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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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I am particularly grateful to Michael Bosworth for his help in preparing this entry.

 

 

1

See Paul Heidelbach, 'Der alte Häser', Hessenland: Zeitschrift für Landes-und Volkskunde, Geschichte, Kunst und Schriftum Hessens, 46/7–8 (Juli/August 1935), 117-121. Some more recent sources have described Häser as self-taught.

 

 

Vorspiel mit Chor

 

Title

 

Vorspiel mit Chor

Date

  September-October 1883

Scoring

  Unknown

Duration

 

Unknown

Manuscripts

 

None

 

Printed Editions

 

None

 

Notes

 

This is an elusive work: the first scholar to mention the piece was Henry-Louis de La Grange but unfortunately he gave no source references (HLG1, 716; see also HLG1F, 929):

November 2, 1883 was the fiftieth anniversary of actor Karl Häser's first stage appearance; Mahler's Vorspiel preceded Lieder by Häser himself, who was an amateur composer. Mahler probably destroyed the score, but the vocal and instrumental parts, handwritten by a copyist, survived in the archives of the Kassel Theatre until it was bombed in 1944.

Häser (1809–1887) came from a family of singers and actors: after working with various travelling groups from 1826 onwards, he accepted a permanent post, as singer (bass-baritone) and actor at Kassel in 1833 and remained there for the rest of his career. He formally retired in 1875, but continued to make guest appearances thereafter (KR, vol. 4, 1921–22). An account of his career and the jubilee celebrations appears in AGDB, 5-6:

Der Eintritt des kunstveteranen in der Verband der Kasseler Bühne datiert aus jener Zeit, als das im April 1832 aufgelöste Hoftheater am 1. November 1833 wieder eröffnet wurde. Der Jubilar debutierte den 10. Nov. d. J. as „Giacomo‟ (Fra Diavolo); seine erste Schuaspielrolle was die des Herrn „v. Mixler‟ (Der beste Ton). Die Hauptstärke des Kunstler's ist ... im komischen Rollenfache zu suchen, obgleich er auch in ernsten Vätterrollen stets das Publicum in hohen Grade zu befriedigen wußte....Durch einen einzigen mimischen Zug, einer einfache Handbewegung, ein einzelnes mit überraschender Wahrheit ausgesphrochenes Wort vermag er Wirkungen hervorzurufen die als ein Triumph der Natürlichkeit und echten Kunst bezeichnet werden müssen. Der Jubilar, einer bekannten Musiker und Sängerfamilie entsprossen, hat sich auch als Komponist von Männerquartetten einen geachteten Namen erworben. Seine musikalischen Kenntnisse befähigten ihn, die Opernregie, die er 1858–75 inne hatte, mit Geschick zu führen.

Die eigentliche officielle Feier fand am 2 November Mittags 12½ Uhr auf der Bühne statt. Als der Jubilar in den Kreis der Kollegen und Beamten eingetreten war, wurde er mit einem Liede begrüßt, für welches der Dichter, Kollege Otto Ewald, eine beliebte Häser'sche Melodie verwendet hatte. Der Intendant des Theaters, Herr von Gilsa, hielt hierauf eine Ansprache und schloß seine Rede mit dem Ausdruck der Hoffnung auf ein noch recht langes künstlerisches Wirken des Jubilars und mit der Mitteilung, daß ein unter seinem Vorsitze gebildetes Comité, um dem Gefeierten einen sorgenfreien Lebensabend zu bereiten, einen Fond zu einer „Häser-Stiftung‟ gesammelt habe, dessen höhe zur Zeit nicht festgestellt sei. Nach einen auf den Helden des Tages ausgebrachten Hoch überreichten mehrere Kolleginnen und Kollegen, sowie Vertreter großer Gesang-Vereine prachtvolle Kränze, wobei es an treffenden, zum Theil auf das Häser'sche Rollenfach auspielenden Anreden nicht fehlte. Mit bewegten Worten sprach Herr Häser Allen seiner Dank aus. Abends erfolgte die Jubiläums-Vorstellung. Unser Jubilar spielte den „Schnepper‟ in Görner's Lustspiel „Nichte und Tante‟, sowie den „Strobel‟ im „Bemoosten Haupt‟ und wurde natürlich der Trager zahlreicher Ovationen.

 The entry of the veteran artist into Kassel theatrical community dated from the moment when the Hoftheater, destroyed in April 1832, was reopened on 1 November 1833. The actor made his debut on 1 November as Giacomo in Fra Diavolo; his first straight acting role was as that of Mr v. Mixler (Der Beste Ton). The artist's principle strengths are to be found in comic roles, although in serious parental roles he also knows how to always give the public a high degree of satisfaction. With a single pull of the face, a simple hand movement, with a single word spoken with surprising truth, he is capable of creating effects that must be described as a triumph of naturalism and true art. The honorand, a member of a well-known family of musicians and singers, also won for himself a notable reputation as a composer of male-voice choruses. His musical knowledge enabled him to undertake the direction of opera, for which he responsible in 1858–75, with skill.

 

The formal celebration took place at 12:30 midday, 2 November on the stage. As the honorand joined the gathering of his colleagues and officials, he was greeted with a song for which the poet, his colleague Otto Ewald, had used a favourite melody by Häser. Thereupon the Intendant of the theatre, Mr von Gilsa, gave an address and closed his speech with the expression of the hope for the honorand's continuing artistic activity, and with the announcement that a committee established under his chairmanship in order to ensure that the evening of their guest's life would be trouble-free, had collected the basis for a 'Häser-Endowment', the size of which at the time was not finalized. After a cheer for the hero of the day several male and female colleagues as well as representatives of major choral societies presented splendid wreaths, on which striking addresses, in part referring to Häser's typical roles, were not lacking. With moving words Mr Häser expressed his thanks to everyone. The jubilee performance followed in the evening. The honorand played Schnepper in Görner's comedy Nichte und Tante, and also Strobel in Bemoosten Haupt, and was naturally the recipient of numerous ovations.

   

Häser had originally trained as a musician, studying theory with Georg Christoph Grosheim (1763—1841)¹ and was a relatively prolific composer (he had reached his op. 56 by 1871) but was probably not extensively published: only nine works are listed in the Hofmeister Monatsbericht. Nevertheless, his songs and choruses appear to have been quite widely known as is made clear in a report of the event that appeared in the Neue Freie Presse:

Fig. 1

Neue Freie Presse (7 November 1883, 7)

 

The brief report of the celebrations in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (50/79 (16 November 1883), 514–15), states that the mid-day celebration concluded with a performance, by more than a hundred members of Kassel choral societies, of Häser's 'O Wald mit deinen dustigen Zweigen' (c.f. the 1885 report cited above).

None of the contemporary sources traced so far make any reference to a creative contribution by Mahler, although, as the theatre's chorus master, at the very least he might have been involved in the preparation of the performance of the re-texted version of Häser's song.

Select Bibliography
  HLG1, 716, 949 n. 10
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