UPDATE! Mahler was definitely underpaid.

This just in, as a follow up to my post and that of Alex Ross on Mahler’s salary as conductor of the New York Philharmonic— 

“In reply …, the salary proposed to Mahler by the Guarantors’ Committee of the New York Philharmonic in February-March 1911 for 80 to 90 concerts was $30.000, not $90.000. I do not have the time just now to search through the English volume of Mahler’s letters to Alma, but I was one of the original editors of the German volume and I worked together with Antony Beaumont throughout the whole time of the revision. 

Thus, I do not believe that such a shocking error could have crept in.  If I am wrong I would be grateful to know the reference so as to inform Antony Beaumont and the American publisher that the figure is erroneous and must be corrected as soon as possible.”   

Henry-Louis de La Grange  * 


Interesting then that Mahler’s salary in modern numbers would be about $600,000 for 90 concerts, or a meager $6,600/ concert- about a 10th of what top earning conductors might charge today.

Alex Ross was not mistaken in his original post; according to the English version of “Gustav Mahler: Letters to His Wife”, on p. 391 is the following quotation: 


“On 8 March he wrote to the Committee accepting their proposal of 90 concerts for a fee of $90,000” 

So the error is in the book (assuming that Prof. de La Grange is correct).

What amazing times we live in, when a scholar like Professor de La Grange can uncover a mistake like this through the power of a couple of blogs and an email list. Thanks to Deborah Hess and Peter Sheldorn of Mahlerlist for helping get to the bottom of this as well. 

* For those of you who are not Mahler nuts, Prof. de La Grange is a leading biographer of Gustav Mahler- the author of a multi-volume biography on the composer.               

c. 2006 Kenneth Woods             


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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at www.kennethwoods.net

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