Hans Bruckmuller (1862-1935)

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After auditioning successfully for the assistant conductor’s job at Kassel, Mahler returned to Jihlava in the summer of 1883 and on 11-08-1883 agreed to play in a Red Cross charity concert for victims of the Ischia earthquake. Bruckmüller, a young acquaintance with whom he had played four-handed ‘with vigour, perseverance and enthusiasm for hours on end’, volunteered to assist. But Mahler could no longer tolerate amateurishness, and this was to be his last public appearance in his home town. Year 1883Municipal theater (Komenskeho street Nos. 24/1357, Spital Gasse No. 4):

Hans Bruckmüller recounts this anecdotes in 1932:

“Among other pieces, he was to accompany on the piano a Singspiel, The Coffee Party. Things started to go badly wrong at the rehearsal. He had no interest at all in the utterly trivial music with humorous asides he could not grasp. He accompanied distractedly, uttered ironic remarks about the music and the ladies singing it, failed to keep time and provoked considerable discord.

At the public general rehearsal, Mahler sat at a piano raised on a podium in the middle of the orchestra pit. I sat beside him, turning pages. Mahler played bad-temperedly. They had got barely half-way through the Singspiel when Mahler, with his customary vehemence, kicked his chair over, slammed down the piano lid, glared at the dilettantish ladies singing on stage and said to me, loud enough so that his voice carried to the front rows of the stalls: ‘Go on, Bruckmiiller, you accompany this damned nonsense. It’s too difficult for me.’ With that, he stamped out of the pit, leaving me to pick up the accompaniment as best I could and play through to the end.

At the concert itself, Mahler played Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata with the virtuoso violinist Fräulein Ott von Ottenfeld and I, once again, turned pages for him. In his impatience, he could never wait for the moment the page to be turned, but kicked me repeatedly well ahead of time, presumably to to remind me of my duty. I let it pass once or twice, then began to get my own kick in first.

He played divinely. I turned over faultlessly, and the audience was unaware there had been a kicking-match under the piano. As we stood to receive the loud applause, Mahler shouted at me: ‘You Schweinehund!’ {means something like bastard/Skunk}. Fräulein von Ott, thinking this was intended for her, asked, all the while acknowledging the public acclaim, ‘Who is?’ And Mahler burst out laughing at me.”

Published 12-1932 as article ‘Aus gustav Mahlers Jugendzeit’ in “Igel-Land” (annex of Mahrische Grenzbote (newspaper)).

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