An economist, Kaplan started the magazine Institutional Investor in 1967, and sold it in 1984 for a reported $75 million. That allowed him to do what he really wanted, and he wanted to direct. Or, really, conduct: he was an amateur orchestral conductor, and had a passion for the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler. Some just dismissed him as a rich guy who bought his way to the podium, but Kaplan himself always introduced himself as “just an amateur” who loved Mahler, in particular Mahler’s Second Symphony (“Resurrection,” completed in 1894).
When Kaplan first heard it, in Carnegie Hall in 1965, “I walked into that hall one person and I walked out a different person — I felt as if a bolt of lightning had gone through me,” he said later. “The music just wrapped its arms around me and never let go.” And he was up to conducting it, thanks to 17 years of coaching by Charles Bornstein, a conductor from the Juilliard School. Kaplan twice recorded Mahler’s Resurrection — with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1987, and again with the Vienna Philharmonic in 2002. Of the latter recording, the London Observer’s Anthony Holden noted, “This is not just a historic recording, indispensable to serious collectors; it is awesome music making that will have Mahlerians in raptures.” Kaplan was good enough that he was invited to conduct more than 50 different world-class orchestras. Thanks to his wealth, Kaplan actually bought the original manuscript for Mahler’s Second Symphony, written in Mahler’s own hand. With that, he found that the published version of the work was rife with errors — so many that the embarrassed publisher reissued it. He then published Mahler’s handwritten version so others could see the original for themselves. Kaplan was diagnosed with cancer in October. He died January 1, at 74.
Author’s Note: As I was writing this I checked my hard disk, and sure enough the copy of Mahler’s 2nd that I own was conducted by Kaplan.