[Setting of a text by
?Voice and Piano
Our knowledge of this work stems from a
reminiscence of Ludwig Karpath which dates from shortly after
Mahler had arrived in Vienna, in April 1897, to take up his new
appointment as Kapellmeister at the Court Opera (LKBG,
Mahler hat ein erstaunliches
Gedächtnis. Als ich einmal, in jenen ersten Wochen
mit ihm im Café Kremser saß, kam ein Herr auf ihn zu
und begrüsste ihn mit den Worten: „Kennen Sie mich
noch, mein Name ist Ludwig”. „Oh, ich weiss sehr
gut, wer Sie sind,” erwiderte Mahler, „wir waren
doch beide am Konservatorium, wir nahmen auch beide
an einer Liedkonkurrenz teil, ich ging leer aus, Sie
aber erhielten den ersten Preis mit einem Lied, das
so anfing.” Und nun pfiff Mahler die fünf oder sechs
Anfangstakte jenes Liedes, worüber Ludwig, der als
Klavierlehrer am Konservatorium wirkte, so bestürzt
war, daß er mit einem kurzem Gruss von dannen ging.
Mahler had an astonishing memory.
While I was sitting one day during those first weeks
with him at the Café Kremser, a man came up to him
and greeted him with the words: 'Do you remember me,
my name is Ludwig?' "Oh, I know very well who you
are,' replied Mahler. 'We were both at the
Conservatoire, we also both took part in a song
competition, from which I went away empty handed,
but you received first prize for a song which
began.' And then Mahler whistled five or six of the
opening bars of the song, at which Ludwig, who
worked as a piano teacher at the Conservatoire, was
so disconcerted that, with a short farewell, he left.
Ernst Ludwig and
Mahler had been fellow pupils in Franz Krenn's composition
class at the Vienna Conservatoire between 1876–78, and
both graduated in the latter year. Ludwig was appointed to
the teaching staff in 1883 (GKKGM,
325) and remained there after the institution was
re-organised as the Academy of Music and Drama in 1909 (MBaO
to which Karpath refers was not one of the official Conservatoire prizes, but was
set up through the generosity of a private individual. The
benefactor was a little-known Austrian lyric poet, Vinzenz
Zusner who was born in Bischoflacik near Laibach on 18
January 1803 and who died at Graz on 12 June 1874. In his
will he left a sum of 6200 Gulden to the Conservatoire in
Vienna, the annual interest of which was to be awarded
annually in the form of prizes of 20 and 10 ducats, for the
two best settings of his poems by students at the
appeared in four collections: Gedichte (1842) ,
Neue Gedichte (1853), Im Walde (Naturbilder)
(1863) and Gedichte (Gesamtausgabe) (1871). It is of
little merit, being a pale imitation of Heine, and according
to Robert Hirschfeld the prize caused something of a problem
Die gutgemeinte Stiftung hatte, weil
auf nur geringe Zahl zur Vertonung geeigneten Lieder
Vinzenz Zusners beschränkt, einen problematischen
Because it was restricted to the few
songs which were suitable for musical setting, the
well-intentioned bequest had a problematical value.
Apart from Mahler
himself, three members of his circle of friends set texts by
Zusner, though only Rudolf Krzyzanowski was successful in
the competition, winning first prize in 1877/8 for a setting
of Zusner's Das Abendglöcklein:
Des Glöckleins Schall durchtönt das
Mir Ruhe zu verkünden,
Nur ich allein mit meiner Pein
Vermag sie nicht zu finden.
Wann läutest du denn mir zur Ruh'
Von deinem Kirchlein droben?
Sei ruhig, Herz! Ein jeder Schmerz
Hört einmal auf zu toben.
Einst wird dich schon des Glöckleins
Mit deiner Qual versöhnen.
Und schweigt der Klang auch noch so
Er muß doch endlich tönen!
The valley resounds to the bells
Announcing rest to me,
But I alone with my pain
Am unable to find it.
When then will you ring me to peace
From your chapel up there?
Be calm my heart! Every single pain
Ceases finally to rage.
One day to the bells note
Will be reconciled with your agony.
And also if the sound is silenced so
It must finally resound.
The same text also
attracted Hugo Wolf and Hans Rott, though in Wolf's case it
was his only attempt at a Zusner song,³
suggesting that despite the financial inducement, the poetry
failed to evoke a response. Rott – perhaps less sensitive
than Wolf to the poetic quality of the texts he set, or in
more desperate financial straights – composed at least
seven settings,⁴ implying that he made a
determined (but unsuccessful) effort to win the prize.
Ludwig won the
competition in 1875/6 – the first year it was held – with
another version of Das Abendglöcklein, and again in
1876/7, so Mahler's Zusner setting presumably dates from
sometime during these three years. Interestingly, in 1878
Ludwig received only second prize, and it was Rudolf Krzyzanowski who won:
Fig 1. Result of the 1878 Zusner Song
Wiener Zeitung 18 June 1878, 7
In the 1890s two musicians later to
establish themselves as composers carried off the Zusner
prize: Zemlinsky in 1891 and Franz Schreker in 1899 (CHFS,