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GM obรกlka (4 a 1 strana) anglicky

Issued by the Statutory Town of Jihlava in 2010 Author: PhDr. Jana Bečková, Bc. Jana Petrůjová, Mgr. Jana Zbranková Professional cooperation: PhDr. Jiří Štilec (texts: Introduction, World Response) Photographs: Photographic archive of the Museum of the Highlands in Jihlava and the Moravian Land Archive in Brno – Government District Archive Jihlava Graphic layout by Eva Bystrianská Translation: Ivan Anděra, Robert Strider Printed by Antonín Prchal – Protisk Velké Meziříčí Printing: 1000 copies Cover title page – Gustav Mahler, 1911. Cover rear page – Enrolment sheet of Gustav Mahler for Vienna Conservatory, 1875.

GM obálka (2 a 3 strana) anglicky

7 July 1860–18 May 1911

Life, experiences and work

Statutory Town of Jihlava 2010

Contents [*]


7 School and Student Years



Mahler – His Life

[2] [1]

Gustav Mahler’s Family



[4] [5]

20 22





[*] Overview of Sources and Literature

In Gustav Mahler’s Footsteps in Jihlava

World Response


World-class Composer

Conductor and Opera Director

Born Musician



Houses on the eastern side of the square, around 1870.


Gustav Mahler, 1911.

[*] Introduction One hundred years after his death the music of Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) has become one of the most frequently performed, recorded, and at the same time one of the parts of the concert repertoire that are most sought out by audiences around the world. Thus Mahler’s own vision “Meine Zeit wird kommen” (“My time is yet to come”), which at the beginning of twentieth century rang of an overconfident statement by the author, whose conductor’s demands and perfectionism interfered with the established interpretation habits and a certain level of indolence, and whose compositions brought the music, which provoked and irritated, but at the same time caused incredible enthusiasm, came true unbelievably. It is also of interest that even the completely antagonistic streams of the so-called avant-garde and at the same time the so-called classics of the twentieth century referred to Mahler’s musical legacy in the twentieth century. Both the Second Viennese School (otherwise Arnold Schönberg himself called Mahler a holy man), and Dmitri Shostakovich, Benjamin Britten, and Krzysztof Penderecki as well avow the creative legacy of this author, who was born and spent the first fifteen years of his life in the territory of what today is the Czech Republic. Gustav Mahler is a great representative of artistic creation as a message and philosophical missive sui generis, of the art, which at the break of two great historical periods tries to bring great humanistic ideals and values, superseding the hitherto religious certainties in the secularising world. The modernity, relevance, and appeal of his music consist in original linking of very heterogeneous elements. If we wanted to paraphrase Paul Stefan, author of one of the first monographs on Gustav Mahler, then indeed, ”Mahler’s music begins on the street and ends in infinity …”. A kind of the basic cellular, intonational core of Mahler’s musical fabric is the genre of song, melodic fragment, ditty. This is what Mahler heard around in his childhood and what was typical for


his home – Austria – Hungary, variously multinational, multiconfessional, and multicultural, slowly decaying empire. The nostalgia, fear for the fate of the great art and fear for the fate of an intellectual in the modern industrialized and alienated world (the same feelings were expressed by the younger Mahler’s contemporary and also Czech compatriot Franz Kafka) associated with this fact, these are also sentiments which the listeners can identify in the works of Gustav Mahler. That’s why the work of this composer is so topical – not only for the means of its musical expression, but also by its content, which reflects a series of question marks with respect to our present.


Family home of Gustav Mahler in Kaliště – original condition.

Bernhard Mahler and his wife Maria, née Herrmann.

[1] Gustav Mahler’s Family Mahler’s family came from the land below Blaník Hill. The surname “Mahler“ appeared first on a list of Jews of 1793 in the municipality of Chmelná, near Vlašim. The family’s founder, Abraham Mahler was, based on the above list of Jews, a synagogue singer who earned his living by preparing kosher foods. Gustav’s grandfather Simon Mahler was born in Chmelná in 1793, and after marrying Maria née Bondy he went to Lipnice near Německý Brod (after 1945 it was renamed Havlíčkův Brod). There Bernhard Mahler, father of Gustav Mahler, was born on August 2, 1827. In the same year the family moved to the municipality of Kaliště, near Humpolec, and settled in house No. 52, which included a distillery. Simon Mahler was first a tenant, and in 1838 he became the owner of this distillery. The prosperity of his business was also helped greatly by abolition of the harshest laws, which in the revolutionary years of 1848–1849 limited both the movement and the business of Jews. Gustav’s father, Bernhard Mahler, marketed the different types of spirits. The most frequent destination of his journeys was Jihlava, but for instance he also used to visit Znojmo. In 1857 Bernhard married Maria Herrmann (born 2 March 1837 in Ledeč nad Sázavou), the daughter of the rich merchant and soap boiler Abraham Herrmann. Her considerable dowry enabled Bernhard to buy house No. 9, with a pub and a shop, in Kaliště and to set up on his own. In 1858 his son Isidor was born, but he died next year. One year later, on July 7, 1860, the second son, Gustav, was born. In the same year both Simon’s and Bernhard’s families moved from Kaliště. Simon Mahler settled in Německý Brod, where he became the founder of a big textile and knitting factory (today’s PLEAS). Bernhard’s family moved to Jihlava. Soon afterward his brother David and other relatives also came there, and all of them engaged in trade.


Brtnická Street, to the right houses on land reg. Nos. 264 and 265.

View from the square to Brtnická Street, where starting in 1860 the family of Bernhard Mahler lived.

