Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) was a Dutch conductor and composer who was active in the early 20th century. He was born in Utrecht, Netherlands, and went to study piano and composition at the Cologne conservatory.
In 1891, at the age of 20, he was chosen as General Music Director of the city of Lucerne Switzerland, where he amongst others conducted an orchestra and a choir, and directed a music school.
At the age of 24, he was appointed principal conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, a position he held until 1945. With the orchestra he premiered a number of masterpieces, such as Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben” and Violin Concerto No. 2 of Bartók. In 1899, Mengelberg instituted the yearly Concertgebouw tradition of performing, on Palm Sunday, of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Matthäus-Passion.
Mengelberg was known for his innovative and expressive conducting style, and he was particularly respected for his interpretations of the works of Gustav Mahler. He also composed a number of original works.
Mengelberg passed away in 1951 at the age of 79.