Select a Date

November 2014
« Oct   Dec »

How Close is Mahler to Today’s New York Phil?

Composer and conductor Gustav Mahler

Composer and conductor Gustav Mahler

The New York Philharmonic This Week, Thursday at 8:00 pm

In its 172 years, the New York Philharmonic has been the locus for many great moments in American music. Gustav Mahler’s tenure as music director of that orchestra (1909-1911) ranks high on the list for many music lovers. Of course, New Yorkers felt lucky to get him because he was one of the most celebrated conductors of his time. They weren’t so sure about his symphonies, which he conducted for his New York audience.

It would be decades before people began to appreciate Mahler as a composer. In 1967, another celebrated New York Philharmonic composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein published an essay in High Fidelity titled “Mahler: His Time Has Come.” And Bernstein was right. Since the publication of that article, over 1,000 Mahler recordings have been issued by orchestras and vocalists.

100 years after Mahler’s tenure in New York, the connection to the Bohemian master is a source of pride for New York Philharmonic musicians. Many feel they are heirs to a tradition of playing that comes directly from titans like Mahler, Bernstein, Toscanini, and others.

Several years ago, when the Philharmonic came to Chicago’s Symphony Center to play Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, a group of trombone players were asked if they felt intimidated playing that piece in Chicago (a piece which has long been a signature work of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). The New York musicians replied, “Why? He was our music director.”

But how closely connected are today’s New York Philharmonic musicians to Mahler’s Philharmonic of 1911? New York Philharmonic archivist Barbara Haws likes to say, “the real archives of the Philharmonic exists on the stage.” See the chart below which shows how careers have overlapped in the Philharmonic, and have had opportunity to influence the playing of the next generation.

New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert conducts the First Symphony of Gustav Mahler on the next edition of The New York Philharmonic This Week, hosted by Alec Baldwin. The broadcast starts at 8:00 pm, Thursday.


  • penny knuth

    Wonderful to see this..surely an inspiratio n for younger generation..and so happy to see familiar,dear names like the great Homer Mensch

    • caserito

      Hi Edward, it’s great to read you. I have searched about how Ormandy changed his last name when he immigrated to US in the ship Normandy. Also, I consider 44 as a conductor of Philadelphia more than a bit of conducting.

  • Edward Alley

    Wonderful, but Martin Ormandy was a cellist, not a violinist. That was his brother, Eugene, who also had a bit of a conducting career! Edward Alley, Orchestra Manager, NYPhilharmonic, 1981-83

  • Ray Edwards

    The bassoonist who played under Mahler was Benjamin Kohon.

  • Alexandros Rigas

    Strange. The man who reigned the NYPO for 9 years and sacrificed his career for Mahler, and conducted them in the US Premiere of Mahler’s 6th in 1947 is not there? It is a shame. Leonard Bernstein would be really mad for such an omission. Please add Dimitri Mitropoulos.