ultimately decide how many of the records of the original Philips series will find their way into the Turnabout catalog. When over a year ago I enquired of Capitol Records as to whether they would issue on the Seraphim label the forthcoming Dutch Mengelberg series (details of which appeared in the last Newsletter), the answer was that there is not sufficient interest in dead conductors to justify such an undertaking: a polite way of informing me that a Mengelberg release would not be profitable. Mr. Mendelssohn and his Vox Productions are the sole person and recording firm that have the courage to publish from the Mengelberg recordings on our shores. We should not fail to do our part. Talk up Mengelberg among your friends and acquaintances, there being nothing so contagious as honest enthusiasm; and let them hear his recordings from your collection, for where words fail the recorded performances can often convince. (They make fine presents for Christmas, a birthday, or some other occasion.)
THE TWO BOVEMA discs that were listed in the last Newsletter have now been released in Holland, and will be offered by the Society when they are distributed in the United States (which should be very shortly). We shall also carry the forthcoming Qualiton issue of Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 2 (1938), performed by Zoltan Szekely, accompanied by the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Mengelberg. Szekely, who now lives in the United States, was from 1940-1942 one of the two concertmasters of the orchestra, Mengelberg always having insisted on there being a pair of concertmasters and a pair of assistant concertmasters. The recording, which will be released in the United States before the end of this year, is that of a concert performance, presumably given in 1939 or 1941. For all those who have long wanted, but are unable, to get a copy of the Mengelberg Ein Heldenleben, with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra, there comes from RCA the cheering news that this disc will be re-issued in 1973. If details of the prices for the BOVEMA and Qualiton records reach me while this Newsletter is being typed I shall insert them at the bottom of this page. I very much hope that the Members will order these recordings of Mengelberg (those listed in the following, as well as in this, paragraph) from the Society, for the profit made will help me both to defray the costs of the Society, which always exceed income, and to enlarge the circle of our interests.
THE SOCIETY offers to the Members the
following recordings by Mengelberg (all prices are exclusive of mailing
costs: see below): Tchaikowsky S. *#5 & 6, German Telefunken KTll0l0/l-2
($7.50) (* Themselves cut the laquer master for Vox; and I presume for
Philips); Brahms German Requiem (4th side, choral parts from St.
Matthew Passion), Turnabout
TV-4445/46 ($3.80); Mahler S. #4, Turnabout TV-4425 ($1.90). The Society has on order all of the Japanese Telefunken and Angel issues that were listed in the previous Newsletter.
Aside from the Mengelberg issues, the Society offers the Members the entire catalog of recordings on the Turnabout ($1.90), Candide ($2.60), Vox ($3.35), and Club 99 ($4.30) labels; and the following German and Austrian imports: Eurodisc ($4.60); Preiser (Series LV, CO, SPR: $4.60), Lohengrin 4 discs (Müller, Völker, Hoffmann, Prohaska, Klose, Grossmann: Robert Heger: $22.00), Luisa Miller (Verdi) 2 discs (Cebotari, Böhme, Hann, Trödtschel, Hermann: Elmendorff: $11.00), Marriage of Figaro 3 discs (Cebotari, Teschemacher, Ahlersmeyer, Schöffler, Böhme; Karl Böhm: $l6.50); TELEFUNKEN (Series NT and ND: #3.70; Series KT and KD, 2 disc sets: $7.50); TOP CLASSIC (Series,TC and H: $3.70; 4 disc set H650: $11.50; all others $5.25 per disc.); DISCOPHILIA $4.60.
MAILING COSTS (postage, packing, and insurance) are reckoned on the following basis for surface mail (domestic/foreign); the fee for mailing to Canada is always 10cents less than the listed foreign fee: one disc (50cents/$1.80), two discs (57cents/ $1.80), 3 discs (68cents/$2.20), 4 or 5 discs (94cents/$2.85), 6 discs ($l.00/$3.25) 7 or 8 discs ($1.07/$3.65), 9 or 10 discs ($1.14/$4.05), 11 discs ($l.21/$4.45), 12 or 13 discs ($l.28/$4.85), 14 discs ($1.35/$5.25), 15 or 16 discs ($l.42/$5.65)
Japanese RCA has issued the Mengelberg Beethoven Third, with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony! This disc will be offered by the Society, Details in the next Newsletter.
In closing, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!
Go Newsletter: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #8 #9 #10
Newsletter No. 7
"I had the great good luck of playing under
him [Willem Menge1berg] both in 1911 (when he
was 40!) and in November 1939 (for the last time . . .)." (The late Joseph Szigeti in a private letter.) Szigeti died February 19, 80 years of age, in a clinic at Luzern, Switzerland. One by one, they leave us.
This Newsletter being the last for the
Subscription Year 1972, the next issue will be mailed only to those who
have renewed. Please see the closing paragraph of this number.
RADIO STATION WFLN, Philadelphia, broadcast each Thursday evening in March a series of five programs devoted to recordings of Mengelberg, in commemoration of the 102nd anniversary of the conductor’s birth (March 28, 1871). I suppose the listeners owed their good fortune to my informant, James Keeler, who is a member of the Society, and is Vice President, Programming, of the station. In New York State, Radio Station WONO, Syracuse, is preparing to devote an entire month to Mengelberg.
THE SOUTHWEST GERMAN RADIO has also broadcast Mengelberg, as the following Englished quotation from Hubert Wendel’s letter tells us. "Last week, I was very angry because the German Radio (Südwestfunk) broadcast the Third Symphony of Brahms by Mengelberg; and before playing the record, the announcer spoke of Mengelberg, making such statements as 'his intolerable St. Matthew Passion and Fourth Symphony of Mahler. What nonsense one hears these days! No doubt this gentleman prefers the 'historical interpretation of N. Harnoncourt on 'historical’ instruments, with a 'historical’ chorus, etc.--. I find this entirely deplorable."
DID ANDREA McMAHON’S unfavorable review discourage anyone from buying Mengelberg’s performance of A German Requiem on Turnabout? It is a very deeply felt, painstakingly conceived, and thoroughly convincing view of the music. Harris Goldsmith’ comments on Mengelberg’s performance in the same magazine (High Fidelity, March, 1973, p. 82) are far more preceptive and sympathetic. Miss McMahon’s review puts me In mind of a famous opera singer who observed that good criticism is of little use, but bad criticism does a great deal of mischief. Particularly in the case of a musician like Mengelberg, whom fate has now treated as unkindly as she once made him the object of her favor, unfavorable cricism, owing to a lack of sympathy for the style, is a serious misfortune; but, contrary to the singer s view, favorable and enthusiastic criticism can be of great help.
WITH THIS NEWSLETTER we begin what had been promised as early as the first Issue; a complete or almost complete1 listing of programs that Mengelberg conducted In the United States, only excepting those that are given in The Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York Its First Hundred Years by John Erskine, Macmillan and Co., New York, 1943. In this book are compiled all of the subscription concerts that Mengelberg conducted with the New York Philharmonic (-Symphony) Orchestra in New York City and, inadvertently, a few of the non-subscription concerts that he conducted there with the same orchestra. The compilation begun in this issue is, so far as I know, the only one of its kind.
NOVEMBER 10 &
11, 1905: Carnegie Hall, New York Philharmonic Society
SCHUMANN: S. #4 BRAHMS: Violin Concerto (Miss Otie CHEW) STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben
These two concerts were the first that Mengelberg conducted in the New
World. The concert of Nov. 11 (a Friday) was held at 2:30 P.M., that of
the following day at 8:15 P.M. They opened the new season and constituted
a "pair of concerts," the first being called a "public rehearsal" (a type
of concert rarely seen today) and the second a "public concert." Tickets
for either performance cost 75 cents to $2.00. The soloist, Miss Chew,
was an Englishwoman who had the ill luck of receiving before the public
concert a poison pen letter that caused her to faint. The New York Tribune
commented In a long review of the public rehearsal that she was not equal
to her task. Nor after November 11 did she ever appear again in the United
States, I am informed. As for Menge1berg, Heldenleben went best,
the review stated, whereas in the symphony there were heaviness and slowness
in the scherzo and elsewhere unwanted ritards Mengelberg did not
return again to New York City until some 15 years later, this time to conduct
the National Symphony Orchestra.
The National Symphony Orchestra had been formed after the late Edgar Varèse, the composer, a box party at the Philharmonic one evening in 1918, modestly made the remark that all orchestras In New York were good, only their conductors were bad. He meant Mr. Stransky and Mr. Damrosch. So his friends got him up an orchestra, which was eventually merged with the Philharmonic [in the Spring of 192l], after the conductor in question [Varèse] had had the distinction of making the greatest failure that any symphonic conductor has ever made in New York." (Musical America, December 25, 1929, p. 9). The orchestra that was formed for Varèse was called the New Symphony Orchestra. He resigned In 1919; and Arthur Bodanzky, who was one of the conductors at the Metropolitan Opera, was engaged for the seasons 1919/20 and 1920/21, the orchestra being renamed the National Symphony Orchestra for the latter season. For whatever the reason, Bodanzky did not please to the desired degree; and when, according to Musical America it became known from Mengelberg’s representative (who had come to the United States looking for ' a post for !4ngelberg) that Mengelberg was available, he was hired to conduct most of the second part of the 1920/21 season. The New York Telegraph reported that
Menge1berg was paid the large sum of $37,500; in return, he conducted 34 concerts and held a sufficient number of rehearsals to train the orchestra to his own standards. "He rehearsed them daily for four or five hours the days following his arrival," wrote Herbert F. Peyser.
In the following listing, all concerts were held at Carnegie Hall, unless noted otherwise; and for the season 1920/21 all orchestral concerts are with the National Symphony Orchestra.
JANUARY 11 and 14, 1921 (Tuesday afternoon
and Friday evening)
WEBER: Oberon O. STRAUSS: Don Juan BERLIOZ: Fantastic Symphony
JANUARY 13 and 15 (Thursday afternoon and Saturday
MAHLER: S. #1 TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto (Alexander Schmuller, a Russian Violinist, who was a friend of Mengelberg) LISZT: Lea Preludes
The Amsterdam newspaper De Telegraaf published on January 20,
1921, evening edition, an interview1 dated January 18, that G. Simons had
with Mengelberg at New York City. A few excerpts follow, my translation
here and there being quite free, although I believe that the correct sense
is always preserved.
SIMONS: "What is your Impression of the National Symphony Orchestra?"
MENGLBERG: "My impression is that it possesses first rate musicians. The personnel is top
S.: "You know, I hope, that It s scarcely two months old."
M.: "To be sure, I know that very well---, but only in its present form is it scarcely two months
old---after the reorganization. I sensed that when I came from the Amsterdam orchestra. ...Therefore, I don’t want to make any comparison with the Amsterdam orchestra. It will always be to the disadvantage of the other. That’s scarcely any wonder."
S.: "So, you find the personnel of the National Symphony Orchestra good, but It lacks homogeneity, if I understand you correctly?"
M.: "Look here! An orchestra is not a 'thing that can be shaped into a great unit with two shakes of a lamb’s tail. I have heard woodwinds--clarinetists and flutists--fine as no where else: notice, they were French. They sit in an American orchestra. Today, all of the musicians play like gods, but of what use is that when they fall out of ensemble, like stars falling out of orbit. A good orchestra must have style above all. I mean that the musicians must know as one the intention or the interpretation of the conductor. Homogeneity can be obtained only by continual collaboration with the conductor. When I stand in front of my American orchestra, and it plays, for example, Weber’s Oberon Overture, and I listen as objectively as possible, I hear Weber interpreted by four or five different schools. That is not the fault of the musicians. Here begins the work of the conductor. ( . . . ) Imagine the orchestra as a huge instrument. On this the conductor must play. For this reason, the conductor must know his instrument through and through. If you give a mediocre artist a Stradivarius, he will draw a fine tone from it--but no music. Let a musician without talent, however technically accomplished, play a sonata by Brahms and hear the same work played by an artist who feels what lies behind the notes. --So it is with an orchestra. Often technically beyond reproach, but--the other part is missing. Suppose that one-fifth of an orchestra plays In a French style, the other four-fifths Russian, German, Italian or Hungarian, what will become of the homogeneity? Ensemble and character. Musicians of the first rank. A conductor cannot begin without good personnel. And the musicians here are good."
"It s fascinating to feel the instrument grow under your hands. Hard work. We rehearse three times daily--because I told the Board of Directors that otherwise I can t be prepared--prepared--the rehearsals should continue even longer. Here are Frenchmen, Russians, Czechs, Germans, Americans, Italians, and Dutchmen. Good musicians. All the styles of the music world together. The rehearsals are uncommonly expensive. You know, the musicians are paid by the hour. That extra hour costs an even $500.00. I enquired about that--and that’s all there was to it. Isn’t this fine? You see, the patrons have no time for trifles." (In a future Newsletter I shall translate Mengelberg’s very generous views on Muck, Stokowski, Toscanini, Damrosch.)
JANUARY 20 and 22 (Thursday afternoon and Saturday
ALL BETHOVEN: Egmont 0.; Piano Concerto #3 (Mischa Levitzki); S. #7
(Series continued in next Newsletter.)
THE MENGELBERG DISCOGRAPHY of Dr. R. H. Hardie is now published. It appears to me to be excellent and comprehensive, listing nearly all known issues and the matrix numbers of each recording, and quoting exact recording dates for most of the Columbias, all of the Victors, and a few of the Telefunkens. There is an Incomplete list of the air checks held by the Netherlands Radio, AVRO. Of these, the original Philips issues are something less than the tip of the iceberg. The discography proper comprises 44 large pages, to which is added an introductiom of four pages. The price is $5.00 by surface mail anywhere; overseas air mail is $1.00 more. The discography is available only from Dr. R.H. Hardie, Dyer Observatory, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37235, USA. In the next Newsletter I intend to include all emendations and amplifications that are known to me.
THE DEVALUATION raises the prices of the following
imported labels: EURODISC ($5.40), PREISER ($6.00 for all series), TELEFUNKEN
(Series NT and ND: $11..60), TOP CLASSIC (Series TC and H; $11.60; set
H650: $l5.40), DISCOPHILIA ($6.00).
JAPANESE MEMBER Toshio Shitamoto writes to us that Japanese Telefunken will issue two more Mengelbergs, comprising transfers newly made from metal parts that were accidentally found recently in a warehouse: Beethoven S. #6 and Strauss Don Juan Beethoven S. #4. and Tchaikovsky String Serenade.
The two Dutch EMI discs (HMV-047-0l297/8), which were described In detail in Newsletter No. 5, are of such generally poor quality that I cannot In good conscience recommend them. The only satisfactory transfers are of the Romeo and Juliet O. and of the Two Elegiac Melodies, both of which are very good. In every other case the treble is severely reduced, and there Is frequently much distortion, apparently because badly worn shellac copies were used. This from the land of Mengelberg’s birth and published by a subsidiary of "The Greatest Recording Organization in the World" A great deal of harm is done when poor transfers are issued The uninformed is confirmed in his erroneous view that electrical recordings made, shall we say, before World War Two are not worth his serious consideration, and that the recordings of Mengelberg did. not deserve their reputation for technical excellence.
THE JAPANESE Angel, RCA Victors, and Telefunkens, which were ordered before the second devaluation of the dollar, and consequently are something of a bargain for this reason alone, are at last all in stock. I have seen similar Japanese pressings sell elsewhere for $7.00 in 1969, that is, before the FIRST devaluation. JAPANESE ANGEL ($11.50): Tchaikovsky S. #4
(GR2191); JAPANESE TELEFUNKEN ($5.50 each): Beethoven S. #1 and Death and Transf4uration (MZ5102); Beethoven S. #3 (MZ 5l00); Beethoven S. #5 and #8 (MZ5001); Brahms S.#2 (MZ5103); Brahms S. #4 (MZ5104); Franck S. in d (MZ5102); JAPANESE RCA ($6.30 each): Beethoven S.#3 (New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra! RED-2001) J. C. Bach Sinfonia, Magic Flute 0., Egmont 0., Hänsel and Gretel 0., Omphale’s Spinning Wheel (RED-2021); GERMAN TELEFUNKEN: Tchaikovsky S. #5 and #6 (KTll0l0/1-2, $7.50); TURNABOUT ($1.90/disc): Brahms German Requiem (TV4445/46); Mahler S. #4 (TV44225).
THE JAPANESE Telefunkens are in very short supply: first come, first served. Those members who had sent me their advance orders have been notified. RED-2021 comprises the same excellent transfers as those of the long unobtainable RCA Camden CAL347. The Angel and the Victor Beethoven Third are, on the whole, very good transfers, with no apparent filtering of the treble. The Third was dubbed from shellac copies that have a high, but unvarying, surface hiss, which one quite easily ignores.
TOP CLASSIC has issued on Historia (H690/95) a six disc set of the nine Beethoven symphonies the conductors listed In order of the symphonies being Hans Pfitzner (1930, actually probably 1928), Kleiber (1930), Keilberth (1940), Mengelberg (1936, actually 1938), Strauss (1928), Toscanini (1937), Rudolf Schulz-Dornburg (1943), Walter (1942), Furtwäng1er (same as the Turnabout issue). Price is $22.00 for the set. The surfaces of my copies are noisy: ticks, thumps, and swishes. The quality of the transfers varies from very good (Mengelberg) to poor (Furtwäng1er). Most of the transfers are only fair, chiefly because the artificial echo that has been added to all of the recordings gives a decidedly hollow cast to the sound of several of the recordings of several. The Furtwängler and Toscanini have almost no treble. All of the performances are at least good, the Strauss in some ways the finest I have ever heard of the Fifth, the Pfitzner a performance of great sweetness and light. Need I say anything of Mengelberg’s Fourth?! (Well, yes: the slow movement, aside from Mengelberg s robustness, has many moments of rare delicacy and eloquence.) In view of Top Classic s reputation for poor pressings, I regret that sets cannot be returned to us for exchange or refund. With the exception of the Keilberth and Schulz-Dornburg performances (and, of course, also of the Furtwängler) all of these are commercial recordings, more or less known to us, even if only as entries in catalogs.
PRICES QUOTED FOR RECORDS DO NOT INCLUDE SHIPPING COSTS. PLEASE SEE NEWSLETTER NO. 6.
DOES the fake stereo with which Vox recently issued the Furtwäng1er Beethoven 7th imply anything in respect of future Mengelberg issues? To forestall any such possible consideration, members should write to Vox Productions, Inc., 211 E. 11.3rd St., New York City, New York 10017, USA.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: The Subscription Year 1972
expires with this issue. Membership fees for the Subscription Year 1973
remain unchanged: $3.00 for surface mail, $3.60 for air mail, anywhere.
As in the past, personal reminders will not be mailed to the members, a
number of whom have already renewed. The next Newsletter will be
mailed only to members who have paid.
For those who still want the two Dutch EMI records (HMV-047–01297/9), despite our warning, they are $5.15 each, plus shipping.
Go Newsletter: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #9 #10
Newsletter No. 8
“He is one of the great masters of former days, and it was an inspiration for any artist to work with him and under his baton . . . and among the many great conductors who I has the pleasure to work with and under, I am thinking of Willem Mengelberg as one of the really great ones." (Lauritz Melchior in a private letter) Melchior, who in the English speaking world was the most widely admired Heldentenor, died Sunday, March 18 a tumor of the liver, at Santa Monica, California, just two days before his 83rd birthday.
I AM ALSO SORRY to announce the recent deaths of two members, Dana von Schrader and Maurice B. Fuggette. Mr. von Schrader died on May 5 and was, as I learned from the several letters we exchanged, a very eager collector of the Mengelberg 78s. Mr. Fuggette, who died April 10, corresponded with Mengelberg after the war and sent him packages of scarce items like chocolate, coffee, tea, and sugar. He was also a good friend of Miss E. B. Heemskerk,, who was a close friend of Mengelberg and is the author of Over Willem Mengelberg, publlshed in 1971 (see the Newsletter, issues 2, 3, 14).
DRAWN MOSTLY from old catalogs, leaflets, and
magazines, and from correspondence, there follows my notations to Dr. Hardie’s
Discography. I shall appreciate anyone’s drawing my attention to errors,
which undoubtedly exist. The pages cited are those of the Discography.
PAGE 5: Strauss, EJ-5146/50 are also Album 56: Japanese RCA Victor RED-20012 (LP). PAGE 6: Saint-Saëns and J.C. Bach, Japanese RCA Victor RED-2021 (LP); Handel, Spanish HMV AA191/2. PAGE 7: Symph #3, the Japanese 78 rpm Issue bore the same catalog numbers as the American (does this seem likely?); Japanese RCA Victor RED-2001 (LP); Symph. #1, EJ-594/7 are Album 189. PAGE 8: Mozart, Japanese Victor 78 rpm HL25; Humperdinck, Spanish HMV AB 674; Mozart, Beethoven, Humperdinck, Japanese RCA Victor RED-202l dated August 31, 1928, from the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Society to Samuel Bottenheim (Mengelberg’s manager for appearances abroad) reads "Brunswick recordings selections Tchaikowskys Fourth and Fifth and Romeo and Juliet . Liszt Preludes. Sibelius Finlandia. Maximum time each record four minutes fifteen seconds." (Aside from the Fifth, were any of these works recorded by Mengelberg for Brusnwick?) PAGE 14: Weber, Czech Odeon 124208, Rxx, with Slovansky tanec G-moll (Dvorák), ridi Henry J. Wood, on reverse side: this disc was undoubtedly issued for the Slavonic Dance in G (Opus 46, #8), and presumably contained on the other face Part 3 of the Overture. Part 3 of the Overture. PAGE 15: According to an Odeon leaflet, undated, 0-8397/8 were coupled with the Adagietto from L’Arlésienne Suite; is this a misprint in the leaflet? PAGE 17: Tchaikovsky, the Regal (Spanish Columbia) issue also bore the catalog numbers LX-55/6. PAGE 18: Ravel, Japanese Columbia SW-176/7. PAGE 19: Egmont O., Japanese Columbia J-7965. PAGE 20: Brahms, Japanese Columbia J-81514/7. PAGE 21: Gluck, the reviewer ("W. R. A.") of this recording (K-771) in Gramophone, September, 1935, p. 148, writes that he was told it was made on June 24, 1935 in the Concertgebouw, with the orchestra reduced to 80 members. Presumably, the extremely rare recording of the Bach Concerts for 2 violins was cout on the same day. For the DGG issue, was the complete catalog number 35024JM? Thus it was recorded in an advertisement in the Phonographische Zeitschrift, for Nov. 1, 1935, #21, p.442.
PAGES 24-33: The Follwing Mengelberg Telefunken recordings were re-issued in Germany after World War 2 on 78 rpm shellac discs. I presume that these were fresh pressing, becuase the Allied bombings very likely would have destroyed any large stocks of the old pressings (of poor quality, moreover). This lis probably is incomplete. Beethoven’s S. #1 (SK 2770/2) and #8 (SK 2760/2) Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust (3 parts) and Schubert’s Marche Militaire (SK 3243/4), Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik (E 3750/1), and Schubert’s S. #8 (E 3352/4): all of the foregoing are supposed to have been listed in the German Telefunken catalog, 1950, and to have been available in France, as imports, in March, 1951. The follwing recordings were announced in various German Telefunken leaflets, all dated “1951" and advertisin “new recordings.” They were respectively announced in Release No. 7, No. 7, No. 5 and No. 8. Beethoven’s S. #3 (SK 3117/22), Franck’s Psyche and Eros (SK 21463), Schubert S. #9 (SK 3314/46), Tchaikovsky S. #6 (recording of 19141) and P. Concerto #1 (SK 3092/95). (The Concerto was announced in an undated German Te1efunken leaflet for Christmas, presumably 1951.) Aside from the Frannk work, were any, or all, of these 78 rpm re-issues dubbings?
THERE FOLLOW a few approximate release dates in Germany of the long play dubbings. Beethoven S. #3 (LSK 7006), Three Parts from Damnation of Faust (LB 6009, 10 inch), and 1812 Overture (LB 6009) were all announced in a leaflet “Long Play List, Telefunken-Capitol, Release No. 1," which is undated, but almost certainly was published in late 1951 or very early 1952. Franck 's S in d (LSK 7001) and Death and Transfiguration (SK 7003) were announced in "Long Play Release No. 3, 1952," and Beethoven’s S. #5 (SK 7005) in "New Recordings, Release No.4, 1952." (Death and Transfiguration is coupled with Clemens Krauss recording of Till Eulenspiegel with the Vienna Phil.)
