Saturday, January 2, 2016

Gilbert Kaplan (1941-2016)

Gilbert Kaplan, the financier and publisher who became the leading authority on Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony (No. 2) – and the world’s best-known amateur conductor – has died at 74.

Kaplan, founder and publisher of the magazine Institutional Investor, developed an obsession with the Mahler Second after hearing Leopold Stokowski conduct the work in a 1965 concert.

The Mahler Second “made a personal connection, more than any music I had ever heard. I couldn’t explain it. I still can’t,” Kaplan told me in a 1996 interview, published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “[T]he way to unlock the mystery of why this music affected me in such a profound way, and to try to express it as I felt it and understood it,” he decided, “was to try to conduct it myself.”

He studied conducting, acquired Mahler’s autograph score, prevailed upon the publisher to correct numerous errors in what was then the standard printed score, and began conducting orchestras in the work. In time, many leading ensembles engaged Kaplan to lead the Mahler Second – he rarely conducted any other music – and prominent conductors sought his advice and consulted his writings on Mahler.

Kaplan led two recordings of the Mahler Second and a third of the piece in a chamber orchestration To my ears, his first recording, made with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1987, remains the best account on disc. (Not currently in print, it can be found on the used-disc market.)

An obituary in The Telegraph (UK):

Kaplan “truly embodied all the positive aspects of the misused term, ‘Amateur.’ We all learned so much from his scholarship as well as understanding how one person can change the way we think,” conductor Leonard Slatkin writes in comments appended to Norman Lebrecht’s death notice on his Slipped Disc blog:

A BBC documentary on Kaplan and the Mahler Second, centering on the 1987 recording sessions in Cardiff, Wales: