Preface to First Edition, Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters, by Alma Mahler

I wrote this book many years ago, and my only reason for doing so was because no one knew Gustav Mahler so well as I and because I did not want the experiences we shared and the expressions of his thought to be crowded out of my own memory by the pressure and hurry of life.

It was not originally my intention to have the book published during my lifetime.

But now the whole of Europe has been rocked to its foundations and nothing stands where it did. Rodin’s bust of Mahler, which I presented to the Vienna Opera and which was unveiled by the last President of Austria, has now been removed from its pedestal. The wide street in Vienna named after Gustav Mahler has been renamed Meistersinger Street. The large sum of money subscribed throughout the world for a Gustav Mahler monument has been appropriated without ceremony to one of the usual welfare funds of annexed Austria. I therefore have no scruple in saying openly what I know from experience of persons who live their lives and play their parts in the Third Reich. The doors have been slammed. And not from one side only. All that I say of Richard Strauss is taken from the daily entries in my diary. It should not be forgotten that Richard Strauss, the greatest master of contemporary music in the first decade of this century, was Gustav Mahler’s only rival.

Only those who were there at the time, and able to appreciate it, know what Mahler did for Vienna during the glorious years of his reign there. Today Germany is deprived of his music , and the memory of his life and compositions is carefully effaced. In other countries the great conductors, Willem Mengelberg, Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer exert themselves on his behalf, and the best of the young conductors follow their example. They keep the torch alight and hand it on, until the day when the doors of his own country are thrown open again and his work is joyfully welcomed there once more.

I myself live a wholly different life today, and for me these pages from past days are faded. But the work and personality of Gustav Mahler have not faded. And so I give to the world these recollections of years of pain and joy as a testimony to him.


Alma Maria Werfel-Mahler

Sanary sur mer,

Summer, 1939