The Gustav Mahler Foundation was established by the City Council of Bolzano in 1999, with the aim of organizing the Gustav Mahler Academy. The original idea of establishing the Foundation, however, had come to Claudio Abbado earlier in 1996. He wished bringing together talented young musicians and internationally renowned teachers beyond the context of Universities and Conservatories usual activities.
The idea was that famous professors from the most prestigious European orchestras and music Universities could pass on their experience to young musicians by holding lessons in a number of fields, from chamber music to the preparation for auditions, thus helping them develop a more practical and knowledgeable approach to their future profession of orchestra musicians.
Bolzano in those years was a culturally thriving city: a number of projects were taking shape, such as the University, the Municipal Theatre, the Concert Hall, the “Museion” (for Modern and Contemporary Art). Moreover, since 1982 Claudio Abbado had already been a frequent guest, with his presence during the periods of residence - and leading related concerts - of European Community Youth Orchestra (ECYO), which had later become the European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO).
In 1987, Bolzano had also responsively joined a project aimed at supporting the newly born Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, becoming the orchestra’s “residence city” and taking on many of the high costs due to rehearsals, conductor, teachers and musicians during the preliminary stages of international tours.
The environment, therefore, clearly appeared very promising in the eyes of Abbado, who appreciated the city’s large-scale commitment to culture and so decided that was the right time to implement another of his projects: the Gustav Mahler Academy.
The first edition of Gustav Mahler Academy masterclasses took place in 1999, thanks also to the collaboration of “Monteverdi” Conservatory and “Vivaldi” Music Institute, which made their rooms available for the lessons’ activities.
Since the Academy’s inception, over 1000 young musicians have attended its courses, including many promising talents from Bolzano itself. The opportunity to meet up and share the experience with other young Europeans has proved both stimulating and motivating. The Academy, in fact, may be a starting point for youth orchestras and, later on, professional orchestras.
Since 2013, the Foundation closely collaborates with Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Each year, 15 members of this prestigious ensemble perform together with students either the symphonic or the chamber music repertoire, transmitting their knowledge, the sense of quality and perfection, and the absolute dedication, that are the specific and characteristic features of all Claudio Abbado projects (including the MCO itself).
In 2015, the Gustav Mahler Foundation won the EU Creative Europe for Cooperation Projects, leading the project “SPREAD – Skills, Practice and Recruitment of European musicians for tomorrow. Audience Development in classical music”. With this project, the Foundation created an international partnership, connecting the different activities of each organization in order to establish a network for training young musicians to become the best professional orchestra musicians of the future.
The Gustav Mahler Academy courses have been awarded with a Medal of the President of Italian Republic for 10 consequent years of activity, from 2008 to 2017.