Exerpts from letters that Mahler wrote in Toblach


To Bruno Walter (Summer 1908)
... Here I am mostly trying to settle. This time I did not only change the location, but will have to change all my habits. You can imagine how hard this is for me. I always used to be on the move, to wander through the woods on the mountains, taking away with me the images I had translated into my sketches, after stealing them carelessly. I only got to my desk to give them a shape, like the farmers do when entering their barns. Even psychic malaise disappeared after a nice stroll, maybe uphill. And now I am supposed to avoid all efforts, to control myself, to walk on short distances...

To Bruno Walter (late Summer 1908)
...I have been working very hard (and you may conclude that I have “settled” quite well). I cannot even say how I can call all this. I was blessed with a happy time and I believe this is the most intimate thing I ever wrote (Das Lied von der Erde). But I will tell you in person...

To Alma Mahler (June 1909)
...Hold  your head high, Almschi! It is worth it, believe me, I have a great experience in this respect. I am writing while seated by the window in my bedroom, which has a wonderful view on the lawns (the other room is too cold for me). The sun is peeping out now, and there are butterflies flying around and flowers lifting their head up - the last two days were very hard for them, and they had certainly given up any hope of surviving. A ray of light – and they forgot all the inconveniences caused by the rain, the wind, the cold...

To physic Arnold Berliner (June 1909)
...I am utterly alone in a big house with an endless number of rooms and beds. It is a pity that all the plans for the summer are so confused. First of all: when are you coming to see us? You will always find a comfortable bed in a pleasant room and wonderful books that will be new to you ... and you will be sure to find great peace to ponder over suicide. The afternoons and the evenings quickly go by chatting, dining, and strolling... it is wonderful to be here, it sets your soul and body at ease...

To Alma Mahler (June 24, 1909)
...The room and the surroundings are beautiful, apart from the noise that keeps disturbing me. The farmers whisper and the window-panes tinkle; or they walk on tiptoe and shake the house. The two lively children babble all day: “Bibi! Bibi! (that’s their volapük and it means everything). The dog too makes me feel like a “man among men” and keeps barking from dawn until the peasants turn in. I wake up with a start every quarter of an hour and think of those that are softly snoring. To hell: how nice the world would be if you had two jugers of land to enclose within a fence and rest alone inside...

To Bruno Walter (early Summer 1909)
...You guessed the reason for my silence. I have been working hard and am putting the finishing touch to a new symphony (the Ninth). Unfortunately my holidays are turning to their end and I am in the bad situation – as usual – of having to leave, again, breathlessly, my papers to get back to the city, to work. This seems to be my destiny by now. This work (as far as I see it, because I have started writing thoughtlessly and now that I am about to define the instruments for the final part, I do not remember anything about the first) enriches my small family to a significant extent. It expresses something I had been wishing to say for some time, and may be compared (as a whole) to the Fourth (although it is thoroughly different). Due to this terrible haste, the score is written horribly, and no one else could read it but me. I may only hope that this winter I will be allowed to produce a final draft of it...

To painter Carl Moll (early Summer 1910)
...Mother kindly offered me some cigarettes. I could do with a couple, but please, with a holder. I have been exceedingly happy to receive your letter; I hadn’t heard of you since I left, and was starting to worry. It is wonderful here! Right now! Come and see us some time on Sunday, just to get a glimpse of the place! I am sure a painter will be able to draw something out of such beauty. I am quite well. As you know, I can stand being alone like a drinker holds wine...

To publisher Emil Hertzka (early July 1910)
... I am locked inside my den and feel perfectly fine. (My bowels are also quite well). In the confusion of my departure, I forgot to take some music with me. I already called Edition. But I don’t want to waste time and therefore ask you, dear Manager, to send me right away a few cantatas and Bach’s mass in B minor, Mendelssohn’s Walpurgisnacht, and something by Reger, published by Edition. By the way, did you publish the masses by Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert? Please send me something...

To Alma Mahler (summer 1910)
The following notes that Mahler left on  his wife’s night table reflect their marriage crisis and the sorrows that struck him while composing the Tenth symphony.

My beloved,
my “song”,

come, chase away the spirits of darkness; they clutch at me, they throw me to earth. Stay with me, support me, come soon today to comfort me. I am down and wonder whether I can still hope to be saved or I am condemned.

Oh sweet hand, that tied me!
Oh propitious bond that I found!
I am voluptuously imprisoned
And my lust is an eternal slavery
Oh sweet death in painful times!
Oh life – come through my wounds!!

Breath of my life, I kissed your slippers thousands of times and anguish held me long out of your door. You had mercy of me, my beauty, but the demons punished me again, because I thought again about me, and not about you, my beloved...

 (The excerpts are taken from the books Gustav Mahler Briefe, by Alma Mahler, Vienna 1924; Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler, Erinnerungen und Briefe, Amsterdam 1940, and from „Neue Zeitschrift für Musik“, 1974 IX).

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