At that time Jihlava was the second biggest town in Moravia, with population of 17,000, mostly of German origin. However, it was the Jewish entrepreneurs, several hundred of whom came to the town from surrounding municipalities, who took credit for the unprecedented economic development of Jihlava in the 1860’s. Moreover, on February 18, 1860, Emperor Franz Joseph I permitted acquisition of property in the town by Jews. Subsequently all the important institutions were established there: the Jewish school, the Jewish religious association, and the Jewish Community. In 1863 a stately synagogue in the Moorish style was built on Nová Street (Neugasse, today Benešova Street), and in 1869 the Jewish cemetery was established on the western border of the town. The family arrived in Jihlava on October 22, 1860. The Mahler family settled on the first floor of the house on land reg. No. 265 on what was then Brtnická Street (Pirnitzergasse, today Znojemská 4), and the very next day Bernhard signed up for permanent residence. As in Kaliště, also in Jihlava Bernhard Mahler wanted to deal in hard liquor production and sale. Therefore he filed an application for production, draught, and sale of sweet liqueurs. Since, however, at that time a great number of these licences had been issued, Bernhard did not obtain the licence, but at the beginning he could establish at least the grocery shop. When in 1861 he finally obtained a permit to produce hard liquor, various types of sweet liqueurs, and rosolio (Maraschino), simultaneously with a permit for draughting spirits, he opened a taproom on the ground floor of the house where he lived. Gradually he began to also lease taprooms of other owners, and there he sold in particular his hard liquor, various types of sweet liqueurs, and rosolio. He also continued to extend his permits for sale of other types of goods. Through his tenacity and prosperous business Bernhard gained access to the town’s dignitaries, and thanks to the “December Constitution” of 21 December 1867 (which emancipated the Jews) the family’s financial status improved to such an extent that Bernhard could afford to buy the neighbouring house land reg. No. 264 (today Znojemská 6). In the


North-eastern part of the square with St Ignatius Church, army barracks in background; in the baroque houses of the northern front the District Office, Regional and District Court, and other government authorities had their offices.

following year this house was radically reconstructed. On the ground floor a taproom and back rooms were established, and in the yard wing a distillery was installed which produced bulk quantities of hard liquor and liqueurs. The Mahler family’s apartment was on the first floor. It comprised a big kitchen, vestibule, bedroom, and a stately room called the “drawing room.” In two rooms of the section that faced the yard, connected with the front section of the house via a courtyard gallery, the maids, wet nurse, and taproom staff lived. After ten years of continuous residence in one town or village each citizen of the AustrianHungarian monarchy could apply for a grant of the right of domicile in the place of residence. Bernhard Mahler, whose domicile was still Kaliště, applied for a change in November 1873 – thirteen years after his arrival in Jihlava. He satisfied the condition for granting a burgher’s right by a sufficiently long stay and by purchasing a house, i.e., by keeping certain property. The municipal committee’s statement concerning Bernhard’s application was positive and thus Bernhard Mahler became a citizen of the royal mining town of Jihlava, after payment of the relevant fee. Bernhard Mahler was extraordinarily enterprising, strong-willed, and ambitious, but he was also a fiery-tempered, rough man with a craving to excel at any price. This is evidenced by numerous records of fines at the Jihlava court (quarrels, fights, unauthorized sale, etc.). Gustav’s mother Maria was the opposite of her husband: subtle, sensitive, however, also bodily weak due to an inborn cardiac defect. There were frequent wild quarrels and domestic scenes between the parents.


Gustav Mahler as a five-year-old schoolboy.

Eastern side of square with the town hall and Krecl, St Jacob Church in background.

The family of Bernhard and Maria Mahler was numerous. From 1858 to 1879 they had 14 children, of whom, however, eight died in childhood. Even when at the end of the 19th century the death of small children was a very common thing and roughly half of all newborn babies died during the first years of life, excessively frequent deaths in the family left terrible scars on the family’s life, particularly on the psyche of the mother, to whom the sensitive Gustav was most attracted. Little Gustav was strongly affected by the death of his one-year-younger brother Ernest (1861–1875), which inspired him later in his first opera, Ernest, Duke of Swabia (1879). From the memories of Alma Mahler we come to know that Gustav’s sister Justine even played at death: “As a child she glued candles around her bed. Then she lay down, lit the candles, and almost believed that she was dead.“ (In: MAHLER, A.: Gustav Mahler. Memories. Prague 2001, p. 13)

These tragic childhood experiences remained deep in the heart of the future composer and they primarily influenced his deep spiritual relationship with his siblings.


Gustav Mahler as a 3rd year student at the gymnasium.

Building of the gymnasium at Hluboká Street.

[2] School and Student Years Most probably Gustav received his elementary education at the main school on what is today Fibichova Street. We know almost nothing about this part of Mahler’s life, since no documents, not even class registers, have been preserved. In the autumn of 1869 Mahler entered the German gymnasium at Hluboká Street No. 1 (then Im Jesuitengarten, since 1878 Tiefegasse), whose building, which dates back to 1727, with a later annex of the mid-19th century, still exists (as the Town Library). In his very first semester young Mahler drew the attention of the school management and Jihlava’s public to himself by honestly returning a wallet with a large amount of money that he found; word of the case spread to the public through the town crier after he had drummed up people across the town. In the first years of Gustav’s studies his results weren’t bad. At the end of the first year he placed 22nd among the 49 pupils, and one year later he placed sixteenth out of forty. By then he had already made his first public appearance (October 13, 1870, in the Town Theatre) and his father Bernhard, dazzled by his son’s musical success, wanted to ensure an even better education for him than was possible in Jihlava, and arranged his transfer to a gymnasium in Prague’s New Town. Gustav lived in the Old Town with the family of professor Grünfeld, who at the same time taught him music. However, young Mahler, torn out of his environment, failed in six subjects out of a total of seven at the much more demanding school, and he was hopelessly last in the class. Therefore his father took him back to Jihlava, where he continued his studies at the local gymnasium, this time with better results. Mahler ended his regular studies at the 6th grade. Gustav Schwarz, the administrator of a Moravany farmstead in the Čáslav region who met Mahler through his classmate Josef


Steiner from nearby Habry, identified young Mahler’s music talents and persuaded his father to arrange for Gustav’s study at the Vienna Conservatory. Gustav’s father agreed, on the condition that Gustav would complete his studies at the gymnasium and take the final exam there. Thus Gustav studied at the Jihlava gymnasium for another two years as a private student. He returned to Jihlava to take the exams for the last semester, and also for vacations. In the summer months he made appearances at successful concerts. In view of his coming graduation examination, on September 12, 1876, he organized a concert in the great hall of the Czap Hotel as a benefit for the gymnasium – for purchasing teaching aids. That is to say that his study results showed a continuous downward trend, and he finished the last semester with four failing grades. He withdrew from the graduation examination on the regular date, July 6, 1877, and he returned to face the examination committee on September 12. The committee showed him mercy and “let him pass.” The period he spent at the gymnasium was also important in Mahler’s life, as he formed lifelong friendships with several classmates while he was there. Besides the above-mentioned Josef Steiner, he became friends with Quido Adler, a native of Ivančice in Moravia who later was a professor with the department of music science at the Vienna School of Philosophy and a music critic, or with Emil Freund, who was in charge of Mahler’s legal affairs. Another lifelong friend was his music teacher, Heinrich Fischer’s son, Theodor, also a classmate from the Jihlava gymnasium. In October 1877 Gustav Mahler entered the Vienna School of Philosophy and for two years he studied philosophy, history, and music history there. In June 1878 he finished at the conservatory with great success, and in May 1880 he entered his first engagement as the conductor of a summer theatre orchestra in the spa town of Bad Hall, in Upper Austria.


Sisters Emma and Justine.

With sister Justine in 1899.

Final resting place of Mahler’s parents at the Jewish cemetery in Jihlava.

[3] Mahler – His Life In the 1880s Mahler appeared regularly in Jihlava during the summer months and he occasionally performed in the Town Theatre as a musician or conductor. From 1878 to 1883 he spent part of his summer holidays with his friend and classmate, JUDr. Emil Freund, in Želiv, near Humpolec. There are several documents from this period, lists of conscripts, which deal with Mahler’s state of health. At his first conscription in Vienna in 1880 he was found unfit for military service due to his overall weakness, and a year later he was completely crossed off the list of conscripts due to his severe myopia. However, this led to his obligation to pay a military tax. An important milestone in life of Gustav Mahler came in the year of 1889, during which both his parents and his oldest sister Leopoldine died. First his father died on February 18 at the age of 62, and then on September 27 in Vienna his sister Leopoldine, married name Quittner, died at the age of 26. Several days later, on October 11, he was hit with his heaviest loss when his mother died. Both parents were buried in the Jihlava Jewish cemetery and their final resting place is marked by a tall, dark tombstone. After the estate had been settled Gustav and his siblings left Jihlava forever. Reportedly he took with him only his old father’s armchair. Through a court decision, as the oldest of the siblings, he became the guardian of his underage brothers Alois and Otto and sisters Justine and Emma. He tried to ensure a good future for all of them; fortunately, as the director of the Royal Opera in Budapest, with an annual salary of 10,000 florins, he had the financial means for this. For some time his most beloved sister, Justine, onto whom he had projected memories of their mother, kept his households in Budapest and later in Hamburg.


Alma Mahler with daughters.

Heinrich Fischer – favourite Mahler’s teacher.

Both sisters were married to the brothers Rosé, of whom Arnold, Justine’s husband, was a leader of the Vienna Philharmonic. Before marriage both sisters converted to the Evangelical faith. The Jewish faith played a substantial role neither in their lives nor in the lives of the other siblings, as may also be documented by Gustav’s conversion to the Catholic Church in February 1897 in Hamburg, or by the example of his brother Alois, who changed his faith twice. The fates of both brothers were eventful: the musically gifted Otto, a graduate of the Vienna Conservatory, shot himself in Vienna in 1895, and the older Alois, an unsuccessful merchant, left for America at the beginning of 20th century, thus interrupting all contact with the family. After leaving Jihlava the Mahler siblings did not return to their native town. However, Gustav maintained some contacts with Jihlava, even though only sporadically. He spent nearly ten years settling the estate of his deceased parents there, and he had the right of domicile there till his death. And neither did he forget his friends, who indisputably included his music teacher Heinrich Fischer and his son Theodor, later the president of Jihlava Regional Court, to whom he sent letters and picture postcards from places he visited. The local German newspaper, Mährischer Grenzbote, also drew attention to their ever more famous compatriot from time to time. In 1902 Gustav married Alma Maria Schindler (1879–1964), the daughter of an outstanding Viennese painter of landscapes, Jakob Emil Schindler (1842–1892). Alma was very well educated in music, she studied composition with Alexander von Zemlinski, composed songs, and Mahler, in his own words, commissioned her with work correcting manuscripts and notations. Without any doubt, the meeting of the twenty-two-year-old Alma, considered the most beautiful girl in Vienna, with the nineteen-years-older Gustav Mahler, then already a highly appreciated, if not always completely understood, composer in a secure position as the director and conductor of the Vienna Court Opera, was a fateful event.


Letter from Gustav Mahler to music director Heinrich Fischer.

