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Gustav Mahler: Letters to His Wife Hardcover – October 20, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
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"The Mahler literature is huge, and many of Mahler's letters have already appeared in print. But what has come fully to light during the last decade adds greatly to our understanding of Mahler and his marriage. . . . This book allows us not only to fill in some gaps but to gain a vivid and telling portrayal of Mahler's personality in his voice."―Hugh Wood, Times Literary Supplement, November 12, 2004
"If you listen to Mahler's nine symphonies it is obvious the man was an artist in touch with oceans of raw emotion. It is enlightening, however, to square these tracts of musical genius with the fragile 'Gustl' revealed in these letters"Tired, loving, ill, worried, romantic, neurotic, petty, angry, disenchanted: all the signs of a functional human being. . . . He is frequently witty, sometimes scathing, but more often sad, lonesome, and vulnerable. . . . This is a fine, if weighty and demanding, book that will help the casual reader more fully understand the personality of one of the great modern composers. . . . Devotees of the great man, however, will be equally saddened, moved, and transfixed by these letters, which at their most vivid are written with a quill dipped in the well of his agonized soul."―Phil Miller, The Herald
"The letters . . . offer correctives to Alma's distortions and a fascinating glimpse into the grueling life of a renowned guest conductor, regularly subjected to overnight train rides, second-rate hotels, and exhausting rehearsals. The letters also reveal Mahler's complex character. He was impatient and arrogant but also generous, forgiving, and solicitous of his friends and colleagues."―Tess Lewis, The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2004
"Not unlike his grand and idiosyncratic musical oeuvre, Gustav Mahler's marriage to Alma Mahler straddled the border between the Romantic nineteenth and the Modern twentieth centuries. . . . Collectors of Mahleriana will find this expertly compiled volume indispensable. More than half of its 350 letters and postcards are published for the first time, and many of the old letters, which were once heavily emended by the distorting hands of Alma herself, are restored to their original form. . . . It's the novel-like intensity of the pair's complex and tempestuous love affair that will really broaden the audience for this book beyond its surefire appeal to students of modern art and feminism."―Publishers Weekly, 13 December 2004
"At first a little formal, Mahler's writing loosens up after a few months of marriage; soon he leavens his language with witticisms, clever quotes, double entendres, and slang. One hears the same tone in his later correspondence for example, as he writes in 1910 about his session with Freud. By contrast, Alma, always aware of posterity looking over her shoulder, seems eager to appear the consort of a demigod. Generously illustrated, well indexed, and conscientiously translated, this long-awaited volume will be devoured by Mahlerites and will be a valuable reader for others. Highly recommended."―M. Meckna, Texas Christian University, Choice, April 2005
Top Customer Reviews
But that very ordinariness is what makes this book so fascinating: that alongside genius lies its twin of conventionality expressed in those unguarded moments between intimates. The collection of letters span just over a decade: From Mahler's courtship of Alma Mahler in 1900 until his tragically early death at age 50 in 1911.
You get the sense that Mahler felt he had nothing to prove to his wife as the correspondence deals with everyday issues and concerns such as eating and sleeping habits, bowel troubles and the loneliness of life on the road. The letters also convey a deeply confident and uncompromising man who takes immense joy in writing his wife about his personal world while at the same time dismissing her from his professional one.
The power in this collection comes from the slowly but steadily growing tension that the reader senses from Alma Mahler (whose letters are not included but whose feelings can be discerned through Mahler's) against her clueless husband which culminates in her betrayal through infidelity. With his emotional sense of security violently violated, Mahler's letters completely unravel and come across as hesitant and pandering. Within the year, he was dead.
Mahler's musical genius has already been well-documented. What this book documents - in Mahler's own hand - is the important role Alma's unconditional love and emotional support played in his life and work, too. He underestimated her to his ultimate peril.
It is a very fortunate marriage for lovers of Mahler's unique and beautiful music. The music might never have been written had he not married his idealized image of a one true love. Alma was not his inspiration--it was his idealized view of her that, despite her behavior, kept him going. She did not understand, or even enjoy his music, but she did enjoy the celebrity position of being married to the greatest conductor in a world that worshipped music. Fortunately, Mahler was never able to bring himself to see her shortcomings. He had made up his mind that superficial beauty (at least in Alma's case) equaled virtue, and he projected virtue onto everything that Alma did.
It was an unfortunate marriage in that, at the age of 22, marrying a man nearly twice her age, Alma had not had a chance to develop character and direction for her own life. She very much enjoyed being in the spotlight of fame, yet she had never earned any of it for herself. After Mahler's death, Alma continued this pattern of getting into the limelight by "hooking-up" with famous people. She married, or had affairs with architect Walter Gropius, artist Oskar Kokoschka, novelist Franz Werfel, composer Alexander Zemlinsky, and various others.
While this behavior kept her in the top circles of Viennese society, it simultaneously prevented her from ever doing anything notable on her own. It was an unfortunate marriage for Alma. It was what she wanted, but with it, she ceased all personal growth. It was "A Fortunate and Unfortunate Marriage."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book features insightful information about Gustav Mahler's life, work and relationships. The letters provide interesting details about Gustav's travels as he related them to... Read morePublished on June 12, 2013 by Amy S. Drake
If you're a big fan of Mahler and are willing to take on a major reading project, this series is perfect for you. Read morePublished on May 29, 2009 by Music Is Everything