Gustav Mahler was one of the supremely gifted musicians of his generation. His contemporaries came to know him as a composer of startling originality whose greatest successes with the public never failed to provoke controversy among the critics. As a conductor, his relentless pursuit of perfection was sometimes viewed as tyrannical by the singers and musicians who came under his baton. Professor Henry-Louis de La Grange has devoted over thirty years of
painstaking resarch to this study of Mahler's life and works. His biography, ultimately to be completed in four volumes, is drawn from a vast archive of documents, autographs, and pictures, assembled by La Grange at the Bibliotheque Musicale Gustav Mahler, Paris. This second volume
covers the years 1897-1904, when the focus shifts to Vienna. It opens with Mahler's triumphant debut as director of the Vienna Court Opera, and follows with the revolution he wrought there in standards of performance and, with the Secession painter Alfred Roller, in scenic representation. An account is also given of Mahler's story and brief engagement as conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Concerts, following Richter's resignation in 1989. La Grange depicts the brilliant society of pre-war
Vienna, then the centre of the intellectual and artistic world; the extraordinary range of artists among whom Mahler lived and worked included the composers Dvorak, Gustave Charpentier, Richard Strauss, Zemlinsky, and Schoenberg and his two disciples, Berg and Webern; the painters architects and
decorators of the Secession with Klmit at their head; the writers Hauptmann, Dehmel, Hofmannsthal, and Schnitzler. There he also met Alma Schindler, 'the most beautiful woman in Vienna', and La Grange tells the story of their engagement and marriage in 1902 and the early years of their tempestuous relationship. As his fame spread throughout Europe, Mahler travelled with his music to Germany, Russia, Holland, Poland, and Belguim, meeting many other leading musicians of his day, including
Pfitzner, Mengelberg, Diepenbrock, Oskar Fried, and many others. During this period Mahler wrote some of his best-loved works, including the fourth and Fifth Symphonies, and the three orchestral song-cyles and collections - the Wunderhorn -, Ruckert-, and Kindertotenlieder. For each
of these works La Grange provides full notes and analytical descriptions. Scrupulously researched, richly documented, this is a study worthy of the extraordinary artistic achievement of Gustav Mahler's Vienna years.
`Arnold Schoenberg once claimed that everything about a great man like Gustav Mahler was of interest, even the way he tied his necktie. He would have loved the monumental Mahler biography by Henry-Louis de La Grange ... Mr de La Grange has spent much of his life digging out details about Mahler, right down to the contents of the country huts where he wrote his gigantic symphonies and the recipe for his favourite pudding, apricot dumplings. The result is
an indispensable, ... highly readable account of the composer's life and times ... Even readers not stricken with Mahleria will find much to fascinate in the author's sweeping portrait of the crumbling Habsburg empire ... Mr de La Grange is just as good at painting the American background, too ... Mr de
La Grange lays out far more evidence than anyone else.'
`The book is a treasure-trove ... It is for the kaleidoscopically detailed way in which de La Grange asssembles a picture of the world in which Mahler worked, including his critics as well as the people he chose to surround himself with, that this biography deserves to be celebrated. It is in a class of its own. At £30, these 892 pages represent the musical bargain of the decade.'
BBC Music Magazine
`La Grange's book is one of the greatest works of biography of modern times ... It is an electrifying read ... to read L Grange's majestic book is to learn to understand the meaning of our mentally-deranged century, and even to hear in the wonderful music what the antidote to all our troubles might be. I have not read anything remotely as gripping in years'
Peter Mullen, Yorkshire Evening Press
`highly readable. In its painstaking thoroughness and scope, it is virtually unique in musical biography and, by any standards, a remarkable achievement'
Peter McCallum, The Sydney Morning Herald
`Henry-Louis de La Grange's four-volume biography, comparable only to Ernest Newman's life of Wagner, is commensurate in scale with the waxing of Mahler's reputation ... La Grange's vast canvas allows the reader to enter fully into Mahler's world ... The OUP is to be congratulated for embarking on this project'
Daniel Johnson, The Times
`La Grange's book is one of the greatest works of biography of modern times ... It is an electrifying read. ... get hold of it, open it, and you will never be the same person again: it is as brilliant as that. ... I have not read anything remotely as gripping in years.'
Peter Mullen, The Yorkshire Evening Press
`this version definitively supersedes its predecessors. ... The added material is thus frequently of vital importance and interest ... The book is a treasure-trove. ... It is for the kaleidoscopically detailed way in which de La Grange assembles a picture of the world in which Mahler worked, including his critics as well as the people he chose to surround himself with, that this biography deserves to be celebrated. It is in a class of its own. At
£30, these 892 pages represent the musical bargain of the decade.'