Their marriage yielded two daughters, Maria Anna (1902–1907) and Anna Justine (1904–1988); Anna Justine became a sculptress and had two daughters – Alma (*1930) and Marina (*1943). “In the first years I felt very insecure with Mahler … And it is peculiar that from the moment of his spiritual victory Mahler overlooked me and began to love me again only when I had freed myself from his tyranny. For the time being he played the role of a teacher, relentlessly strict and unjust. He spoiled the world for me and made me loathe it. That is, he tried to: Money – vanity! Clothes – vanity! Beauty – vanity! Travel – vanity! Only the spirit itself! Today I know he was afraid of my youth and beauty and wanted to neutralize me by simply taking from me every living thing, which he could not cope with. I was a little girl whom he longed for and whom he was now educating.” (MAHLER, A.: Gustav Mahler. Memories. Prague 2001, page 45).

After Mahler’s death she married an outstanding American architect of German origin, Walter Gropius (1883–1969), and her third husband was the poet Franz Werfel (1890–1945). However, she called herself “Gustav Mahler’s widow” till the end of her life.


The assiduous and relentless musician Gustav Mahler, acting as conductor or director of the opera houses in various European cities (see the Conductor and Opera Director chapter), constantly overworked and exhausted himself. On February 21, 1911, he conducted his last concert in New York, where he had a contract. At that time Mahler was already ill. The doctors in America, Paris, and subsequently in Vienna were not able to help him any more. Gustav Mahler died in Vienna on May 18, 1911. The Jihlava newspaper, Mährischer Grenzbote, on May 21, 1911, reported on Mahler’s serious illness; in the same issue a report on his death appeared, with a short obituary. The programme of the Jihlava gymnasium, issued at the end of the 1910/11 school year, contained one sentence on his passing: “May 18, 1911, marked the passing of a former pupil of this institution, Mr. Gustav Mahler, who became famous as a composer and the director of the Imperial and Royal Court Opera far beyond the borders of his mother country.” An obituary with a photograph also appeared in Deutscher Volkskalender für die Iglauer Sprachinsel in 1912. Gustav Mahler is buried at Grinzing Cemetery in Vienna. His grave is marked by a simple tombstone, which was designed by one of the most important European architects, Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956), a native of Brtnice, and, like Mahler, a graduate of the Jihlava gymnasium. As Mahler wished, on the tombstone there is but his name. “Whoever seeks me out knows who I was, and others do not need to know.” (In: BLAUKOPF, K.: Gustav Mahler – Contemporary of the Future, Jinočany 1998, p. 203)


Town Theatre of 1850 at Komenského Street.

Hotel Czap on today’s Žižkova Street.

[4] Born Musician “This is a born musician!” Julius Epstein at acceptance test during which Mahler also prided himself on his own creations. Jihlava has a centuries-old musical tradition. The first mention of the local voice school dates back to 1571. Activities of Jihlava “master singers,” together with the development of instrumental and vocal performances in the galleries of St Jacob’s and the Assumption of the Virgin churches – all this created an extraordinary musical environment in the town. In the 1860s and 1870s club activities developed rapidly, and musical associations held an important position. A typical supporter of the burghers’ musicality was the Musical Association (Musikverein), founded in 1819. The members of the association were mostly the town’s dignitaries and members of the town intelligentsia. The coming of the forms of the new-era musical can be traced to the 1860s. Vocal music in particular represented the most widely spread form of musical social life in the conservative society of the Jihlava burghers. In 1852 the “Men Singers’ Society” (Männer-Gesang-Verein) was founded. Life after the revolutionary year of 1848 featured many musical and theatrical benefit performances, which took place in the new building of the Town Theatre, built in 1850 by the factory owner Jan Okonski by converting the former Capuchin monastery. When Mahler was a youth there operas, operettas, and plays were introduced and then performed throughout the monarchy. Starting in 1870 another spot where the music-loving Jihlava community could meet was the dance hall at the hotel of the factory owner Franz G. Czap (today’s Dělnický dům – Workers’ House).


Participants at a folk festivity in the Jihlava region, end of the 19th century.

Gustav Mahler with Josef Steiner (?) in 1872.

Thus it was not only the sufficient material support, but also the slowly evolving cultural life in the town, which became the conditioning factors in the development of Gustav Mahler’s musical talent. The musical talent of Gustav Mahler started to develop very early. Many stories have been passed on that document Mahler’s early musical beginnings and his unusual talent, but unfortunately it is impossible to verify to what extent they are true. From the beginning his father decided to support his son’s musical talent. Little Gustav’s first teachers included Czech musicians from the town band, whom Gustav knew mostly from the taproom, such as Jakub Sladký, and later Jan Brož and Jan Žižka of the theatre orchestra, its conductor František Viktorin, and the music teachers Václav Pressburg (pupil of Anton Bruckner) and František Sturm. The biggest role in Gustav Mahler’s musical growth was played by a music teacher, a graduate of the Prague Conservatory, the choirmaster at St Jacob and the “Men Singers’ Society” and an organizer of musical life in Jihlava, Heinrich Fischer (1827–1917). It was to him alone that Mahler expressed gratitude for his whole life and wrote to him on all sorts of occasions. Gustav Mahler’s first public performance took place on October 13, 1870, in the Town Theatre. Jihlava’s public was informed of the first big success of the ten-year-old son of the Jewish merchant Mahler by the Vermittler newspaper of October 16, 1870. On November 11, 1872, young Mahler performed Liszt’s piano variations on Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at a soirée at the gymnasium dedicated to Schiller’s anniversary [ed note: Is that the anniversary of Schiller’s birth? You need some thing to qualify the anniversary – anniversary of what?]. The newspapers in those days wrote about a young virtuoso with excellent technique and original interpretation. On April 20, 1873, he won great applause for his performance of Thalberg’s piano phantasy on a theme from the opera Norma. The concert took place in the


Highlands. Photo Fr. Kubica.

