Mahler, Gustav. (1860–1911)
"You can't write melodies with frozen fingers!" - Autograph Letter
Autograph letter from the important composer to his friend Nina Spiegler ("Nanna"), complaining of the cold and his difficulties composing, and mentioning Hans Richter, Robert Fuchs, and writer Siegfried Lipiner. [July 14, 1899.] 2 pp. Fold crease, minor spotting. Framed in a double-sided frame. Sight size 5.5 x 6 inches (13.5 x 15.8 cm), framed to 7 x 8 inches.
Translated from the German, in full: "My dearest Nana, I am a terrible person not to have written to you yet (I meant to every day), and I remain a terrible person, because even today all I have to say is that I'm not going to write to you, but give you my best wishes and tell you that my thoughts are very often with you both. This year things have gone very badly for me! In the middle I lost the thread of everything, and I cannot pick all these threads up again. I feel quite miserable about it, as though I had something serious on my conscience. I'm afraid the spa music and the dreadful water is to blame for that! A stove in my room might have been my Muse—but you can't write melodies with frozen fingers!—really it's only a slight consolation! I'll have to move in again on August 1st—against all the best practices, since Richter is in Bayreuth and Fuch's Meisterhaus is not in the necessary condition as a consequence of a broken wine bottle (the only connection that this good man has with Dionysius). O! Oh! Oh! Ah! Ah! Ah! Aaaaaaa! These my sounds of distress to you! And you, poor thing! Lipiner's Adam is a wonderful thing! I have locked it in my heart, and am very happy with it! Many best wishes to you and Albert from your hanged Gustav."
Nina Spiegler (1855–1937) was a close friend of Gustav Mahler and a central figure in the Pernerstorfer circle, a group of Viennese intellectuals formed in the 1870's which was an important forum for Mahler's music. She was married to the writer Siegfried Lipiner, mentioned in the present letter as the author of the play Adam, from 1881 to 1885; in 1891 she married Albert Spiegler, another member of her Viennese circles.
In addition to being one of the best known composers of his era, Gustav Mahler was also among the most accomplished conductors. He was appointed to the directorship of the Vienna Hofoper in 1897. He was known to retire to "composing huts," one in Steinbach am Attersee from 1893 to around 1900, and then another on the shores of the Woerthersee in Carinthia. In July 1899 he was on retreat in Altaussee, a period during which he met and first corresponded with Alma Schindler, whom he would later marry.