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Anton Krisper (1858-1914).

  • Profession: Composer.
  • Residences: Ljubljana 1881-1882 House Gustav Mahler Ljubljana, Vienna.
  • Relation to Mahler: Friend, classmate Conservatory.
  • Correspondence with Mahler: Yes.
    • 00-00-0000, Year
  • Born: 28-12-1858 Ljubljana, Slovenia.
  • Died: 00-00-1914 Feldhof near Graz, Mental Hospital, Austria.
  • Buried: 00-00-0000 Ljubljana, Slovenia.

One of the descendants of the Krisper family (merchant’s family), Anton Krisper, was a friend of Gustav Mahler, his fellow music student in Vienna. It was due their friendship that the 21-year-old Gustav Mahler moved in with his friend and spent some of his working life in Krisper House. 1881-1882 House Gustav Mahler Ljubljana.

Krisper House.

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 18.1-3/379.”)

…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!”…

8 pages, large 8vo (22.5 x 14.3cm), the second and third pages paginated apparently by the composer, ink-blot to lower margin of first page, later pencil annotation to last page (“7569 inv.”), [Vienna,] 1-3 March 1879, horizontal and vertical folds, some splitting to hinge and folds.

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.

4 pages, large 8vo (22.5 x 14.3cm), Vienna (“III Rennweg Nro. 3 1.ten Stock…”), 5 March 1879, central and vertical folds, tiny hole to first leaf, slightly affecting text, some splitting along folds

Between 1881 and 1882, Mahler held the post of conductor at Ljubljana’s Landschaftliches Theater and learned his trade as a conductor. His bust now adorns the Krisper House’s façade facing the Mestni trg square.

Fragment of a letter from Gustav Mahler to Anton Krisper.

Friendship between Mahler and Krisper when both were students in Vienna. Six letters Mahler wrote to Krisper in 1879-1880, documenting his professional plans. They suggests that Krisper was responsible for persuading Mahler to take the position in the theater in Ljubljana. Written in Slovene, with English summary.

Krisper did not finish his study. Only one work survived.


When studying at the Conservatorium in Vienna Gustav Mahler became friends with Anton Krisper, of Ljubljana. Krisper (1858-1914) is generally taken to have been a highly gifted and extremely sensitive character. In 1879 and 1880 Mahler wrote six letters to Krisper, at that time not yet twenty years old. These letters are important because they contain Mahler’s communication concerning his work and plans (Rübezahl, a fairy-tale play; a Nordische Symphonie; both of them later destroyed) and reveal his impassioned disposition, filled with poetry.

Later on Anton Krisper went to Leipzig to study there philosophy and then mining engineering. He is often quoted in connection with an opera (probably Zlatorog) that possible had its first premiere in Prague – but evidence for this is lacking. Later on he wrote a treatise entitled “Die Kunstmusik in ihrem Prinzip, ihrer Entwicklung und ihrer Konsequenz bzw. Die Musiksysteme in ihren Prinzipien”. In his Musiklexicon Hugo Riemann characterises it as “a very interesting historical-theoretical study on harmonic-dualistic basis”.

In all likelihood it was Krisper who persuaded Mahler to decide and come to Ljubljana. Here he was in the 1881-1882 season the conductor at the Ljubljana theatre. Since that time no more relations between the two friends can be traced. Krisper died in a mental hospital at Feldhof near Graz in 1914 and was buried in Ljubljana.

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