Wedding procession of farmers of the Jihlava language island with a band. 1890’s.

Town Theatre. Gustav Mahler repeated the same concert on May 17, 1873, in the hall of the Czap Hotel on the occasion of the “Men Singers’ Society” anniversary. Mahler came regularly to visit his parents, to spend his holidays and days of leisure with them. And Jihlava’s institutions took advantage of the presence of the outstanding and locally well known musician to organize a number of concerts. Immediately during his first vacation there, on July 31, 1876, Mahler, together with his Jihlava colleague Richard Schraml, gave a concert in the hall of the Czap Hotel. Mahler also gave a concert, with the participation of other conservatory students and members of the Vienna Court Opera, which took place in Jihlava on September 12, 1876, to help purchase teaching aids for the gymnasium. Several successful concerts followed: On April 24, 1879, there was a gala concert to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the marriage of the imperial couple in the Town Theatre, on September 19, 1882, he conducted the operetta Boccaccio by Franz von Suppé, and on August 11, 1883, he gave a benefit concert for the Red Cross accompanying the violin player Míla Ottová and conducting Kunze’s operetta Kaffeekränzchen, again in the Town Theatre.


German Royal Land Theatre in Prague, where Mahler worked in 1885–1886.

Royal Opera in Budapest where Mahler worked in 1888–1891.

[5] Conductor and Opera Director Gustav Mahler entered the Vienna conservatory in September 1875. He studied piano with Professor Julius Epstein, and composition and counterpoint with Franz Krenn. The conservatory provided education to future pianists and composers. In that time no special conductor’s teaching existed yet. Only in 1909, when the private conservatory changed into the Government Vienna Academy, the “choirmasters‘ school“ was established. When Gustav Mahler was a student a general musical education was considered a precondition for a conductor’s career. This included in particular impromptu piano playing, playing from a score, and the ability to compose and improvise. The basic education also comprised outstanding management of the trade, including harmony and counterpoint. Thus it can’t be asserted that Mahler became an outstanding conductor without relevant teaching, only that he had no particular teacher. But the conservatory’s teaching provided him with everything that was then important for a conductor. The conservatory education was extensive and practical. After finishing at the conservatory in 1880 Mahler entered his first engagement as the conductor of a summer theatre orchestra in the spa town of Bad Hall, in Upper Austria. He worked there in May and June, 1880. After that he went to Ljubljana, where he worked in 1881 and 1882, and from January to March 1883 he was principal of the Royal Town Theatre orchestra in Olomouc. From there he went to Kassel (1883–1885), and afterwards he took a position in Prague at the German Royal Land Theatre (1885–1886) with director Angelo Neumann. He presented the opera Don Giovanni by W.A. Mozart and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with great success. Afterwards, from 1886 to 1888 he worked as the second conductor at the Town Theatre of Leipzig. From 1888 to 1891 he took the position of art director at the Royal Hungarian Opera in Budapest, from where he went to Hamburg to a position as the first


conductor of the Town Theatre (1891–1897). In that period he was already an acknowledged European conductor and had engagements in many big cities (his guest engagement in London from June to July 1892 was a great success). In 1897 he gained the most prestigious position possible in that period: he became the principal conductor and director Twenty-eight-year-old Mahler of the Court Opera in Vienna. There he cooperated with stage as the director of the Royal designers Heinrich Lefler and Alfred Roller in the implementaHungarian Opera in Budapest. tion of operatic works. He engaged the best vocalists, and he placed stringent demands on the orchestra and on performances. His engagement as the director can be characterised as the period when opera flowered and the beginning of a new way of staging operas. He worked as the director till 1907. Then he took an engagement at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he stayed till his death. Starting in 1909 he also conducted for the New York Philharmonic. During his American stay he gave concerts not only in New York, but also in Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo. In almost three hundred concerts Mahler featured almost four hundreds musical works by approximately ninety composers. Most frequently he featured the works of Richard Wagner, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Of Czech composers he several times featured the operatic works of Bedřich Smetana as well as Píseň bohatýrská (A Hero’s Song) by Antonín Dvořák. “As an ingenious conductor Mahler had no serious competitors. All musical experts and journalists acknowledged his virtues as a musician and as a reviver of opera, a reputation which he gained as a conductor, repertory adviser, stage manager, and adviser of the singers.” (FISCHER, T.: Gustav Mahler; from lecture of the author of 21. 3. 1931. In: JAROŠ, Z. Young Gustav Mahler and Jihlava, MVJ 1994, p. 26.)


Draft manuscript of Mahler’s 1st Symphony.

Title page of 3rd Symphony.

