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How to Celebrate Mahler’s Birthday Like a Researcher

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Gustav Mahler, 1860-1911 (A. Dupont, N.Y.), Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress

This past Sunday, July 7, 2013 marked the 153rd birthday of composer and conductor Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). The weekend was filled with performances of Mahler’s greatest works around the world, including his third symphony at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony (Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, conductor) and fourth symphony at the Castleton Festival (Lorin Maazel, conductor) in the idyllic Rapahannock County, Virginia. Here at the Library, archival research fiends celebrate composer birthdays differently; we want to know what’s in the stacks!

One of the first places we look in the Music Division is the 733-page-tome, Music History From Primary Sources: A Guide to the Moldenhauer Archives (Jon Newsom and Alfred Mann, eds., Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 2000). This invaluable resource (digital version & finding aid) is a comprehensive guide to the “greatest composite gift of musical documents this institution has ever received,” according to Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. The collection, which belonged to German collector Hans Moldenhauer (1906-1987), boasts over 3,500 music manuscripts, letters and other materials from the likes of Bach, Beethoven, R. Strauss and Wagner.

The Moldenhauer Archives at the Library of Congress contains several photographs of Gustav Mahler that belonged to Austrian composer Karl Weigl (1881-1949), who coached singers under Mahler at the Wiener Staatsoper. Weigl once remarked “I consider the years I worked under Mahler as the most instructive period of my life.”[1] The Library’s Moldenhauer Archives are also home to a collection of correspondence between Alma Mahler and many of her friends and colleagues.

This composer-birthday-hunt has brought to light an example of a collaboration that the Music Division maintains with other music libraries around the world. While we do not have an exhaustive amount of Mahler materials, our relationships with institutions such as the Pierpont Morgan Library and Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, Germany make the best Mahler collections readily available to Library of Congress patrons through our online portals. The largest section of Moldenhauer materials relating to Mahler is housed at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, Germany, which has its own Moldenhauer Archives. Several of the highlights have been digitized and are available via the Library of Congress’ Performing Arts Encyclopedia, including several pages of unused sketches from Mahler’s sixth and seventh symphonies (ca. 1903-1905). The sketches are prefaced with a short note from Alban Berg dated July 9, 1924 that describes the contents of the sketches.

Symphony no. 7 [and] Symphony no. 6 [sketches], Moldenhauer-Archive in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München via Music Division, Library of Congress
Additional Mahler holdings are available through the Music Treasures Consortium and Prints & Photographs Division at the Library of Congress. The New York Philharmonic Digital Archivesfeature a wonderful collection of Mahler’s own scores with his annotations and those of Leonard Bernstein, who utilized them during his tenure as music director of the orchestra.

For more about Mahler at the Library of Congress, check out Cait Miller’s post about Bernstein’s Young People’s Concert script, Who is Gustav Mahler?.


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