Gilbert Kaplan

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Gilbert Edmund Kaplan (March 3, 1941 – January 1, 2016) was an American businessman and financial publisher. He was also an aficionado of the music of Gustav Mahler, and an amateur conductor of Mahler's Symphony No. 2.[1]


Kaplan was born in New York City on March 3, 1941.[2] He studied at Duke University, and earned a bachelor's degree from The New School for Social Research. He later studied at New York University Law School.[1] In 1963, Kaplan took a job as an economist with the American Stock Exchange, at a salary of $15,000 per year. Kaplan founded the magazine Institutional Investor in 1967. He was publisher of the magazine until 1990, and editor-in-chief for two more years, although he sold it in 1984. The New York Times reported: "The price was never disclosed but was rumored to be about $75 million."[3]

Kaplan's interest in Mahler's Symphony No 2 dated back to 1965.[4] In 1981, he began tutelage in conducting with Charles Zachary Bornstein. He rented Avery Fisher Hall in New York for his public conducting debut in 1982, leading the American Symphony and the Westminster Symphonic Choir. Originally, the orchestra had requested that no reviews be published, but Leighton Kerner of The Village Voice breached this requested embargo with a positive review of this performance. Subsequently, Kaplan conducted Mahler's Symphony No 2 in over 100 live performances over the remainder of his life.[1] He established the Kaplan Foundation, dedicated to scholarship and the promotion of the music of Gustav Mahler. After personal research, he twice recorded Mahler's Second Symphony: with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1987, and with the Vienna Philharmonic in 2002.[5] Mahler's Second Symphony was the only complete work he conducted in public, although he did separately record the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony No. 5 in a studio recording.

Kaplan owned the autograph manuscript of Mahler's score of his Second Symphony and published a facsimile edition of the score in 1986.[6] Tim Page wrote in The New York Times: "Only now will musicians, scholars and the general public be able to own a facsimile manuscript of one of the composer's symphonies."[7] On 29 November 2016, the manuscript was sold at auction for £4,546,250, a record for any music manuscript at the time.[8] He also owned the autograph manuscript of Mahler's song, "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen." A facsimile of this manuscript was published by the Kaplan Foundation in 2015.[9] Both manuscripts were, at one time, on deposit at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.[citation needed] He was co-editor of the new critical edition of the Second Symphony as part of the Complete Critical Edition of Mahler's works.

Kaplan's conducting attracted criticism and praise, most controversially at his December 2008 New York Philharmonic performance.[10] Steve Smith wrote in The New York Times of this concert:[11]

That Mr. Kaplan is no professional conductor was immediately apparent. Square-shouldered and stiff, he indulged in no flamboyant gymnastics. He conducted from memory, beating time proficiently and providing cues as needed. Only in a few passages, like the pages of heavenly bliss just before the first movement's tempo-sostenuto conclusion, did a curl of the lip suggest that he was swept up in his work.

His efforts were evident throughout a performance of sharp definition and shattering power. From the acute punch of the opening notes, every detail of this huge, complex score came through with unusual clarity and impeccable balance. Every gesture had purpose and impact, and the performance as a whole had an inexorable sweep. ... It seems likely that no one is better equipped to reveal the impact of precisely what Mahler put on the page.

David Finlayson, a trombonist of the New York Philharmonic who performed at this concert, offered a different perspective:

Having not previously heard either of Mr. Kaplan's two recordings of the symphony, nor having seen him conduct, I came to our rehearsals with an open mind. My initial impression was that Mr. Kaplan displays an arrogance and self-delusion that is off-putting. As a conductor, he can best be described as a very poor beater of time who far too often is unable to keep the ensemble together and allows most tempo transitions to fall where they may. His direction lacks few indications of dynamic control or balance and there is absolutely no attempt to give phrases any requisite shape. In rehearsal, he admitted to our orchestra that he is not capable of keeping a steady tempo and that he would have to depend on us for any stability in that department. Considering his Everest-sized ego, this admission must have caused him great consternation upon reflection. Mahler's wonderful use of the off stage brass in the fifth movement gave Kaplan much tribulation. One would think that after more than fifty performances of the work, even the most plebeian of conductors would have some understanding of how to bring together musicians that are separated by great distance. In the performance, these haunting moments of the symphony slipped away like some wayward musical slinky.

