from Alma Mahler's Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters, Letters 1910, pages 339-340

Vienna, 5 July 1910

My dear Director,

Your fiftieth birthday gives me an excuse for telling you, what I should like to tell you many times over, how highly I honour you. And also how often I am bound to remember, and to be pained by the remembrance, that in earlier days I used to vex you so often by my contradictoriness. I feel I was wrong to obtrude my own opinions, instead of listening to what you had to say and to what is more important than opinions, namely, the resonance of a great personality. If the overtones of my own opinions could not harmonize, always at least, with what was the substance of your utterances (I know, since I am the younger, that I have the right to differ, if only from immaturity, and to learn by experience instead of taking things on trust), I ought at least to have bowed down unconditionally to the reality which emanates from greatness, that nameless quality I felt very clearly in your presence and which for me is the power of genius. Of the presence and influence of this power, my feeling can never be unaware.

Nevertheless, I contradicted you – why, I do not know. Perhaps it was blindness, perhaps self-will. Or perhaps it was love, for I had a tremendous veneration for you all the time. It was a sort of girlish passion: love vexed by hate.

I have for long wanted to write you this letter, or one that would, if possible, express better what I mean; for it has long been on my mind. I find it a matter for shame not to have understood you from the first; but to have gone on to vex you fills me with remorse.

I have only one excuse: I was not young enough; I had begun to be occupied too much with my own development. Perhaps you may find it in you to give weight to this. 

And perhaps too you will set down to my credit the attitude I now have towards you and your work; how highly I honour you in every way. 

And now my wish for your fiftieth birthday is that you may soon return to our hated and beloved Vienna; and that you may feel inclined to conduct here and yet not do so, because such riff-raff certainly don't deserve it; or that you may feel no inclination and yet do it for our joy, because perhaps we do deserve it. In any case, that you may be with us again. And that you, who have so much cause for bitterness, may receive honour and lay it as a plaster to the wounds which blindness (this more than malevolence) has inflicted. I know if you were in Vienna now, you would be so warmly wrapped in honour that you might forget all your earlier and fully justified resentments. 

I hope and most eagerly desire that it will soon be so, and I should be happy if I could in any way help to bring it about.

With warmest esteem and devotion,


Arnold Schoenberg