PHOTO of Willem Mengelberg      WILLEM MENGELBERG,
28 March 1871 - 21 March 1951

The name of Willem Mengelberg is hardly forgotten today, but is neither as revered nor as honored as contemporaries such as Wilhelm Furtwaengler (1886-1954), Arturo Toscanini (1867- 1957) or Bruno Walter (1876-1962). This is due to a complex set of factors: stylistic (not only changing taste, but critical consensus, has declared a personality-less approach to music more appropriate to valid interpretation), chronological (the three men cited above lived to make numerous post-war recordings) and political (Mengelberg remained in Holland during World War II and his former high reputation suffered afterwards; his memory has not received unqualified support from his countrymen) which denied the conductor publicity needed to keep his recordings in active circulation. Yet appreciation of his art has refused to wither and die.

This page, and those connecting to it, is devoted to Mengelberg's accomplishments and recorded legacy. I offer a list of recordings currently available on compact disc (as well as a second list of those no longer available but worth seeking out from used record dealers), a book list, mention of two societies devoted to keeping alive his memory and a Mengelberg Forum in which readers may leave their thoughts on his art for later inclusion.

I encourage you to seek out his recordings which, fortunately, are available in greater numbers now than for quite some time. Detractors and those not willing to listen will tell you that his work is mannered and self-aggrandizing, and to a certain extent this is true--but this was in pursuit of the higher goal as Mengelberg saw it, the ferreting out of the living heart of the music, gloriously performed in a highly individual and dramatic style that is instantly appealing. Mengelberg's is not timid music-making, and of a style our great great grandparents found compelling--for this, if for no other reason, his preservation of the values and accomplishments of another century must not be forgotten.

Brendan Wehrung

I welcome your comments .

Brendan Wehrung

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