I have to take extreme exception to the many reviews I have read of his performances. Some critics have written that he brings the finest details of the work to the surface. If his past performances were anything like ours, Mr. Kaplan excels in ignoring the blizzard of Mahler's performance direction.

Much has been written about Mr. Kaplan's passion for Mahler's great symphony as if this emotion is unique to him. This assertion is an insult to all professional musicians who have dedicated their entire lives and have sacrificed much toward the preservation of all the great works of history's finest composers. His continued appearances are also an affront to all "real" conductors who have toiled relentlessly for the recognition they duly deserve.

In Kaplan's conducting engagements of Mahler's Symphony No 2, he did not accept a fee.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Kaplan was the younger brother of the late Joseph Brooks, an Academy Award-winning composer who was found dead at his New York City apartment on May 22, 2011 in an apparent suicide while under criminal indictment on multiple sexual-assault and rape counts.

Kaplan married Lena Biörck, a Swedish interior designer, in 1970. The couple had 4 children. Kaplan's widow and children survive him.[12]


  • Gilbert E. Kaplan: "How Mahler Performed His Second Symphony". The Musical Times, Vol. 127, No. 1718 (May 1986), pp. 266–267+269+271
  • Gilbert Kaplan: The Mahler Album. Kaplan Foundation in association with Thames and Hudson, New York/London 1995, ISBN 0-500-97421-7; new, expanded edition: Kaplan Foundation, New York, 2011, ISBN 978-0-8109-9833-9
  • Gilbert Kaplan: "In One Note of Mahler, a World of Meaning". New York Times, 17 March 2002 (online)
  • Gilbert Kaplan: The correct movement order in Mahler's Sixth symphony. Kaplan Foundation, New York, 2004, ISBN 0-9749613-0-2
  • Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 2 in C minor : Resurrection : facsimile. Kaplan Foundation, New York, 1986, ISBN 0-571-10064-3
  • Gustav Mahler: Adagietto. Facsimile, documentation, recording. Gilbert E. Kaplan, ed. Kaplan Foundation, New York, 1992, ISBN 0-571-51322-0


  • Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection". Benita Valente, soprano; Maureen Forrester, alto; Gilbert E Kaplan; London Symphony Chorus.; London Symphony Orchestra. 1988
  • From Mahler With Love. Gustav Mahler: Adagietto, from Symphony no. 5; Gilbert E Kaplan; London Symphony Orchestra. 1992
  • Mahler plays Mahler. The Welte-Mignon piano rolls. Gilbert Kaplan, Executive Producer. 1993
  • The Kaplan Mahler edition. 1996. (contains Symphony No. 2, Adagietto from Symphony No. 5, the Mahler piano rolls, recorded recollections of musicians who performed with Mahler, plus a CD-ROM part containing 150 pictures from The Mahler Album)
  • Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 2. Latonia Moore, soprano; Nadja Michael, mezzo-soprano; Gilbert Kaplan; Wiener Singverein; Wiener Philharmoniker. Deutsche Grammophon 2003


  1. ^ a b c d Margalit Fox (2016-01-06). "Gilbert E. Kaplan, Publisher and Improbable Conductor, Dies at 74". New York Times. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  2. ^ Langer, Emily (2016-01-04). "Gilbert Kaplan, millionaire businessman and self-taught maestro of Mahler, dies at 74". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  3. ^ "Resignation at Magazine". The New York Times. December 1992.
  4. ^ Stephen Moss (2003-01-07). "One-hit wonder". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  5. ^ Holden, Anthony (November 16, 2003). "Classical CD of the Week". London: The Observer.
  6. ^ Mahler, Gustav (1986). Symphony no. 2 in C minor : Resurrection : facsimile (Facs. ed.). New York: Kaplan Foundation. ISBN 0571100643.
  7. ^ Page, Tim (May 18, 1986). "A Masterwork Made Public". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Hann, Michael (29 November 2016). "Mahler's second symphony manuscript sells for record £4.5m". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  9. ^ Ben Finane (Spring 2015). "Lost to the World". Listen. 7 (1): 29–32.
  10. ^ Daniel J. Wakin, Mahler Fan With Baton Cues Unrest in the Ranks, The New York Times, December 17, 2008.
  11. ^ Steve Smith (2008-12-09). "A Centennial Moment for a Mahler Epic". New York Times. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  12. ^ "Gilbert Kaplan, conductor – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 2016-01-01. Retrieved 2016-01-02.

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