In France, an appreciable number of the Mengelberg Telefunkens were released after the war as 78 rpm shellac records. Some were French pressings of poor quality that the reviewers in the French Magazine Disques criticized; others were imported German pressings that the same critics praised. These 78 rpm issues underwent a progressive simplification in their catalog numbers, as the following example illustrates. The Beethoven 6th was assigned the catalog numbers "SK 2424-49 to SK 2428-53," in an advertisement in Disques, 1950, Issue 23-24. An advertisement in Disques, December, 1951, quotes only "SK 49/53," and simply "T-49/53" in the same magazine, September 30, 1952. What originally had been only a suffix (which presumably indicated only the order in which the discs were re-issued in France) eventually became the entire number, preceded by a single letter. (Can one tell by the numbering scheme used whether the record is a French or German pressing? I don t know. I just inspected the labels of three French issues (Telefunken-pacific) from my personal collection; all bear the SK prefix and the number suffix, are all are of French manufacture. My impression from the reviews in Disques is that the early French issues were of domestic manufacture and the later of German. Perhaps a reader will know.)
THE FOLLOWING list (complete?) of French re-issues
of the Telefun]cen Mengelbergs raises anew the question as to just how
many of the Mengelberg Telefunken stampers did survive the war. According
to German Telefunken, they lost stampers both as a consequence of the war
and of the flooding of parts of Hamburg in 1961. What Mengelberg stampers
does Supraphon have today? Are there any today in Switzerland, where, according
to Dr. Hardie (page 22), shellac pressings of the Mengelberg Telefunkens
were issued after the war, or in Sweden, where, I was told, Mengelberg
Telefunken 78s were also published after World War 2? The curious Euro-Cord
record (page 21, Roman Carnival O.) is identified in an advertisement
in Disqes as "Telefunken-Austria." Does this mean that stampers
are, or at least were, in Austria? The list that now follows of post war
French Telefunken 78s was compiled from advertisements and reviews in Disques,
and is not necessarily complete. Where Dr. Hardie’s Discography fails to
list a variant catalog number (see above), I have quoted it.
BACH: Air from Orchestral Suite #3 in D major (8K 21403~16: is this a misprint? 21402-15: T-l53;): BEETHOVEN: S. #1, 4, 5, 6 (SK 2424-49 to SK 2428-53; SK 49/53), and 8; BERLIOZ: Damnation of Faust ("Hungarian March," "Sylphs Dance," "Will o’ the Wisps Minuet") ,"Hungarian March,” Unspecified Part from the Damnation of Faust (SK 3244: coupled with Schubert’s Marche Militaire), Roman Carnival O. (2488-103; T-103); BORODIN: In the Steppes of Central Asia (SK 3198-119: in a review it is listed as "SKD 3198-119, Telefunken, 1942"); DOPPER: Ciacona Gotica: adagio mesto, con molto tristezza (SK 3137-123: this is a curiosity! Excepting for the suffix 123, the catalog number is the same as that for the Overture to Die Meistersinger. This number is correct, for the label of my own copy (Telefunken-Pacific) confirms it; and the markings in the area between the label. and the grooves clearly identifies the disc as Dopper. Beyond this I cannot say anything about the record, because I cannot play 78s .); F'RANCK: S. in d (SK 3145-1 42 to SK 3149-1 46); MOZART: Eine kleine Nachtimusik; RÖNTGEN: Old Netherlands Dances (SK 3137-123: see Dopper above, of which this is the other side; SCHUBERT: S. #8 and 9, Marche Militaire; STRAUSS: Death and Transfiguration, Don Juan (SK 2743-140 to SK 2744-141); TCHAIKOVSKY: P. Concerto #1 (SK 3092-76 to SK 3095-79; SK 76/9), Overture 1812 (SK 3080-16 and SK 3081-17), S. #6 (recording of 19141); VIVALDI: Concerto for Strings, Op. 8, #3 (SK 2402-15 and SK 2403-16: these numbers quoted in a review; are they a misprint? SK2401-14 and SK 2402-15; SK 2402-14 and SK 2402-15: are these also a misprint? The final movement, a1legro is supposed to be from a Bach-Vivaldi Concerto in B minor: can a reader confirm this?) WAGNER: Die Meistersinger O. (SK 3157-18: See Dopper above; the numbers of the discs Wagner and Dopper/Rötgen have been reversed: My own copy (Telefunken-Pacific) bears the number SK 3137-18.") This completes my list of post war French 78s and brings these notations to an end until the next Newsletter.
Continuing the list of Mengelberg’s American concerts in 192l, unless stated otherwise, the National Symphony Orchestra is conducted, which Mengelberg directed at least 35 times (not 34 as reported erroneously in Newsletter #7).
JANUARY 25 and 26 (Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday
CHERUBINI: Anacreon O, LISZT: P. Conc. #1 in E flat (Ignaz FRIEDMAN); TCHAIKOVSKY: S. #5.
JANUARY 27 (?) at Yonkers, New York, Mme. Marguerite Namara appeared
with the National Symph. Orch. conducted by Mengelberg in the "new Armory
In the fifth concert of the Yonkers Artists Series." She was accompanied
by the orchestra in the recitative and aria Deh vieni non tarder
from The Marriage of Figaro. I have no other details as to what
FEBRUARY 1, Tuesday afternoon, Aeolian Hall, a violin recital by Mengelberg s friend ALEXANDER SCHMULLER. Mengelberg accompanied Schmuller at a "piano with harpsichord attachment" in Pietro Locatelliss Sonata in F minor (op. 6, #7, Au tombeau??), arranged by Julius Röntgen (for the other works, Coenraad van Bos was the accompanist). The unsigned review in the New York Tribune, February 2, remarked that "Mr. Mengelberg played a piano ingeniously remodeled to duplicate the tone of a harpsichord and similar to the instrument used by the late Gustav Mahler in several concerts at Carnegie Hall." (To be continued)
I VERY much regret that, once present stock is exhausted, the Society will not carry records on the old basis. About l5% of the Japanese Telefunketis that we received were warped, most so badly as to throw the needle quite out of the groove. A similar percentage of the Turnabouts that we receive are also warped, some as badly as the Telefunkens. Once I discovered how frequently these records are unacceptably warped (causing a re-occuring thump), I began to test all records (excepting boxed sets, the Dutch HMVs, and a few others) by playing the lead-in grooves. Even so, one very badly warped disc got into the hands of a member. I takes far too much of my time to test each record before mailing, and far too much of my time to correspond with the suppliers and to repack the records for exchange for fresh copies that are, one hopes (sometimes vainly), adequately flat. In every case, the warp is at the edge, caused by careless manufacture, for which there is no excuse. All present orders for Turnabout records will be honored, but no new orders can he accepted1 I regret. At the present time we have neither of the two Mengelberg Turnabouts in stock, and we are waiting for replacement for those who have already ordered. The problem with poor pressings is not confined to the United States and Japan. The worst of all in my experience are those of English EMI, which are frequently either noisy or badly warped, or both.
WE SHALL continue to sell the Japanese Mengelbergs (see list below) so long as our present stock lasts. For those members who are still waiting for the Japanese Telefunkens that we could not supply because they were warped, I am sorry that there still will be a wait of several months. The Japanese dealer misled me as to when he would mail us the flat replacements. Oh, for the days of shellac records No warped discs then, only broken ones.
IN THE FUTURE the Society will carry
only those Mengelberg issues that are not widely sold, such as the German
Telefunken set, the forthcoming Qualiton issue (see below), and any new
Japanese Telefunkers (see Newsletter No. 7), if the Japanese dealer
will quarentee their flatness.
PRESTO/ German member Dr. H. Schwenkenbecher writes that German Philips issued about May a two disc set 6701031 of the Beethoven S. #5 and 9. The publication of the Mengelberg/Szekely recording of Bartok’s V. Concerto #2 (see Newsletter #6, p.3) by Hungarian Qualiton is seriously delayed by problems. What had been promised for late 1972 cannot be expected at least until fall. The catalog number of the disc will be LPX 11573. Denham Ford, Chairman of the Beecham Society, writes that on February 4 the BBC 2 television program "Great Orchestras of the World" was devoted to the Concertbebauw Orchestra, showing Mengelberg and Beecham "in animated conversation and looking more like two political figures of the day rather than great artists." Mengelberg was shown conducting the "Hungarian March" of Berlioz; this film clip is presumably from the sound film made April 30-May 2, 1931, at Epinay, France. The complete film apparently no longer exists. (See Newsletter p. 1, for further details.) Mr. Ford also sends me a clipping with the cheering notice that the BBC, "Radio 3," broadcast at 7:40 W. June 25, a program of Mengelberg’s recordings: Tannhäuser O. (1932), Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth (1926), and the Romeo and Juliet O. (l930).
