A Short list of Books on Mengelberg
There is precious little in English to document Mengelberg's 50 years
before the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and not nearly enough in Dutch. Here, in roughly
chronological order, are a few books worth looking into.
A few libraries, especially in New York City and California, have most of these books
if you wish to view them; I used a service called First Search at my local library to
find who has what. Antiquitarian book dealers also sell Mengelberg items,
when available, along with programs from his concerts. I refer you Internet sources
to see what is currently offered.
- WILLEM MENGELBERG, Gedenkboek 1895-1920 edited by Paul
Cronheim (Amsterdam: 'S Gravenhage Martinus Nijhoff, 1920) A book
reproducing congratulatory messages (in a number of languages) as the
conductor celebrated his first 25 years with the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
There appear to have been two versions, one
produced at the time of the anniversary, and a published version with slightly
- Mengelberg and the Symphonic Epoch by Edna Richolson
Sollitt (New York: Ives, Washburn, Publisher, 1929) Mengelberg must
have been attractive to women, because this book is almost embarrassing in its
adoration of his art. An example: "Mengelberg in Amsterdam! It is eight
o'clock on a cool spring evening, and the great hall of the Concertgebouw is
filled to the last seat with stalwart Dutchmen in London evening clothes, and
women in sophisticated toilettes. The Players are assembled. the liveried
attendant has poked his head through the door at the back of the stage to see
that all is in order; he comes down the stairway with his peculiar falling
gait, and removes to the rail the wreaths which have been resting on the
conductor's stand. Without any signal except our nerves. we all become quiet.
and suddenly, at the top of the slope a quick-moving figure rushes toward the
stairway and comes rapidly down. This is indeed the signal: the house rises;
the orchestra rises; the old hall fairly strains its walls to hold the welcome
we give. It is the closing concert of the subscription season." Yet,
despite the purple prose (somehow quite evocative), the lady did her homework,
quoting extensively from composers and critics of the day about her hero's
- Mengelberg speekt by Edna Richolson Sollitt
(Amsterdam: 'S Gravenhage: J. Philip Kruseman, 19??) Some lists show the title
Mengelberg Speaks, a translation of the Dutch original, but I have
never seen it offered, and it would be a primary resource for English-speaking
Mengelberg admirers, were it avialable.
- Mengelberg, zooals de teekenaar Georges Augsbourg hem zeit by
Georges Augsbourg (French title: Mengelberg, Sa vie en Images
(Amsterdam, Andries Blitz, 1936) A collection of drawings of Mengelberg in
rehearsal and concert. That such a book would sell indicates his status and
popularity in pre-war Holland.
- Concertgebouworkest in Diamant 1888-1948 by G. K. Krop
(Amsterdam: Van Munster's, 1949) (in Dutch)
- Geschiednis van het Concertgebouw by S. A. M.
Bottenheim (2 volumes, Amsterdam: Van den Vondel, 1953)
- Willem Mengelberg by Wouter Paap (Amsterdam: Elsevier,
1960) (translation by R. H. Hardie, P. M. Schouten and D. Tait, 1960)
Although slightly controversial at the time of publication, this is the most
complete biography in English available. (in Dutch)
- Over Willem Mengelberg by Miss E. B. Heemskerk
(Amsterdam: Vitgeverij Heuff, 1971) Never translated into English, I am told
this is a most thorough and engaging book on his life. Miss Heemskerk, who
lived to be 100, was a violinist in the Concertgebouw Orchestra and every
summer traveled to Chur, Switzerland to open and oversee Chasa Mengelberg, his
summer (and final) residence, which was maintained much as he left it by the
Willem Mengelberg Foundation, for musicians to rest and recover from the
stress of concert life. (In Dutch)
- The Recordings of Willem Mengelberg, A Discography compiled
by R. H. Hardie, (Nashville, Tennessee: 1972) (In English) This essential
for any Mengelberg collector is long out of print. Takeshi Hasegawa maintains a
discography page that has all the basic listings, by original recording entity.
My pages offer a list of currently available compact
discs for those who wish to experience Mengelberg's art.
- Willem Mengelberg [1871-1951], Dirigent / Conductor, Fritz
Zwart, editor (The Hague: Haags Gemeentemuseum, 1995) Catalog of a
Mengelberg exhibition at the Hague Municipal Museum, where the Mengelberg
Archives are kept. The book includes bilingual articles on Mengelberg and
Mahler and on the conductor's style. (in Dutch with English summary)
- Willem Mengelberg [1871-1951], een biografie, Fritz Zwart,
editor (Amsterdam: Prometheus, 1999) The first volume (of two), by far
the most extensive examination of the conductor's life. (In Dutch)
And a few books that include readable short biographies or evaluations as part
of a larger work:
I am aware that this list is far from complete and welcome
- The Orchestra Speaks by Bernard Shore (London:
Longmans, Green and Co., Ltd., 1938) A touching recollection of playing under
some of the great conductors of the day. (in English)
read the text of the Mengelberg chapter
- Living Musicians by David Ewan (New York: The H.W.
Wilson Company, 1940) Although now likely to be found only in large-city
libraries with older music book collections, this collection of major musician
biographies is still worth consulting. It is typical of similar later
compilations by the same author.
read the text of the Mengelberg article
- The Great Conductors by Harold Schonberg (New York:
Simon and Schuster, 1967) A book anybody with an interest in historical
conductors should not only read, but own. (in English)
- Conductors on Record by John L. Holmes (Westport,
Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1982) An extremely comprehensive book containing
biographies and record lists of nearly every classical conductor who ever made
a recording before 1980. (in English)
- Mahler in Amsterdam van Mengelberg tot Chailly, Johan Giskes,
editor (Amsterdam: Bossum, 1995) This interesting book deals, in a
series of articles, with the close association between Mahler's music and the
Concertgebouw Orchestra, and includes a CD of Concertgebouw music directors
leading movements from his symphonies; Mengelberg's contribution is the last
movement of the 4th Symphony. (in Dutch)
Return to the Mengelberg main page.