• Year 1880 (original version in three movements).

Performances by Gustav Mahler


Year 1879. 03-03-1879. Letter by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) to Anton Krisper (1858-1914) with a draft for the text of the first version of Das klagende Lied; Poem ‘Ballade vom blonden und braunen Rittersmann’.

Comprising three parts, numbered by the composer “I”-“III”, of nine, five and seven stanzas, respectively, with autograph title (“Ballade vom blonden und braunen Rittersmann”), signed and dated at the end (“Gustav Mahler 18.1-3/79.”)

…Vom Felsen hoch erglänzet das Schloß,
die Zinken erschall’n und drommetten,
dort sitzen der Ritter muthiger Troß,
und die Frauen mit goldenen Ketten!

“Was will der jubelnde, fröhliche Schall,
was leuchtet und glänzet im Königssaal
o Freude, heia Freude!”…

Year 1879. 05-03-1879 Letter by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) to Anton Krisper (1858-1914) concerning a text source for Das klagende Lied, Poem ‘Ballade vom blonden und braunen Rittersmann’. Lied 1: Waldmarchen (Forest Legend). Libretto Gustav Mahler.

Expressing his longing to see him again, describing in detail his new quarters in a former monastery which he has made into a cosy home for pursuing his dreams and thoughts, mentioning the large painting of Wagner over his desk and the good piano he has there, noting that he [Krisper], the one who should share his happiness with him, is the only thing missing, noting that he can well imagine how happy he is, especially since the monastery-like quiet which hangs about the house contributes a good deal to make his work easy and pleasant; in the second half of the letter Mahler paints the scene of him sitting in an old leather armchair and smoking a fine cigarette, noting that the ballad which he encloses (see preceding lot) was conceived under such circumstances, explaining that he is composing [the ballad] for orchestra, choir and soloists, expressing his hope that his work will be successful, and asking him for his candid opinion on the ballad.


1881: Rejected for Beethoven Prize

In 1881, Gustav Mahler’s  Lied 1: Waldmarchen (Forest Legend) was submitted in a competition for a composition Prize – the Beethoven Prize – sponsored by the Gesellschaft Der Musikfreunde in Vienna. The judges included Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and Karl Goldmark (1830-1915) and awarded the prize to a work by Robert Fuchs (1847-1927) rather than to Mahler’s cantata.

1883: Rejected for Tonkunstlerversammlung des ADM 

Less known is the fact that Mahler in 1883 also submitted Lied 1: Waldmarchen (Forest Legend) to Franz Liszt (1811-1886) for consideration and a possible performance at the festival of the Tonkunstlerversammlung des ADM. Again it was turned down, with the devastating comment that the text of ”Waldmärchen” was not likely to bring the work success.

Year 1883. 13-09-1883. Letter received by Gustav Mahler from Franz Liszt (1811-1886) (in Weimar). Waldmarchen (from Das klagende Lied) is rejected.

Year 1883. 13-09-1883. Letter received by Gustav Mahler from Franz Liszt (1811-1886) (in Weimar). Waldmarchen (from Das klagende Lied) is rejected.

Writing in formal style: Your composition Waldmarchen which you kindly sent to me contains some valuable features. The poem, however, does not seem to be of the kind which would guarantee a success for the composition. (very formal conclusion.) Addressed Kassel. (Origin letter is disputed)

Thus the composition has the distinction of rejection by Mahler’s most outstanding older contemporaries, representing both conservative and radical compositional tendencies of the time. Such rejections may well, as Mahler later claimed, have influenced him to turn to conducting for his livelihood; after them, until 1888, he composed only a handful of songs.

1901 Concert Vienna 17-02-1901 – Das klagende Lied (Premiere).


Year 1902. Vocal score of Das klagende Lied, version in two movements, signed and inscribed by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). The printed wrapper, Vienna: Josef Weinberger, 1902. First edition, 69 pages, publisher’s printed brown wrappers with vignette (also on the title), plate number 25., priced at 6 Marks, early boards, rebacked, the inscription slightly trimmed, small repair to leading lower corners to first 2 leaves. Publisher: Weinberger music publishers.

With personal note by Gustav Mahler: “Meinen lieben Freunden Carl und Camilla in alter treuer Anhänglichkeit Wien 1880!–1900! Gustav Mahler” (in old faithfulness). The dedicatee Camilla Stefanovic-Vilovska (Milla von Ott) was an Austrian violinist (known as “Milla von Ott”).

1970. First recording of the version in three movements. Conductor Pierre Boulez.

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