Josef Willem Mengelberg
Mengelberg, (Josef) Willem
Mengelberg, (Josef) Willem
Mengelberg, (Josef) Willem, celebrated Dutch conductor, uncle of Karel (Willem Joseph) Mengelberg and Kurt Rudolf Mengelberg; b. Utrecht, March 28, 1871; d. Chur, Switzerland, March 21, 1951. He studied at the Utrecht Cons., and later at the Cologne Cons, with Seiss, Jensen, and Wüllner. He was appointed municipal music director in Lucerne in 1891, and his work there attracted so much attention that in 1895 he was placed at the head of the Concertgebouw Orch. in Amsterdam, holding this post for 50 years (resigning in 1945); during his directorship, he elevated that orch. to a lofty position in the world of music. In 1898 he also became conductor of the Tonkoonst choral society in Amsterdam, and from 1908 to 1921 he was director of the Museumgesellschaft concerts in Frankfurt am Main. He appeared frequently as guest conductor in all the European countries; in England he was an annual visitor from 1913 until World War II. He first appeared with the N.Y. Phil, in 1905; then conducted it regularly from 1922 to 1930, with Toscanini serving as assoc. conductor in 1929–30. In 1928 he received the degree of Mus.Doc. at Columbia Univ. (honoris causa); in 1933 he was appointed prof, of music at the Univ. of Utrecht. During the occupation of the Netherlands by the Germans, Mengelberg openly expressed his sympathies with the Nazi cause, and lost the high respect and admiration that his compatriots had felt for him; after the country’s liberation (1945), he was barred from professional activities there, the ban to be continued until 1951, but he died in that year in exile in Switzerland. Mengelberg was an outstanding representative of the Romantic tradition in symphonic conducting. His performances of the Beethoven syms. were notable for their dramatic sweep and power, if not for their adherence to stylistic proprieties. He was a great champion of many of the major composers of his era, including Mahler and Strauss; both men appeared as guest conductors of the Concertgebouw Orch., and became Mengelberg’s friends. Mahler dedicated his 5thand 8th syms. to Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orch., and Strauss dedicated his Ein Heldenleben to the same forces. Mengelberg was the first to lead a major cycle of Mahler’s works, in Amsterdam in 1920.
H. Nolthenius, W. M. (Amsterdam, 1920); A. Van den Boer, De psychologische beteekenis van W. M. als dirigent (Amsterdam, 1925); E. Sollitt, M. and the Symphonic Epoch (N.Y, 1930); idem, M. spreckt (speeches by M; The Hague, 1935); W. Paap, W. M. (Amsterdam, 1960).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire