Gustav Mahler was one of the supremely gifted musicians of his generation. His contemporaries came to know him as a composer of startling originality whose greatest successes with the public never failed to provoke controversy among the critics. As a conductor, his relentless pursuit of perfection was sometimes viewed as tyrannical by the singers and musicians who came under his baton. Professor Henry-Louis de La Grange has devoted over thirty years of painstaking resarch to this study of Mahler's life and works. His biography, ultimately to be completed in four volumes, is drawn from a vast archive of documents, autographs, and pictures, assembled by La Grange at the Bibliotheque Musicale Gustav Mahler, Paris. This second volume covers the years 1897-1904, when the focus shifts to Vienna. It opens with Mahler's triumphant debut as director of the Vienna Court Opera, and follows with the revolution he wrought there in standards of performance and, with the Secession painter Alfred Roller, in scenic representation. An account is also given of Mahler's story and brief engagement as conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Concerts, following Richter's resignation in 1989.
La Grange depicts the brilliant society of pre-war Vienna, then the centre of the intellectual and artistic world; the extraordinary range of artists among whom Mahler lived and worked included the composers Dvorak, Gustave Charpentier, Richard Strauss, Zemlinsky, and Schoenberg and his two disciples, Berg and Webern; the painters architects and decorators of the Secession with Klmit at their head; the writers Hauptmann, Dehmel, Hofmannsthal, and Schnitzler. There he also met Alma Schindler, 'the most beautiful woman in Vienna', and La Grange tells the story of their engagement and marriage in 1902 and the early years of their tempestuous relationship. As his fame spread throughout Europe, Mahler travelled with his music to Germany, Russia, Holland, Poland, and Belguim, meeting many other leading musicians of his day, including Pfitzner, Mengelberg, Diepenbrock, Oskar Fried, and many others. During this period Mahler wrote some of his best-loved works, including the fourth and Fifth Symphonies, and the three orchestral song-cyles and collections - the Wunderhorn -, Ruckert-, and Kindertotenlieder. For each of these works La Grange provides full notes and analytical descriptions.
Scrupulously researched, richly documented, this is a study worthy of the extraordinary artistic achievement of Gustav Mahler's Vienna years.