“Bernstein turned Mahler into kitsch”
Do you remember the first time you heard Mahler’s music?
Gielen: I remember very well. It was around 1956 in Vienna; Mitropoulos performed the 6th with the Vienna Philharmonic. I admired Mitropoulos very much; I was also his assistant at the opera.
I had read through the 6th, but I wouldn’t say that I knew it. As a conductor, I was still a beginner, but it was clear to me that the symphony was so under-rehearsed that it was barely recognisable. Of course it is a very complex work – the third movement was wonderful, but the second turned out to be very problematic, due to the changes in metre and the syncopations – and I would describe the finale as noise.