[Brahms, Johannes. (1833–1897)] [Mottl, Felix. (1856–1911)] Bittner, Julius. (1874–1939)
Autograph Letter Signed on a Postcard Photograph of Brahms with Adele Strauß
ALS from Julius Bittner, the Austrian composer, written to conductor Felix Mottl on a postcard bearing a photograph of Johannes Brahms and Adele Strauß, third wife of Johann Strauss. The message reads, translated from the German, "Overleaf, the birthplace of Brahms's symphonies: coffee served by Mrs. Adèle Strauss. / I couldn't help send you this delightful picture. / Yours sincerely / Julius Bittner." Postmarked 14.11.11. Light toning and wear, else in fine condition. 5.5 x 3.5 inches (14 x 8.9 cm.).
An exact contemporary of Franz Schmidt and Arnold Schoenberg, the name of the Austrian composer Julius Bittner has been almost entirely lost from view, and yet he was one of the most successful composers of opera and operetta of his day, a mainstay of musical Vienna. A high-ranking lawyer, he held an important office in the Austrian Department of Justice until diabetes caused him to retire in his mid-40s; more unusually still, he was a double amputee, the result of the ravages of diabetes. Largely untaught musically as a boy, it was Brahms who suggested the boy study with Josef Labor who also taught Paul Wittgenstein and Alma Schindler, later Mahler’s wife. Wagner, rather more than Brahms, remained Bittner’s lodestar and his friendship with Bruno Walter enabled him to meet Mahler – he was later to become Mahler’s lawyer. He was also taken up by Weingartner and Mottl. He shared with his much younger friend Korngold – who proved a staunch support financially in Bittner’s troubled final years.
Felix Mottl assisted Hans Richter in preparing the first complete Ring Cycle at Bayreuth in 1876, and himself conducted Tristan und Isolde at Bayreuth in 1886. In the last week of his life he married his longtime mistress, the soprano Zdenka Fassbender.