Penn Library

Hidden in Plain Sight:
Musical Treasures in the Penn Library

Curated by Marjorie Hassen

Otto E. Albrecht Music Library
University of Pennsylvania

Alma Mahler & Franz Werfel Papers

A central figure in Viennese cultural life at the turn of the last century, Alma Mahler (-Gropius-Werfel,) was the daughter of the Viennese landscape painter Emil Schindler and served as muse for many artists, including Oskar Kokoschka and Gustav Klimt. Having studied with Alexander Zemlinsky, she had a brief notoriety as a composer but later achieved fame chiefly as guardian of Gustav Mahler's legacy and hostess to the émigré community in California and New York during and after World War II. Following her divorce from the architect Walter Gropius, whom she had married in 1915, Alma married the Austrian writer and literary theorist Franz Werfel.

Werfel often drew on musical subjects and collaborated with musicians in his work. He wrote the text for Ernst Krenek's 1924 scenic cantata Zwingsburg and Kurt Weill's experimental drama Der Weg der Verheissung (1934), while his promotion of the operas of Giuseppe Verdi--as well as his fictional biography of the Italian composer--played a significant role in the rebirth of interest in Verdi throughout Europe as a counterbalance to the influence of Richard Wagner.

Table of Contents
Manuscript Collections:
Manuscript Collections:
Sheet Music
Conducting Scores
Music Manuscripts:
15th-18th Centuries
Music Manuscripts:
19th & 20th Centuries
Landmarks of Music Theory

Alma Schindler's Tagebücher cover a four-year period, from January 1898 through January 1902, ending shortly before her marriage to Gustav Mahler in March of that year. The diaries, begun when she was 18 years old, colorfully document her own life and the Viennese cultural milieu in which she lived. They also shed light on her well-known love affairs with Gustav Klimt, Alexander Zemlinksy, and Mahler, which are meticulously detailed, as well as her frustrated compositional ambitions.

Alma Schindler
Tagebuch, Suite 4
Manuscript: Entry for 23 February 1898
In: Alma Mahler and Franz Werfel Papers

Here, Alma recalls a conversation with a close family friend, Theobald Pollack:
Dr. Pollack is certainly right in maintaining that religion, particularly Christianity, ruins public morality. Good deeds are often the result not of conviction or inner compulsion, but are done almost without exception, in order to shorten the doer's time in Purgatory and assure him a place in Heaven. Hence many people generally considered kind-hearted are in fact nothing of the sort. They are merely concerned that their deeds be seen and acknowledged. This evening alone: Had a real go at Walküre act I and the Magic Fire music. [Translation: Beaumont & Rode-Breymann, 1998]
The drawing here, one of many that Alma penned in her diaries, depicts female characters from Wagner's Siegfried (Brünnhilde) and Goethe's Faust (Gretchen) and Wilhelm Meister (Philine).

Alma Schindler, 1879-1964
Tagebuch, Suite 12
Manuscript: Entry for 27 June 1899
In: Alma Mahler and Franz Werfel Papers

Beneath a line of music that Alma identifies as "the first subject" of a sonata, she has written:
The first movement of my sonata is almost finished. The task gave me the greatest satisfaction, but was also hellishly difficult. There are three main subjects and two or three subsidiary ones. The first subject leads naturally to a countersubject, which usually opens in the dominant. It's raining, raining, raining! [Translation: Beaumont & Rode-Breymann, 1998]

Franz Werfel, 1890-1945
Verdi: Roman der Oper
Autograph Manuscript, 1923
In: Alma Mahler & Franz Werfel Papers

Franz Werfel, 1890-1945
Der Weg der Verheissung
Autograph Manuscript, 1934 (?)
In: Alma Mahler & Franz Werfel Papers

Deems Taylor, 1885-1966
Typed Letter Signed to Alma Mahler Werfel
6 September 1944
In: Alma Mahler & Franz Werfel Papers

Arnold Schönberg's financial plight is the subject of this letter, written by Deems Taylor in his capacity as President of ASCAP. Alma Mahler Werfel was one of many of Schönberg's friends and colleagues who campaigned for an increase in the royalty fees the composer received for performances of his works.

Last update: Monday, 03-Feb-2003 11:09:51 EST
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