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Main heading: The Music of Gustav Mahler: A Catalogue of Manuscript and Printed Sources [rule] Paul Banks

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1

Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad, vol. 7, ed. L. Davis, J.H. Stape (Cambridge: CUP, 2007), 176.

 
 

Lost and Found: the Edytha Moser Collection of Mahler Proofs

 

In February and March 1932 the Neues Wiener Journal published two reports that tell an unusual story about an important collection of proof copies of songs by Mahler that were published by C.F. Kahnt in 1905. Only two of these copies have been located in public collections, and the existence of the others, and their history seems not to have been noted by Mahler scholars until the first of the newspaper articles was traced by Knud Martner. It appeared in the Neues Wiener Journal, 13729 (10 February 1932), p. 6:

 

Stolen Mahler autographs

to be auctioned

 

Kolo Moser's son reclaims his property

 

Exclusive report of the 'Neues Wiener Journal'

 

On Friday and Saturday valuable old books, prints, Austriaca and Viennese memorabilia will be auctioned in the book department of the Dorotheum. Of particular interest  among the items on offer are five proof copies of Mahler's songs, mostly settings of Rückert: Der Tamboursg'sell, 'Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen', 'Ich atmet' einen linden Duft' und Um Mitternacht. The fifth copy is the set of page proofs for Kindertotenlieder corrected by Mahler.

 

All the copies carry dedications in Mahler's hand to Frau Editha Moser, the wife of Mahler's friend, the painter Kolo Moser. On the title page of Der Tamboursg'sell it reads 'To Mrs Edytha in friendly recollection of Gustav Mahler (if she happens to have spare time for it)'; on the song 'Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen': 'Frau Edytha Moser, who should be only briefly lost to the world, and should forthwith reappear with her dearest one'; On 'Ich atmet' einen linden Duft', Mahler wrote 'A gentle fragrance for the time of love'. For Um Mitternacht he wrote, full of self-irony, 'If you are still awake at midnight and feel like making music, then I wish you more beautiful music [than this]'. On the Kindertotenlieder Mahler wrote only a short dedication. The dedications are mostly signed with his full name, sometimes also with the title of the song in Mahler's hand. These items are particularly interesting because of the corrections by Gustav Mahler. For an understanding of the dedications it should be noted that at the time Mahler wrote them, Kolo and Edytha Moser had recently been married.

 

Ours is the only paper to be in position to report the circumstance of this auction. Until 1928 the valuable autographs were in the possession of Kolo Moser's son, Karl Moser, and they were purloined from his then residence at Steinfeldgasse 6, XIX District. Since he considered the pursuit of the culprit, who was unknown to him, to be hopeless, he abstained from making a report, but naturally, after the autographs came to light at the Dorotheum, he initiated the necessary steps to achieve the return of his property. Herr Karl Moser assures us that the auction of the autographs will not take place on Friday.

 

Kolo and Edytha Moser were members of Mahler's inner circle of Viennese friends, and were married on 1 July 1905; their first son, Karl, was born on 21 August 1906 (RLGPKM, 414) and it seems likely that it to that event that Mahler alludes. At the time of the alleged theft Karl was the owner of a scrap metal business (LEH, 1929, I, 990; II, 151), and, following Kolo Moser's death in 1918, his mother had married a coffee-shop owner Adolf Hauska (1881–1929).  Fascinating and helpful though the first newspaper report is, the following month there was a follow-up article that fills in some of the details of the curious affair (Neues Wiener Journal, 13758 (10 March 1932), p. 15)

 

Courtroom

 

Stolen Autographs of Gustav Mahler

 

Dedications to the wife of the painter Kolo Moser

 

Exclusive report of the 'Neues Wiener Journal'

 

On 12 February this year a series of autographs by Gustav Mahler should have been auctioned. It consisted of five proof copies of songs by Mahler, with autograph corrections and dedications added by the composer, i.e.: Der Tambours'gsell, 'Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen', 'Ich atmet' einen linden Duft', Um Mitternacht  and five  Kindertotenlieder. Mahler's humourous, self-ironical dedications addressed to Frau Editha Moser, the wife of Mahler's friend, Kolo Moser. Thus the one on the title page of Der Tambours'gsell reads 'To Mrs Edytha in friendly recollection of Gustav Mahler (if she happens to have spare time for it)'; on  'Ich atmet' einen linden Duft', Mahler wrote 'A gentle fragrance for the time of love', and on the song Um Mitternacht 'If you are still awake at midnight and feel like making music, then I wish you more beautiful music [than this]'.

 

The announcement of the imminent auction of the autographs came to the attention of Kolo Moser's son, Karl Moser, who immediately reported that the autographs, which had been given to him by his mother as a gift, had been stolen from him. The police enquiries at the Dorotheum showed that the proofs had been passed to the organisation for auction by the agent Josef Löbl. At the time of the theft of the autographs Löbl was the life partner of Editha Moser, Karl Moser's mother, and was then living with her as Moser's guest.

 

Yesterday Löbl stood before the Döbling district court (LGR, Dr Reschauer, acting state prosecutor Dr. Schreiber). He explained that when she was living with him in a common household Mrs Moser had given him the autographs. Frau Moser, when called as a witness, stated that she had certainly once once said to her partner 'what belongs to me belongs to you!' Since Löbl did not know that the Mahler songs belonged to her son, when he took the autographs for himself, he certainly did so in good faith. Called as a witness Moser also agreed that this was possible. — Judge (to the witness): what is the value of the autographs. — Witness: that is difficult to say. At Dorotheum the estimate was 180 Schillings.

 

The judge decided to transfer the papers to the assize court, since the value of the autographs would undoubtedly exceed 250 Schillings.

 

So far no further trace of the court case has come to light and there is no documentation of the subsequent ownership history of the copies, except for the proofs of Kindertotenlieder and „Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen‟  which were part of the collection presented to Stanford University in the late 1940s to form the Memorial Library of Music 'In Memory of the Stanford Men and Women who made the Supreme Sacrifice in World War II' (see NPCML, nos 625, 626). The donor was the retired business man, George Thomas Keating (1892–1976): according to the Collected Letters of Joseph Conradą he was born in New York and his career took him from running errands to being the head of Moore and Munger, a New York company dealing in paper and clay products. In 1938 he had donated his rich collection of material relating to Joseph Conrad to Yale as A Conrad Memorial Library, and apart from printed and manuscript music also collected operatic recordings, the works of James Branch Cabell and materials about the Spanish Conquest of the New World. It would seem, therefore that Keating probably acquired the Mahler items in the late 1930s, or possibly in the immediate post-war years.

 

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