BBC Music Magazine
`Read of the Week ... chronicled with painstaking precision by La Grange'
`Henry-Louis de La Grange's four-volume biography, comparable only to Ernest Newman's life of Wagner, is commensurate in scale with the waxing of Mahler's reputation. ... La Grange's vast canvas allows the reader to enter fully into Mahler's world. ... The OUP is to be congratulated for embarking on this project.'
`Now Mr de La Grange has finally brought out a revised translation of "Vienna: The Years of Challenge (1987-1904)" ... the first of two volumes covering Mahler's 10 years as director of the Vienna Court Opera. it was worth the wait. "Vienna: The Years of Challenge" is not just a biography but also a masterly work of cultural history, a portrait of musical Vienna unprecedented in its richness and comprehension. Though Mr de La Grange has much to say about
Mahler's compositions, his book is primarily a chronicle of the life and times of a great orchestral conductor and operatic director.'
The Wall Street Journal
`The clarity with which Mr de La Grange sketches this conflict is his outstanding achievement as a biographer. "Vienna: The Years of Challenge" washes away once and for all the traditional caricature of Mahler as self-pitying poseur by bringing into sharp focus the corrosive cultrual context within which he waged daily battle against the forces of philistinism. Mr de La Grange is so good at putting Mahler in context, in fact, that Mahler's own personality
occasionally gets lost in the shuffle - not because the crucial task of literary portaiture has been skimped, but simply because his book contains so much else of interest.'
The Wall Street Journal
`"Vienna: The Years of Challenge" is a work of the first importance, one that nobody seriously interested in mahler can possibly afford to skip. Indeed, I would venture to say that, when complete, the revised version of "Gustav Mahler" will stand as one of the finest multivolume biographies of a composer ever written'
The Wall Street Journal
`La Grange is a superb guide, his attention to detail awesome. The scholar can only marvel at the meticulous decumentation and mustering of hsi vast range of source material (some housed in themonumental archive assembled by him at the Bibliothèque Musicale Gustav Mahler in Paris), but the general reader, too, will find many gems ... The completion of this great and original work will be eagerly awaited.'
`Which music buff or dedicated Mahlerian will not be delighted to discover that Richard Wagner was first conducted in Vienna by the brothers Strauss, or that Mahler was christened "Duty Sergeant" by disgrunteld members of the orchestra objecting to his brusque manner? And who could fail to warm to Mahler and his biographer when they find, sandwiched between descriptions of concert programmes, an account of the composer, taken short during a walk on the
Giudecca in Venice, being "led to a private residence where he was most courteously received by the lady of the house and ceremoniously installed in her elegant drawing-room with a chamber pot".'
`The greatest biographies stem from the grandest obsessions ... Henry-Louis de La Grange's Gustav Mahler - Vienna: The Years of Challenge (1897-1904) is the fruit of half a century's fascination with the revolutionary Austrian ... Through 700 pages of dense but engaging narrative, not a concert, not a row, not a review, not a note is missed. the writing is of an almost scientific exactitude, though the author's passion for his subject rarely wanes ... The
Years of Challenge continues on of the most remarkable biographical ventures in the late 20th century.'
`I can only marvel again at the assiduity of de La Grange in tracking down almost everything that can possibly be ecorded about Mahler's career ... the reader will soon find himself absorbed into the atmosphere of the period ... One cannot foresee a time when this biography will be superseded. It is also a vivid picture of turn-of-the-century Vienna.'
`Much has been written in recent years about Mahler - the man, the maestro, the music and, yes, the myth. No one has written more about Mahler and the Mahler phenomenon than Henry-Louis de la Grange. And no one has written better ... La Grange thrives on context, defining his protagonist amid a detailed evocation of a specific time and place. Far more than a musicological protrait, his study is written with pervasive clarity, occasionally even with vigor.
The tone suggests academic restraint, but, thank goodness, passion is never totally suppressed. The dramatis personae are colorful.'
Jerusalem Post Magazine
`the second volume is as good as, probably better than, volume one. A must-have for music libraries and all but the most superficial Mahler-itcs.'
`Through 700 pages of dense but engaging narrative, not a concert, not a row, not a review, not a note is missed. The writing is of an almost scientific exactitude, though the author's passion for his subject rarely wanes.'
`I don't recall a more massively detailed biography of any composer other than Wagner. Almost anything you could possibly wish to know about Mahler is either to be found in this volume or will be in one of the others.'
`It has already been available for some years in French, its authority and insight universally acclaimed.'
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times