[6] World-class Composer In the musical literature Gustav Mahler is considered a representative of late romanticism and a great symphony composer at the break of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, who opened an imaginary gateway to the twentieth century. The cornerstones of his works are his nine completed symphonies, and his vocal-symphonic composition The Song of the Earth and a number of song cycles. It is paradoxical that, although he dedicated his whole life to conducting operas, he never wrote (ironically it could be stated that it was for this very reason) any operatic works (with the exception of unpreserved experiments of youth). Gustav Mahler began his creations at an early age. Probably in 1866 he composed Polka for Piano as a “job” for his mother and the song Turks Have Beautiful Daughters (Die Türken haben schöne Töchter) as an “order“ for his father. In the summer of 1875 in Jihlava the idea of writing an opera, Ernest, Duke of Swabia (Herzog Ernst von Schwaben) on a text by his classmate, Josef Steiner, was born. Shortly before the work’s origin Gustav Mahler’s brother Ernst had died – thus it is possible that the choice of theme reflected his brother’s death. His second opera project, which was not preserved either, was the opera Argonauts (Die Argonauten 1877–78), on a text by Gustav Mahler and Josef Steiner according to Franz Grillparzer. His opera Krakonoš (Rübezahl 1879–1883) also remained uncompleted and unpreserved. In 1876 Gustav Mahler won the 1st prize in the field of musical composition at the Vienna Conservatory for the first movement of his Piano Quartet. This could have involved his Piano Quartet in A minor, which was created in Vienna in 1876. This is the work which he probably also presented in his Jihlava concert on September 12, 1876. In a successful concert in Jihlava on July 31, 1876, he introduced another of his works, Sonata for Violin and Piano.


Gustav Mahler, 1884.

Gustav and Alma Mahler in Toblach in 1909.

Symphonies Symphony No. 1 in D Major (Symphonie Nr. 1 D-Dur “Titan“, 1888) for a large orchestra. Mahler himself called the symphony “Titan,“ although later he distanced himself from this name. The name of “Titan” could refer to a novel by Jean Paul, however, this has not been proven for sure. It was performed for the first time in Budapest on November 20, 1889, conducted by the composer. Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Symphonie Nr. 2 c-Moll “Die Auferstehung“ 1894), “Resurrection,” for soprano and alto solos and mixed choir Text: Ludwig Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano “Urlicht“; from the collection of The Youth’s Magic Horn; Friedrich Klopstock ”Die Auferstehung,“ re-worked by Gustav Mahler. First introduction: Berlin, December 13, 1895, conducted by the composer. Symphony No. 3 in D Minor (Symphonie Nr. 3 d-Moll „Ein Sommermittagsttraum“ 1896) for alto solo, children’s and women’s choir Text: Friedrich Nietzsche, the author of, among other works, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None; Ludwig Achim von Armin and Clemens Brentano from the collection of The Youth’s Magic Horn. First introduction: Krefeld, June 9, 1902, conducted by the composer. Symphony No. 4 in G Major (Symphonie Nr. 4 G-Dur, 1900) for soprano solo Text: Ludwig Achim von Armin and Clemens Brentano from the collection of The Youth’s Magic Horn. First introduction: Munich, November 25, conducted by the composer.


Gustav Mahler, 1907.

Final, last page of the unfinished 10th Symphony (1910).

Symphony No. 5 in C Minor (Symphonie Nr. 5 cis-Moll, 1902) for a large orchestra First introduction: Cologne, October 18, 1904, conducted by the composer. Symphony No. 6 in A Minor (Symphonie Nr. 6 a-Moll „Die Tragische“, 1904) “Tragic,” for a large orchestra First introduction: Essen, May 27, 1906, conducted by the composer. Symphony No. 7 in E Minor (Symphonie Nr. 7 e-Moll, 1905) for a large orchestra First introduction: Prague, September 19, 1908, conducted by the composer In 1908 the Jubilee Exhibition of the Prague Chamber of Commerce and Industry took place in Prague from May to September, which celebrated 60 years of rule by the Emperor Franz Joseph I. In connection with the Jubilee Exhibition, Mahler visited Prague in May 1908, when he conducted the first philharmonic concert of the Exhibition Orchestra on May 23. Based on all the hitherto available data in literature and preserved correspondence it was probably there, after this concert of May 23, that the idea of introducing the world premiere of the Seventh Symphony in the last philharmonic concert of the Jubilee Exhibition originated. For sure two facts were at play. First, it had to be the satisfaction of the composer, and at the same time the conductor with the local orchestra, and second, it was the prestige of the whole Jubilee Exhibition in Prague. The symphony’s premiere was performed on Saturday, September 19, at 7:00 PM. Thus Prague, the Jubilee Exhibition, and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra as a part of the Exhibition Orchestra went down in musical history (In: ŠTILEC, J.: World premiere of Seventh Symphony by Gustav Mahler. Rudolfinum Revue VIII/1 2008/2009).


Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major (Symphonie Nr. 8 Es-Dur, 1906) for three sopranos and two altos, tenor, baritone, and bass solos, children’s choir, two mixed choirs, and a large orchestra. Text: Part I: Rabanus Maurus Magnentius, hymn Veni creator spiritus. Part II: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust, The Second Part of the Tragedy. First introduction: Munich, September 12, 1910 conducted by the composer. The symphony has the nickname, “Symphony of a Thousand,“ but the moniker did not originate from Mahler. This name was given to the symphony by the concert organizer, Emil Gutman, since a great many musicians are required for the performance. Mahler dedicated the symphony to his wife Alma Mahler. The first introduction of the symphony, the same as the introductions on the following days, was very successful. Symphony No. 8 is also the last one introduced by Mahler himself during his life. Two works that Mahler was still working on were presented to the public only after his death. Song on Country (Das Lied von der Erde, 1908) A symphony for tenor and alto (or baritone) solo and large orchestra Text: Hans Bethge, Chinese Flute, recast Chinese poems. First introduction: Munich, November 20, 1911, conducted by Bruno Walter. Symphony No. 9 in D Major (Symphonie Nr. 9 D-dur, 1909) for a large orchestra First introduction: Vienna, June 26, 1912, conducted by Bruno Walter. Symphony No. 10 in F-sharp Major (Symphonie Nr. 10 Fis-dur, 1910), remained unfinished. First movement Adagio and third movement Purgatorio were introduced: Vienna, October 12, 1912, conducted by Franz Schalk

Cantata Song of Lamentation (”Das klagende Lied,“ 1880, reworked in 1893 and 1898) for soprano, alto, and tenor solos, mixed choir and orchestra. Gustav Mahler’s text is based on the “Song of Lamentation” fairy tale by Ludwig Bechstein. First introduction: Vienna, February 17, 1901 (in reworked version without the first part) conducted by the composer.


