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When the second volume of de La Grange's monumental study of Mahler appeared, it was hailed in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and many other publications as an indispensable portrait of the great composer. Here at last is the third volume of this magisterial work.
Ranging from 1904 to 1907, it explores Mahler's final years as administrator, producer, and conductor of the Vienna Opera. It was a time of intense inner struggle, with Mahler's energy and creative powers drained by the competing demands of running the Hofoper and struggling for recognition as a composer. And they were tragic years as well, especially 1907, Mahler's last year in Vienna, when the death of his daughter and the diagnosis of heart disease forced him to leave the Opera. Throughout the book, de La Grange offers true-to-life portraits of Mahler the human being, the family man, and the composer, and he weaves in innumerable testimonies and anecdotes that throw new light on the great composer's complex personality.
The product of forty years of research, here is the definitive study of a musical giant. It is, as The Wall Street Journal said of volume two, "a work of the first importance, one that nobody seriously interested in Mahler can possibly afford to skip."
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From Kirkus Reviews:
Henry-Louis de La Grange is President of the Gustav Mahler Musical Library, Paris. He is also a chevalier of the Order of the Legion d'honneur, and an officer of the Ordre du Merite.
A masterly deployment of every retrievable fact about the driven Austrian composer-conductor of genius (18601911) during these tumultuous years. De La Grange (president, Gustav Mahler Musical Library, Paris) takes up directly from Vol. 2 (1995; Vol. 1, 1973) with Mahlers struggles to reenergize the fractious Hofoperthe Vienna Operathe court-sponsored repertory company he had directed since 1897. Provocative productions are revived via eye-catching descriptions; thumbnail portraits reanimate Viennas singers, musicians, stagefolk, and bureaucrats. Able to compose only during vacations, in this brief span Mahler created the prodigious, forward-looking Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth symphonies, granted elaborate analyses in an appendix. Memoirs and interviews testify how this Napoleon of the baton tirelessly rehearsed his works and others, old and new, contending, Tradition is nothing else than sloppiness. Every performance is chronicled, thanks to the periods florid prolix journalism (often marred by Austrias endemic anti-Semitism), castigating his failures and successes alike. No wonder that, despite prescient champions, Mahler developed a persecution complex, lamenting he would be happy, oh happy to be a shoemaker! The biographer painstakingly reassembles Mahlers paradoxical character, intricate as his art, straightening the record about his relations with colleague and rival Richard Strauss; his problematical marriage to the complex and disconcerting Alma Schindler, 19 years his junior; and the fatal illness in late 1907 of his daughter, Maria, age four and a half. Anecdotes, aphorisms, and letters enliven the narratives progress toward the frustrated directors resignation from the Hofoper. Once Vol. 4 appears (following Mahler to New York to conduct and the diagnosis of the heart condition that led to his death at 50), de La Grange will have spent as long researching Mahlers life as it took to live it. A life-and-times motherlode for the aficionado; a requisite for performing-arts collections; a monument that will endure. (32 b&w photos, not seen) (Oxford Reference Book Society selection) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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