Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In memoriam Gustav Mahler.

Gustav Mahler died one hundred years ago today; Gavin Plumley offers some thoughts on the anniversary on his blog Entartete Musik. Musical institutions throughout the world have been marking the Mahler centenary year with a variety of performances, exhibitions, and symposia. To mark today's centennial on this blog, I'd like to write something about the pilgrimage I made last August to Mahler's grave at the Grinzinger Friedhof on the outskirts of Vienna.

Finding Mahler's grave was surprisingly easy, given that I had made my way to the Grinzinger Friedhof without a cemetery map or even the number of the section in which Mahler was buried. I had seen photos of Mahler's headstone, though, so I knew what I was looking for and actually found it shortly after I entered the cemetery. I was completely alone - it was a Thursday morning, and there were no other visitors in sight - and I was accordingly able to spend some time in undisturbed reflection and prayer before the grave.

After paying my respects to Gustav Mahler, I visited the grave of his widow Alma Mahler Werfel, who is buried in the same cemetery. Given what I've read of Mahler's marriage, it seems right to me that he and his wife should be laid to rest in graves that are within sight of one another but nonetheless some distance apart. Moreover, it seems appropriate that the thrice-married and fiercely independent Alma isn't buried with any of her husbands but shares a grave only with her daughter Manon Gropius, who died of polio at the age of eighteen. The Grinzinger Friedhof's elevation provides a panoramic view of Vienna that I hope both Mahlers would have appreciated; the distant spire in the center of the last photo is that of the Stepansdom, the Austrian capital's iconic cathedral.

I can't complete a Mahler memorial post without including some of his music, so here is the Adagio from the unfinished Symphony No. 10, one of the last things Mahler ever wrote and, in my view, one of his very best compositions, performed here by the Wiener Philharmoniker under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. As you listen, perhaps you might spare a prayer for Gustav Mahler. AMDG.


Post a Comment

<< Home