THE SOCIETY offers to members the following recordings of Mengelberg. JAPANESE ANGEL ($4. 50): Tchaikovsky S. #4 (GR 2191); JAPANESE TELEFUNKEN ($5 .50 each): Brahms S. #2 (MZ 5lO3); Brahms S. #4 (MZ 5104); Franck S. in d (MZ 5105); JAPANESE RCA VICTOR ($6.30 each): Beethoven S. #3 (New York Phil.-Symph. Orch. RED-2001); J. C. Bach Sinfonia, Magic Flute O., Egmont O., Hänse1 und Gretel O., Omphale’s Spinning Wheel (RED-2021); GERMAN TELFUNKEN: Tchaikovsky S. #5 and 6 (KT 11010/1-2: this price may have already changed because of the third re-va1uation of the Mark!)
GOOD LISTENING, ALL, AND A PLEASANT SUMMER!
Go Newsletter: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #10
Newsletter No. 9
"The first time I was really impressed by Mahler was when Mengelberg came to Vienna and I could listen to all the rehearsals of Das Lied von der Erde and the Fourth Symphony. This is where I really came to understand the 'essence' of Mahler. What was so special about Mengelberg? He was an enormous instructor, like a drill master. Very Prussian. He was of course very closely associated with Mahler. Was he conducting the Vienna Philharmonic? Yes, he conducted the Philharmonic; but two or three years later I heard him In Zurich with the Concertgebouw, also doing the Mabler Fourth." (Horenstein and Mahler, a Review and a Conversation, by Richard Osborne, Records and Recording, December, 1970; pp. 45, 46). Jascha Horenstein, born May 6, 18983 at Kiev, Russia, died April 2, 1973, in a London hospital.
CONTINUING my notations to Dr. Hardie's Mengelberg
discography, PAGE 24: Vivaldi, Japanese issue 23660/1. PAGES 26, 28, 30:
The Rococo Mengelberg issues are piracies. PAGE 29: S. #5, Japanese Telefunken
MZ 5106 (LP). PAGE 31: S. #6, Japanese Telefunken MZ 5107 (LP). PAGE 32:
Strauss, "LE-65l7" is quoted in the German Telefunken Complete Record
Catalog, No. 7 (to May 31, 1956).
PAGES 35 and 36: Of the Philips series, the following reissues have appeared since the publication of the Discography. BACH: St. Matthew Passion (Parts/Vlincent, Durigo, Erb, Schey, Toonkunst Choir: Japanese Fontana FG-96); BEETHOVEN: S. #1 (Japanese Fontana FCM-28), #2 (FCM-28), #4 (FCM-13), #5. (FCM-2 German Philips, 2 record set 6701031), #6 (FCM-24), #7 (FCM-30), #8 (FCM-13), #9 (FCM-36; 6701031), Fldelio O. (FCM-30); BRAHMS S. #1 (FCM-l0), German Requiem (FCM 32/33); FRANCK: S. in d (FCM 20); MA.HLER: S. #4 (FCM-21); SCHUBERT: S. #8 (FCN-2), #9 (FCM-l8), Rosamunde, Three Orchestral Parts: Overture (Die Zauberharfe), Entr'acte #3, Ballet Music #2 (FCM-33 of set 32/33); STRAUSS: Don Juan (FCM-20).
PAGES 37-1414: The following additional recordings from Mengelberg's concerts are held by AVRO (all with the Concertgebouw Orchestra). BEETHOVEN: S. #3 (March 12, 1938), #4 and #5 (March 18, 19143), #7 (April 16, 1939), #8 (December 20, 1934), Fidelio O. (February 18, 1939), Missa Solemnis (soloists? chorus? date unknown to me; the acetate discs are supposed to have been damaged by water during a fire after World War II, and so are technically of poor quality); BARTOK: V. Concerto #2 (Zoltan Szekely;.WORLD PRMIERE, MARCH 23 OR APRIL 34, 1939; NOW AVAILABLE ON RECORD: SEE FOLLOWING.) The following recordings from Mengelberg's concerts are said to exist; the Borodin very likely does; but of the remainder, most appear to owe their existence to unfounded rumor. BORODIN: In the Steppes of
Central Asia; CHOPIN: P. Concerto #1 (von Sauer, about 1935); MAHLER: S. #1 (1944), #3, #5, #6, #8, #9; TCHAIKOVSKY S. #6 (1944); VIVALDI, an unidentified mass (!); and recordings of Mengelberg playing the piano (with orcbestral accompaniment?).
THE CATALOG Schallffaunahmen der Reichs-Rundfunk GmbH von Anfang 1936 bis Anfang 1939 (Recordings of the Reich Radio, Company with Limited Liability, from the Beginning of 1936 to the Beginning of 1939) lists on page 834, Entry 9875, the following curiosity: "Vienna, 49417/18, acoustical test, November 18, 1938, Coriolan O, by Ludwig van Beethoven. Excerpt, each two times on each record. Performers: Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Conductor: Willem Mengelberg. Time 0' 57"." Since the Concertgebouw Orchestra did not play at Vienna in 1938, these tests presumably were recorded in the Concertgebouw. Where is this test recording today? Was the disc at Vienna the original (is this likely?) or only a copy (of the original held in Holland)?
FINALLY, a letter from Harry Goldstone, published in The Gramophone, February, 1973, page 1612, refers to acetate discs of recordings made January 18, 1938, of the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mengolberg. The works are "Overture," "Nocturne," and "Scherzo" from ]vlendelssohnts MSND, and the opening partof Un Bal from Berlioz's Fantastic Symphony. Apparently, these acetates were privately cut and are privately held. The Society has from the British Broadcasting Corporation, London, a letter informing us that their archives hold no air checks of Mengelberg conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. We have received similarly negative replies from the Radio Authorities in West Germany, France, Hungary, Belgium, Austria, and Italy. (These notations to Dr. R. H. Hardie's Mengelberg discography will be concluded in the next Newsletter.)
CONTINUING with the listing of Mengelberg's American concerts in 1921, unless otherwise stated, all concerts were held at Carnegie Hall, New York City, with the National Symphony Orchestra. Evening concerts were given at 8:15, afternoon concerts at 2:30, excepting the concert with Schmuller at Aeolian Hall (see Newsletter #8), for which the time was 3:00 p.m.
FEBRUARY 1 and 2 (Tuesday eve, and Wednesday
BEETHOVEN: Leonore O. #3 Pierre Alexandre MONSIGNY (1729-1817): Chaconne and Rigandon (transcribed by Gevaert from Aline, Queen of Golconde, a three act opera: an oddfty, this, but no where have I seen the performance described as the first performance at New York City. Monsigny Is supposed to have been popular in his time, but where is there a recording of his music today?) DEBUSSY: The Afternoon of a Faun STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben.
FEBRUARY 7 (Monday eve., Artrio-Angelus Concerts
with the Artrio-Angelus Reproducing Piano),
BEETHOVEN: Leonore O. #3; LISZT: Les Pré1udes; DEBUSSY: The Afternoon of a Faun; WAGNER: Prelude to Die Meistersinger; LISZT: Hungarian Fantasy (YOLANDA MÉRO). The Debussy was played instead of Liszt's Piano Concerto #2, which had been announced. According to Musical America, Mme. Mérö was unwell, and for this reason she did not play the concerto. "As the Artrio-Angelus Reproducing Piano [apparently a kind of player piano] was not similarly indisposed, Mine. Mérö was for the most part an auditor of her own art [during the Hungarian Fantasy]."
FEBRUARY 8 and 9 (Tuesday aft, and Wed. eve.),
MAHLER: S. #4 (BIRGIT ENGELL, sop.); WAGNER: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde and Prelude to Die Meistersinger.
FEBRUARY 12 and 15 (Saturday eve, and Tues.
Niels GADE: Echoes from Ossian Overture, Op. 1; FRANCK: Psyche (Three Parts); SAINT-SAENS: P. Concerto #4 (GUIOMAR NOVAES): TCHAIKOVSKY: Romeo and Juliet O. The New York Times stated that the Gade overture was a "novelty"; but whether a first performance in the United States or simply in New York City, it did not say.
FEBRUARY 17 (Thursday eve., Special Concert),
BEETHOVEN: Egmont O.; BRAHMS: Violin Concerto MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto (in both concertos HELEN TESCHNER TAS was the soloist: an extraordinarily productive evening for a woman who lived without benefit of the Female Liberation Movement); LISZT: Les Préludes.