Songs Accompanied by Piano or Orchestra Three Songs for Tenor and Piano (Drei Lieder für Tenorstimme und Klavier, 1880) Text: Gustav Mahler Five Songs for Voices and Piano (Fünf Lieder und Gesänge für eine Singstimme und Klavier, 1880–1887) Text: Richard Leander, Gustav Mahler, Tirso de Molina. Songs of a Travelling Journeyman for voices and piano or voices and orchestra (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen für Singstimme und Klavier, 1883–1885, beziehungsweise Singstimme und Orchester, 1893–1896) Text: Gustav Mahler Nine songs on texts from The Youth’s Magic Horn collection by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Armin, for voices and piano (Neun Lieder und Gesänge aus Des Knaben Wunderhorn nach Texten aus der gleichnamigen Gedichtsammlung von Clemens Brentano und Achim von Arnim für Singstimme und Klavier 1887–1890) Fifteen songs, humoresques, and ballads on texts from The Youth’s Magic Horn collection by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Armin for voices and orchestra or piano (Fünfzehn Lieder, Humoresken und Balladen aus Des Knaben Wunderhorn nach Texten aus der gleichnamigen Gedichtsammlung von Clemens Brentano und Achim von Arnim mit Orchester- bzw. Klavierbegleitung, 1892–1898). Songs on texts by Friedrich Rückert (Rückert-Lieder, 1901/02) Five songs, four plus one with a version for piano and a version for orchestra, by the composer. Songs on the Death of Children (Kindertotenlieder, 1901–1904) Five songs for mezzo-soprano/baritone and orchestra. A version for voice and piano also exists. Text: Friedrich Rückert


Gustav Mahler in Prague in 1908.

[7] World Response When Gustav Mahler was still alive his music had already found extraordinarily strong responses in what is today the Czech Republic. The Prague environment in particular created a certain type of cult, which was certainly associated with the fact that Mahler was considered a Czech compatriot, that the first reviews already took notice of the “Czech” intonation in the background of Mahler’s compositions and that he worked in Prague for one season. Certain proof of this Prague “Mahlerianism” was the fact that the world premiere of Mahler’s 7th Symphony took place in Prague and that a richly developed Mahlerian tradition exists there to this day, interrupted only by the Nazi occupation period. It is also necessary to name the prominent personalities of the Czech environment who contributed to the dissemination of Mahler’s work both at the beginning of twentieth century and closely after his death. They were Josef Bohuslav Foerster, Zdeněk Nejedlý, author of the first Czech monograph of 1912, and Otakar Ostrčil. Even when there were a number of great conductor personalities who performed the Gustav Mahler’s works, probably the most marked trace in the history of Mahlerian interpretation was left by the principal conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Václav Neumann, who also recorded the still-valuable complete collection of all Mahler’s symphonic works and collaborated in a great celebration of Gustav Mahler’s birth in 1960. Almost in parallel with Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Rafael Kubelík recorded the complete collection of Mahler’s symphonies, very well appreciated by international critics, with the Bavarian Radio Symphonic Orchestra from 1967 to 1971. Only an unbelievably extensive study could record all the performances of Gustav Mahler’s music and recordings of his works on a worldwide scale. With the exception of the Antarctic (and even there Mahler’s music is certainly heard from recordings at some polar stations),


at the beginning of the twenty-first century there is no continent where the compositions of Gustav Mahler do not appear regularly in the repertoire of symphonic orchestras. Also, it is very difficult to find a conductor who had not conducted some of the works of Gustav Mahler at least once, but rather several times. And so, with only a necessary simplification, let’s mention at least some of the personalities who have promulgated Mahler’s work. Certainly Mahler’s close friend, faithful interpreter, and conductor of his work, Bruno Walter (1876–1962) was a great promoter. Another great conductor and founder of tradition with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in the Netherlands was Willem Mengelberg (1871–1951). Bernard Haitink (1929) was also linked to Mengelberg’s Mahlerianism. By the way, in 1920 one of the first Gustav Mahler festivals took place in Amsterdam. Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990), who began to record the first complete collection of all of Mahler’s symphonies with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in stereo in 1960, made his mark in the history of Mahlerian interpretation in an unforgettable way. It was Bernstein who initiated the new wave of interest in Gustav Mahler’s works in Europe through his recordings and performances of Mahler’s works on his tours. At present the principal conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas (1944), whose recordings of Gustav Mahler’s works belong among the most significant present initiatives and receive the most prestigious acknowledgements, follows Bernstein. Like Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas also devotes himself to popularizing Gustav Mahler’s work in his Keeping Score series of programs. The conductor Claudio Abbado (1933) also engaged in the history of the dissemination of Mahler’s music by founding the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchestra in 1986. The legends also include the Mahlerian recordings of


Jiří Stárek conducts Symphony No. 7 in Jihlava on September 19, 2008 (100 years from its first introduction in Prague), the Mahler-Jihlava “Music of Thousands” music festival, 2008.

Sir George Solti (1912–1997). The principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Sir Simon Denis Rattle (1955) also engages in performing and recording Gustav Mahler work, as do a number of other conductors around the world.








