The Eighth Mahler and the World in 1910

Stephen Johnson

September 12, 1910. The world premiere of Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and the artistic breakthrough for which the composer had yearned all his life. Munich’s new Musik Festhalle was filled to capacity on two successive evenings for the performances, which were received with rapturous applause.

Representatives of many European royal houses were in attendance, along with an array of stars from the musical and literary world, including Thomas Mann and the young Arnold Schoenberg. Also in attendance was Alma Mahler, the composer’s young wife, and Alma’s longtime lover, the architect Walter Gropius.

Knowledge of their relationship would precipitate an emotional crisis in Mahler that, compounded with his heart condition and the passing of his young daughter Maria, would lead to his premature death the next year, in 1911.


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