FEBRUARY 20 (Sunday eve.; first Popular Concert,
tickets costing 25 cents to $2.00)
TCHAIKOVSKY: S. #5; LISZT: Les Pré1udes; WAGNER: Prelude to Die Meistersinger, Prelude to Lohengrin.
FEBRUARY 21 and 23 (Monday eve, and Wednesday
BIZET: L'Arlesienne Suite No. 1.; BLOCH: Schelomo (CORNELIUS van VLIET, solo cellist of the National Symphony Orchestra and former member of the Concertgebouw Orchestra); BRAHMS: P. Concerto No 1 (ARTHUR RUBINSTEIN) and Academic Festival Overture.
FEBRUARY 24 and 26 (Thursday aft, and Saturday
JOHAN van WAGENAAR: Overture to Cyrano de Begerac (described by the New York Times as a "novelty": presumably this was the first performance of the overture In New York City); GRIEG: P. Concerto (ALFRED MIROVITCH): TCHAIKOVSKY: S. #6.
FEBRUARY 27 (Sunday eve; second Popular Concert),
WAGNER: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde and the Tannhäuser O.; TCHAIKOVSKY: S. #6.
MARCH 1 and 2 (Tuesday aft. and Wednesday eve.),
J. S. BACH: Suite No. 2 in B minor for Flute and Strings, S. 1067. (According to a journalist's report, Mengelberg played a piano constructed to look like a harpsichord: didn't it also sound like one? Members of what Wagner contemptuously referred to as The Musical Temperance League were scandalized to read in the New York Times that Mengelberg "employed eight flutes instead of the usual four of the modern orchestra . . ." If my memory serves me correctly, Mengelberg' recording of this work (with the Concertgebouw Orchestra) completely transforms it, and is one of the great delights of the phonograph.) BEETHOVEN: P. Concerto No. 4 (LEOPOLD GODOWSKY): BRAHMS: S. No. 1.
MARCH 6, 1921 (Sunday eve, third Popular Concert),
BRAHMS: S. No. 1; DOHNANYI: Variations on a Nursery Air (The composer played the piano.) TCHAIKOVSKY: Romeo and Juliet O.
(This series to be continued in the next Newsletter).
THERE FOLLOWS by Adriaan Tybout a contribution that was written in early 1971. The series of five Mengelberg concerts to which Mr. Tybout refers were broadcast by AVRO, the Netherlands Radio, in January, February, and March of that year. Aside from a few changes of mine, the English is Mr. Tybout's own. Who among us can write In a foreign language half so well?
"A natural phenomenon," "a conductor of world format," "a matchless performnance" -- these words should be called the motifs of a radio talk about the significance of Willem Mengelberg, recently given by Dr. J. A. J. Bottenheim during the intermission of one of the five concerts entitled Mengelberg Conducts Beethoven. This series, broadcast by AVRO, consists of all of the Beethoven symphonies and a few overtures [Egmont and Fidelio], recorded on phonograph records by the Concertgebouw Orchestra in all of Its old splendor and glory. Dr. Bottenheim is a son of the late S.A.N. Bottenheim, who for years was Mengelberg's secretary and is the author, among other publications, of a three volume history of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Of special interest to Mengelberg fans in America, he prepared and arranged the famous conductor s concerts In the United States. The main points of Dr.Bottenheim's talk were Mengelberg's legendary performance of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony in 1896; Mengelberg as the pioneer of Mahler; the incomparable and unforgettable Mahler Festival at Amsterdam in 1920; Mengelberg and Richard Strauss; Mengelberg as founder of the Bach renaissance (St. Matthew Passion!) In The Netherlands and of the Beethoven cycles, both of which attracted International attention. Although Mengelberg felt a special affinity to Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Strauss, he was also a great interpreter of Beethoven and other classic and romantic composers. On 25 March, 1971, Dr. Bottenheim will give another talk about Mengelberg between the performances of Beethoven s Seventh and Ninth Symphonies. Then he will go into Mengelberg's personality and working methods.
Writing about music is like writing about an "invisible, irresistible mystery," as Guy de Maupassant defines music In his novel Fort comme la mort (Mighty As Death). "Of all the arts, music is the only one which is able to penetrate into our soul," Aristotle said. Anton Tchekov, master of the short story, who knew the worth and suggestive force of words so well, wrote,"Only music can express everything."
But music itself remains a mystery. Mengelberg, who was born on 28 March, 1871, and died at Hof Zuort, Switzerland, in 1951, is one of the few who makes us perfectly realize that, who makes the mystery touch so deeply. He does not reveal the mystery; rather, he deepens it, makes it still greater, more captivating and delightful. He can evoke in us memories, beautiful thoughts, images and dreams and feelings we have never known. Each concert he conducts is a spiritual thing of beauty, a rare event, during which the music seems to be reborn. While listening to a concert he conducts one is completely spellbound, moved, fascinated -- for her one meets a man with an impresssive vitality, energy and inspiration. Mengelberg possesses an extraordinary magnetic force. One could say that he hypnotizes orchestra and audience. "A natural phenomenon," this man, "a conductor of world f ormat," indeed.
All this may sound exaggerated, romantic, overdone. It is not. It is simply a fact. Certain people have pretended that Mengelberg was not much interested in modern compositions. This is not true. He invited many celebrated modern composer to introduce their new compositions In the Concertgebouw, thus making Amsterdam one of the most important music capitals (if not the most important capital) of the world -- a capital of which even famous music centers, such as Berlin and Vienna, were jealous. And Mengelberg himself conducted premieres of works by Ravel, Dukas, Debussy, Hindemith, Strawinaky, Respighi, Kodaly, Bartok, among others, and of Russians like Glazounov, Borodin and Scriabin at a time when they were considered to be modern. He showed no less interest in modern Dutch composers and gave firs performances of compositions by Diepenbrock, Pijper, Zweers, Wagenaar, etc.
After 1945 (Mengelberg was conductor of the
Concertgebouw Orchestra for half a century) certain people and some critics
tried to belittle the significance of Mengelberg. His "dictatorship," his
style and conceptions were out of date -- so they said. He belonged to
a period that was past for good, to a bygone era, in which the conductor
decided how to play the symphony: that is to say, very personally, with
much rubato, and often entirely according to his lights. Mengelberg's
interpretations now sounded, old fashioned, too self willed -- so they
said too. They were wrong. Men like Mengelberg cannot be reasoned away,
as cannot a Furtwängler, a Koussevitzky, a Toscanini, who are reborn
on records and live on, still admired by millions of
Mengelberg's conceptions old fashioned? I heard, for example, the Fourth Symphony of Beethoven in the series Mengelberg Conducts Beethoven. I only can say that this is a truly magnificent performance. The symphony seems to be reborn. It is decidely not a "Mengelberg Fourth." On the contrary, it is a rendering that will be lasting. In a few words: a classical interpretation, fresh and stirring In every detail, played by an orchestra now sounding again as one of the best in the world. An orchestra with its own color, own character and splendor, which only Mengelberg could give it. The more one loses oneself in the life and work of Mengelberg, the more the conviction grows upon oneself that this conductor was indeed a man of genius with an enormously large field of activity.
Mengelberg out of date? Only admired by the
older generation, by grey haired nostalgics? No. We learn that the series
Conducts Beethoven, broadcast by AVRO, has struck the music lover's
fancy enormous1y. AVRO receives enthusiastic reactions not only from
those who saw Mengelberg conducting in person ("Can you also broadcast
the St. Matthew Passion?") but also -- how cheering this is -- from young
people who were only toddlers at Mengelberg's death In l951! They write:
"Mengelberg was a pioneer. He simply said, 'I think this music is beautiful
and important; I play it as I believe it must be played, and I hope you
One thing is extremely clear: Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra cry for a complete revival on records!
ADRIAAN TYBOUT, The Netherlands.
THE SOCIETY offers to members the following
recordings of Mengelberg. JAPANESE ANGEL ($4.50): Tchaikovsky S. #4
(GR 2191, recorded June, 1929); JAPANESE TELEFUNKEN ($5.50 each): Brahms
#2 (MZ5l03), recorded April 9, 1940); Franck S. in d (MZ5l05,
recorded late1940); JAPANESE RCA VICTOR ($6.30 ea.): Beethoven S. #3
(RED 2001, New York Phil-Symph. O., recorded January14 and 9, 1930); J.