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Jewish cemetery

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[8] In Gustav Mahler’s Footsteps in Jihlava

1 House of Gustav Mahler, where Gustav Mahler’s family lived from 1860 to 1872 (today permanent exhibitions: Family of Gustav Mahler, Gustav Mahler and Jihlava, Coexistence of Three Cultures, exhibition gallery), Znojemská 4. 2 House where Gustav Mahler’s family lived from 1872 to 1889, Znojemská 6. 3 The house in which David, Bernhard Mahler’s brother, lived, Masaryk square 26. 4 The house in which Bernhard Mahler operated his taproom, Brněnská 25. 5 The house in which Bernhard Mahler operated his taproom, David B. Mahler’s brother also lived here (today Mahler’s pension at Na Hradbách), Brněnská 31. 6 Heulos forest park and the valley of the Jihlávka River, favourite place of Mahler’s walks (today the Jihlava Zoo is located in the valley). 7 The former German gymnasium (today Jihlava’s Town Library), Hluboká 1. Here Mahler studied from 1869 to 1875 as a regular student, and from 1875 to 1877 as a private student. 8 Hotel Gustav Mahler, Křížová 112/4. Three-star hotel named in honour of Gustav Mahler. 9 Town Theatre (today Horácké theatre), Komenského 22. Gustav Mahler’s first public performance on October 12, 1870; further appearances on April 20, 1873. and from 1879 to 1883. 10 The house in which Bernhard Mahler had a branch for the production of sweetened alcoholic beverages (1872), Komenského 3. 11 The house in which Bernhard Mahler operated his taproom, rented from Wenzel Frisch, Benešova 17. 12 Park of Gustav Mahler, with a statue of G. Mahler, on the site of the Jewish synagogue, burnt in 1939, Benešova 17.


Church of St. Paul








Regional gallery of the Highlands

Museum of the Highlands




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House of Gustav Mahler


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Church of St. Jacob

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Church of the Assumption of the Virgin




Regional gallery of the Highlands

forest park Heulos

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fortification park




City Park Jihlava



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entrance Town Hall forest park Heulos

Matk Mother of God Gate

The Jihlava Zoological Garden


Marian column



13 14




entrance to underground





Jihlava downtown

Church of St. Rood’s Elevation














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13 The house, originally a malthouse, which was rebuilt by Bernhard Mahler into a vinegar production shop (1870), Věžní 10. 14 The house in which a taproom was operated by Katharina Rott, from whom Bernhard Mahler rented the licence (he operated the taproom in the house on land reg. No. 265), Matky Boží 30. 15 Hotel Czap, where public appearances by G. Mahler on May 17, 1873, July 31, 1876, and September 12, 1876 took place (today Dělnický dům), Žižkova 15. 16 Jewish cemetery, where the parents of Gustav Mahler and his siblings are buried, U Cvičiště. 17 Main school at the then Brtnické suburb, probably attended by Gustav Mahler, Fibichova 89.


[*] Overview of Sources and Literature BLAUKOPF, K.: Gustav Mahler – Contemporary of the Future. H&H Publishers, Jinočany 1998. BLAUKOPF, K.: Gustav Mahler oder der Zeitgenose der Zukunft. Verlag Fritz Molden, Wien – – München – Zürich 1969. DE LA GRANGE, H. L.: Mahler. Doubleday&company, Inc., Garden City, New York 1973. DVOŘÁK – JAROŠ – JIRÁK – RYCHETSKÝ: Young Gustav Mahler and Jihlava. Highlands Museum in Jihlava, Jihlava 1994. DVOŘÁK – NEDBALOVÁ – PISKOVÁ – SVĚRÁK: Beginning of a Journey. Gustav Mahler and Jihlava in Archive Sources. Jihlava District Authority – Government District Archive in Jihlava, Jihlava 2000. JAROŠ, Z.: Young Gustav Mahler and Jihlava. Jihlava 1994. KLUKANOVÁ, L.: Gustav Mahler and Jihlava. Jihlava 2003 MAHLER, G.: Briefe an Alma Mahler (herausgegeben von Donald Mitchel) – Letters to Alma Mahler (published by Donald Mitchel). In: MAHLER-WERFEL, A.: Erinnerungen an Gustav Mahler. Ullstein Buch Nr. 3526 im Verlag Ullstein, 1978 – Memories of Gustav Mahler. MAHLER, G.: Briefe (herausgegeben von Alma Maria Mahler). Paul Zsolnay Verlag, Berlin – – Wien – Leipzig 1924 – Letters (published by Alma Maria Mahler). MAHLER, G.: “Liebste Justi” Briefe an die Familie (herausgegeben von Stephen McClatchie). Weidle Verlag Bonn. 2006 – “Dearest Justi” Letters to the family (published by Stephen McClatchie). MAHLER-WERFEL, A.: Erinnerungen an Gustav Mahler. Ullstein Buch Nr. 3526 im Verlag Ullstein, 1978 – Memories of Gustav Mahler. MAHLER, A.: Letters of Gustav Mahler. In: WALTER, B.: Gustav Mahler. Prague 1958, pp. 107– –182. MAHLER, A.: Gustav Mahler. Memories. Prague 2001. MITCHEL, D.: Gustav Mahler. The Early Years. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge 2003. PISKOVÁ R.: Estate file of Bernhard Mahler. In: Jihlava archive yearbook IV/2002. ŠTILEC, J.: World premiere of Gustav Mahler’s Seventh Symphony. Rudolfinum Revue VIII/1 2008/2009. WALTER, B.: Gustav Mahler. Svobodné slovo – Melantrich, Prague 1958. WALTER, B.: Gustav Mahler. Florian Noetzel Verlag, Wilhelmshaven 1989.


Gustav Mahler  


Gustav Mahler