He may be more steeped in Mahlers music than any other American. The New York Times
Small wonder that critics
rank Olson with Leonard Bernstein
Boulder Daily Camera
This great performance is the equal of any Eighth Ive ever heard Fanfare magazine
Electrifying! Kansas City Star
The most exciting musical experience I've had in eight years here…Period.” Kansas City Star
Exquisite Breathtaking Spiritual Noble. The American Record Guide
A world class performance On the Air Magazine
Such is a sampling of reviews of Maestro Robert Olson, conductor of the Joseph Wheeler realization of Naxos Mahlers Tenth Symphony. Widely known for his interpretations of Mahler, his passion for the Austrian composers music led him to found the Colorado MahlerFest fifteen years ago, an annual festival dedicated to all things Mahlerian. A week in duration, each festival includes chamber recitals, films, International symposia, and highlighted by performances of Mahlers symphonies in order. Almost twice through the entire cycle of Mahlers works, Olson has achieved a following for his interpretations, which attempt to NOT be mainstream but rather fresh approaches to the score. His CD of the 8th Symphony received international acclaim, and since that time, his performances of the 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 10th, and Das Lied von der Erde have been offered through the Colorado MahlerFest to a steadily growing public. Olson and the MahlerFest were featured in a recent article in the New York Times.
In 1996, Olson was introduced to the Wheeler realization of Mahlers 10th, and was immediately struck by its originality and uniqueness, and the fact that it had never been performed or recorded. He began work on preparing a performing edition of the score in 1996, and in 1997, with a small international team of Mahler 10th specialists, made possible the world premiere performance of this great work at the Colorado MahlerFest X. Due to the international interest in this version, a CD was made available of the performance, and shortly thereafter, Olson was contacted by NAXOS to record it with the Polish National Radio Orchestra.
Currently a resident of Kansas City, Olson holds posts with three other orchestras. He is the conductor for the Kansas City Ballet, a post he has held since 1992, having conducted more than 350 performances with the Kansas City and St. Louis symphonies. He is Director of Orchestras/Opera at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where his two orchestras and, in particular, the opera productions consistently receive critical acclaim. With a repertoire of over 60 operas, recent productions include Turandot, Midsummers Night Dream, Manon, Ariadne auf Naxos, and others. He is also Music Director and Conductor of the Longmont Symphony in Colorado, an orchestra that has consistently received rave reviews from Colorado critics. During his 19-year tenure, the orchestra has flourished, presenting a eleven-concert season to capacity audiences.
An active guest conductor, he has guest conducted many orchestras in the United States and made his European début in 1990 in Belgium. This resulted in engagements in Venezuela, return invitations to Belgium, to Bergamo and Milan, Italy, to the Czech Republic, and the Ljubljana Music Festival. In 2001 he conducted the National Symphony of China (Beijing) and conducted four major Stravinsky works in a city-wide Stravinsky Festival sponsored by the Kansas City Symphony. Guest appearances in 2002 include the Miami City Ballet.