C. Bach Sinfonia, Magic Flute O., Egmont O., Hansel
and Gretel O., Omphale's Spinning Wheel (RED 2021, New York
Phil-Symph. O., recorded January 16, 1929; January 14, 1930; January 15,
l929)* GERMAN TELEFUNKEN: Tchaikovsky S. #5 and 6 (KT 11010/1-2),
$7.50; recorded July 11, 1940, at Berlin,and December 21, 1937, at Amsterdam).
The preceding German and Japanese Telefunkens are the same recordings as
those that were originally issued by German Telefunken before and during
World War II, and should not be confused with the series issued in the
1950s by Philips and now being released, slowly, on the Turnabout label.
The Philips series consisted entirely of public concert performances, whereas
the Telefunken recordings were cut expressly for the phonograph.
MAILING COSTS for records are as follows for surface mail (domestic/foreign): one disc (53cents/$l.8o), two discs (61cents/$l.8o), 3 discs (75cents/$2.20), 4 or 5 discs ($1.00/$2.85), 6 discs ($l.07/$3.25), 7 or 8 discs ($l.15/$3.65), 9 or 10 discs ($1.23/$4.5). BARTOK VIOLIN CONCERTO #2 (QUALITON LPX 11573< $4.50 + shipping). Excellent performance and transfer(but there is surface noise from the original "shellacs").
A pleasant listening wished to all.
Go Newsletter: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9
Newsletter No. 10
Muziekcritici zijn mislukte rnuzikanten.
(Music critics are unsuccessful musicians). Mengelberg as quoted by Johan
de Molenaar in Molenaar’s book Muzikale vlinders vangen, p. 105.
Published by A. W. Bruna & Zoon, Utrecht, 1962.
Mengelberg’s unfavorable view of music critics leads me to the fo11owing quotations from Harold C. Schonberg’s article, "Wou1d Mahler Have Raised the Roof?," N. Y. Times, Sept. 16, 1973, Section 2, p. 17. (My thanks to member Eugene Kaskey for having sent me the clipping). ". . . Mengelberg starts the Mahler Fourth simply and briskly enough; but at the third measure, where Mahler has marked 'un poco ritard , and 'grazioso , Mengelberg takes a very leviathan of a ritard. By modern taste it sounds elephantine.
“ . . . was Mengelberg ‘s approach [to Mahler’s Fourth] the equivalent of Mabler’s intensely personal, tempo-fluctuated conducting? For if (shudder) it really was, then a lot of notions about the correct way of conducting Mahler goes right out the window.
"Or, assuming that Mengelberg’s way was Mahler’s way, would any conductor today dare to conduct the Fourth Symphony in that manner?" The N. Y. Times acknowledged, but refused to print, my reply, which was largely historical in argument. The following discussion is based upon a view that was expressed, but not developed, in the reply.
First, a brief a~answer to Mr. Schonberg s last question. At Thanksgiving I heard private recordings of several of Bach’s organ works, played by a young Alsatian, who is, perhaps, one-third of Mr. Schonherg’s age. For anyone who believes that the organ musically is a clumsy and inexpressive instrument, or that Bach’s organ music is "dead and stiffened" (to use Spengler’s vocabulary in a not altogether different sense), these performances, with their galvanic freshness, rythmical freedom, complete exhaustion of the emotional scale --in sum, their spiritual depth an~ exciting , audacity -- are a revelation. Wi1l Mr. Schonberg argue, a priori, that the Alsatian cannot exist in this "modern" day, as his final question implies?
Is there one - just one - music critic who, discussing Mengelberg’s recording of Mabler’s 4h, does not stumble over the ritard in the third measure? The apparently unanimous exception taken to Mengelberg/s ritard owes to at least two reasons: 1) "all" other conductors take a mincing ritard (why, then, shouldn’t Mengelberg also?); 2) the score, moreover, calls for a mincing ritard, specifying in the third measure un poco ritardando, which means, literally, "a little slowing down." Clearly, both the score and custom are against Mengelberg. What justification, then, can there be for Mengelberg’s disregarding the score; or, in fact, is it another instance of what some (Including Mr. Schonberg) refer to as Mengelberg s "eccentricities," "effects," "sentimentality," etc.?
On October 23, l904, Mahler conducted the Concertgebouw Orchestra at Amsterdam in his Fourth Symphony. Mengelberg s score bears the following entry, hand written in German, for the third measure: "Mahler said at rehearsal: please play the rallentando as though we are beginning a Viennese waltz at Vienna!" (If you have the Turnabout issue of the Lith, the first page of Mengelberg’s score is reproduced on the jacket, the aforesaid entry being at the very bottom. I believe that one or another of the Philips issues of the 4th also reproduced this page. See also Newsletter #3, p. 1). The question we answer that question, let’s inquire as to Mengelberg’s tempos in the opening measures of the first movement. (In the following, ((q)) = x means x number of quarter notes each minute). For the first one and one-half measures, Mengelberg s average tempo is about ((q)) = 84, the tempo being held quite steady. He begins the ritard on the third beat of the second measure: in other words, about four and one-half beats early. The average tempo during the third measure is about ((q)) = 33, the final one and one-half beats (the entry of the first violins) of this measure being played at an average tempo of about ((q)) = 18. In the fourth measure, the average tempo increases to about ((q)) = 52.
For comparison, I have chosen Willy Boskovsky’s
recording, with the Vienna Philharmonic, of On the Beautiful Blue Danube
(London CS 6182). Dunn the first and seventeenth measures of Waltz I, the
average tempo is about ((q)) = 44 and 132, respectively. From the first
to the seventeenth measures there is a general, but by no means steady,
acceleration of the tempo, during which interval the pace is tripled. The
waltz begins very slowly, and this certainly Mahler had in mind when he
cautioned the Concertgebouw Orchestra to play the ritardando as
though beginning a Viennese waltz at Vienna. This also justifies Mengelberg’s
early start of the ritardando, since the manner of beginning a Viennese
waltz cannot be compressed to within an interval of one and one-half
beats! (How did Mahler conduct a Viennese waltz? We can presume
that he, who was very free with tempo, was at least as free as Boskovsky
is) It is reasonable to conclude that Mahler, when conducting his Fourth
at Amsterdam, disregarded his own direction: his ritardando was not un
poco ("a little") and it began earlier than at the prescribed second
and one-half beat (the entry of the first violins) of the third measure.
This demonstrates, once
again, how imperfect a guide the score is, and, consequently, why Bartok, in a five page letter to the violinist Max Rostal, "proceeded to disavow practically every tempo marking he had originally indicated" in his First String Quartet. (Henri Temianka, Facing the Music, p. 2143; David McKay Company, Inc., New York, copyright 1973).
Since writing the foregoing, I have received from the Bruno Walter Society their Newsletter, dated November 1, 1973, in which William F. Malloch writes (p. 3): "Interviews conducted by me with surviving musicians who played under him [Mahler] in his New York days yielded, . . ., some evidence as to Mahler’s preferred phrasing at the opening of his Fourth (surprisingly, the Mengelberg recording which sounds so 'distorted to many Mahlerites, appears to come closest in its opening measures to the oral-history recollections of the old musicians), . . . ."
In the Summer of 1972, Dr. R. H. Hardie, the Mengelberg discographer, sent me a copy of "his" English translation of Wouter Paap’s excellent book Willem Mengelberg. The translation identifies the translators as "R. H. Hardie, P. N. Schouten and D. Tait." The translation reads very well, on the whole; but some of the statements therein are of so puzzling a nature, and so unlikely to have been written by Paap, that I felt obliged to compare them with the author s own Dutch text. The resulting twelve or so discrepancies were mailed to Dr. Handle, who replied that there had been difficulties with the translation. Dr. Hardie does advertise this translation in his Mengelberg discography; and since, as he Informs me, it is the same text as the one he mailed to me, the translation needs comment, several of the discrepancies being extremely serious, one even a deliberate corruption of the text. It should be self-evident that a translator may not add or subtract from a text without informing the reader precisely what he has added or removed. Wherever the translator is puzzled by the text he must admit his puzzlement and either offer an alternative translation or quote the original, or, preferably, do both: this is the common (and commonsense) practice.
More or less representative of the serious
discrepancies are the following examples. (The translation of Hardie, Schouten,
Tait appears first, followed by a more accurate Englishing in brackets,
with Paap’s pagination quoted).
