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Willem Mengelberg

Willem Mengelberg’s parents were both German by birth, but worked in Holland, establishing a studio for the production of church furnishings at Utrecht in 1869. The fourth of sixteen children, several of whom died young, Willem learnt to play the organ and the piano in Utrecht, and although he was trained in the work of his father, it soon became apparent that he possessed musical skills which justified formal instruction. He therefore entered the Cologne Conservatory, where he studied piano under Isidor Seiss (who in turn had studied with Friedrich Wieck the father of Clara Schumann) and composition and conducting with Franz Wüllner, as well as music theory and composition with Gustav Jensen. Mengelberg left the Conservatory with prizes for composition, conducting and piano playing and both Wüllner and Seiss envisaged him developing his career as a pianist. His first professional work took place in Lucerne where from 1892 he conducted a choir and an orchestra, directed a music school, gave piano lessons and composed. On average he conducted one orchestral concert each month, and soon learnt that to gain the confidence of orchestral players it was important to possess a working knowledge of all orchestral instruments.




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