Page 27: "He found in the soprano, Mine. Reddingius, and the alto, Mine. Manifarges, artists whose dispositions entirely suited them to the rendering of these songs in just the timbres he intended. Above all, he was gratified that the songs made such a deep impression on Mengelberg that he lavished much care and patience in rehearsing the orchestral parts. [Page 45: "He found in the soprano Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius and the alto Pauline de Haan-Manifarges artists who knew how to interpret these songs in the timbres he intended and with perfect agreement as to style. Above all, it was owing to the patience and care that Mengelberg spent in rehearsing the orchestral parts that the Hymnen made so deep an impression."]
PAGE 23: "If he had not conducted Mozart s Eine kliene Nachtmusik, the concert would have been an utter failure." [Page 39: "If Strauss had not conducted Mozart’s Serenade Eine kleine Nachtmusik (a surprising novelty for Amsterdam) at this Sunday concert, the concert would have been an utter failure.”]
PAGE 48: "His [Mengelberg’s] deplorable attitude during the Second World War has often been attributed to the fact that in matters not related to music he was as naive, gullible, and uninformed as a child." [Page 76: His regrettable attitude . . . . " The difficulty here revolves about Paap’s intended meaning for the Dutch word betreurenswaardige, which, among other English "equivalents," can have these two: deplorable, regrettable. The tenor of the chapter (A Lonely End) in which this sentence occurs does not support the translation deplorable. Moreover, Is it likely that Paap would write a sympathetic book on Mengelberg, only to call his attitude "deplorable?" I asked two correspondents -- a Belgian lady, conversant in Dutch and English, and a young Dutchman, who has a good command of English -- for their views; their respective answwers were: regrettable is the correct translation; regrettable is the probable translation, since Paap liked Mengelberg.]
PAGE 49: "At the time of the capitulation [of Holland] he [Mengelberg] was at Bad Gastein for a health cure, and the Voelkische Beobachter, Goebbel’s notorious propaganda newspaper, reported that he had toasted the occasion with a glass of champagne." The report, incidentally, was a lie. [Page 76: "At the time of the capitulation of the Netherlands he was at Bad Gastein for a health cure, and the Voelkische Beobachter reported that he had toasted the occasion with a glass of champagne.’ This deliberate corruption of Paap’s text appears to explain the choice of deplorable over regrettable In the previous example.]
Both Paap and the translators (p. 37 of the translation) fail to identify the passage that Paap quotes on Page 59 of his book. The quoted passage is taken from D. W. Sinclair s article "Six Orchestral Conductors," which appeared in The American Mercury, Vol. I; March, l924 pp. 289, 290.
CORRECTIONS, ACKNOWLEDGMENTS, & NOTES: Dr. Willi Schuh, the foremost authority on Richard Strauss, kindly answered my inquiry as to the correct translations of the Straussian terms Ohenroutine and Ohrenpianissimo (Newsletter 16, p. 1). His answer confirms my translation of the first term; the second term, however, he is certain means "true pianissimo." The sentence in question should read, therefore: "The woods lack a true, soft, pianissimo.." English member J. W. Neve kindly confirms that Mengelberg 78s were published in both Sweden and Switzerland after World War Two (Newsletter #8, p. 2). Same Newsletter, p. 1: Dr. Hardie kindly writes that the Odeon leaflet Is in error: 0-5397/8 were not coupled with the Adagietto Dr. Hardie also Informs me that the complete catalog # of the DGG issue (Alceste O.) Is simply 35024. Szekely’s warm, musical, and altogether extremely fine, performance of Bartok's Violin Conc. #2 (Hungaroton LPX-11573) may not be held by AVRO (Newsletter #9, p. 1). Member Dr. John S. Lewis kindly wrote me many, many months ago that it was Radio Station WRR-FM (not WFAA) Dallas, Texas, that marked the 100th anniversary of Mengelberg’s birth (Newsletter #3, p. 2), on a program produced by John Ardoin. Member Kenneth DeKay kindly points out that the Vivaldi Concerto for Strings is Op. 3, #8 (Newsletter /8, p. 2). Mr. DeKay also identifies the last movement in the Mengelberg recording of the Vivaldi as being the 6th movement (Finale), as orchestrated by Sam Franko, from J. S. Bach’s Concerto #8 In B minor f or Harpsichord after Vivaldi, S. 979. Bach’s concerto is from a series of 16 concertos f or solo harpsichord after different masters (S.972/87). Members Richard C. Ver Wiebe and Andrew McAllister kindly write that Radio Station WFMT, Chicago, broadcast a series of Mengelberg programs, apparently In October. As the Radio Station did not answer my inquiry, I cannot give further details. Mr. McAllister writes more recently that the program Collector’s Item, broadcast by WFMT and produced by Don Tait, in early January was devoted to a "Mengelberg Pop Concert" with "a fine selection of Mengelberg recordings. He [Mr. Tait] plans to play the Beethoven 9th Symphony recording of Mengelberg in March." Radio Station WONO, Syracuse, N. Y., also during the month of October, broadcast, according to their monthly program guide, a few of the many AVRO Mengelberg recordings that were not published by Philips and all of Mengelberg’s commercially issued recordings, excepting only the extremely rare Schubert 8th on Telefunken. Member Dr. Abram Chipman, who contributes to High Fidelity and the New Haven Register, was a guest, January 12, on David Letterman’s program Great Recordings (Radio Station WBUR-FM Boston). As a consequence of his detailed reference to the Society, we have three new members. From his own collection, Dr. Chipman played and commented on Don Juan, parts from Damnation of Faust, and Les Préludes, as issued on Mercury, Capitol, and Columbia-Entré, respectively.
VOX will not issue from the Philips series
any further recordings by Mengelberg. Furthermore, VOX is required to withdraw
by June 30 of this year the Mengelberg issues already released.
THE SOCIETY offers to members the following recordings by Mengelberg. JAPANESE TELEFUNKEN ($5.50): Brahms S. #2 (MZ 5103). JAPANESE RCA VICTOR ($6.30): Beethoven S. #3 (New York Phil-Symph. Orch. RED-200l). GERMAN TELEFUNKEN ($7.50 for the set): Tchaikovsky S. # 5 & 6 (KT 11010/1-2). HUNGAROTON ($4.50): Bartok Violin Concerto #2 (Zoltan Szekely, recording of the world premiere, 1939. LPX-11573). GERMAN ELECTROLA ($5.00): Brahms S. #3 and Academic Festival Overture (C 053-01 453).
MAILING COSTS for records are as follows for surface mall (domestic/ foreign): one disc (58 cents/$2.00), 2 discs (63 cents/$2.00), 3 discs (75cents/$2.40), 1 or 5 discs ($1.00/$2.93), 6 discs ($1.08/$3.33), 7 or 8 discs ($l.l6/$3.73).
Szekely’s performance of the Bartok concerto is so fine that I can only wonder why Szekely did not become an internationally celebrated artist. Member Dr. Harry Wells McCraw writes, "I hope the membership fully appreciates the importance of this Bartok issue. First of all it is a new item rather than a re-issue; secondly, it is our only chance so far to hear Mengelberg in a really ‘modern’ work."
A few words about the now German Brahms issue,
which was the subject of an extraordinarily enthusiastic review by Karl
Schumann in the December issue of the German magazine fono forum.
The transfer of the symphony (recorded Tuesday, May 10, 1932) is fair1y
good. It is better than either of the two much criticized transfers on
Telefunken of Brahms’ 2 & 4, but not nearly so good as
can be done. The transfer of the overture is excellent; you will not have
heard a better transfer from 78s, I believe. The engineers who, on Friday,
May 30, 1930, cut this recording could scarcely have imagined it so well
reproduced; indeed, they could scarcely have had an inkling of how very
well they were preserving the performance of that Friday at the Concertgebouw.
What did Mengelberg want in a performance of Academic Festival Overture? D.W. Sinclair, writing of a rehearsal of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, provides a hint: “Brahms’ ‘Academic Festival Overture’ presented difficulties -- it was too sweet to suit him. Quoth Willem; ‘Here are professors -- dry old professors!’ Accompanying his elucidations by making faces.” (Same citation as on p. 3.)
All back issues of the Newsletter, excepting No. 7 (which is exhausted) are available in return for a self-addressed envelope of legal size, stamped with 10 cents in postage for every two newsletters requested. The present subscription year (1973) will not expire at least until Newsletter # 11.
Pleasant listening and a pleasant spring wished to all!
Go to Newsletter: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10
Visit Newsletters 11-20 page,
Newsletters 21-30 page,
Newsletters 31-40 page, Newsletters 41-51 page
Newsletters 52-60 page, Newsletters 61-70 page
Or return to the Societies page or Mengelberg main page