E. Brief mit U.
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Gustav Mahler (1860–1911), componser. A.L.S. “Gustav Mahler”, Vienna, [February 1904], 4 pp. small 4to. On stationery of the Director of the Vienna Court Opera. Double leaf; slightly browned. Emphatic, unpublished letter to the heroic tenor Willi Birrenkoven in Hamburg, whom Mahler desires to lure to Vienna by all means: “[…] Please forgive me for answering you kind lines only today. Permit me to state the following briefly: Firstly. Vienna is not more expensive than Hamburg – quite the contrary: if you live here constantly (and not in hotels, which are admittedly expensive, though no more expensive than those in Hamburg), you will spend much less and live more comfortably. The audience worships its artists, and especially your way of singing is adored here. – Personally I flatter myself that I could contribute much to your well-being (especially artistically). Just imagine the advantages of once not having to overexert yourself – which is quite impossible here – to fully develop all your plans and to prepare them in every last detail – and not last: to be able to live in a surrounding fully worthy of you, which fully appreciates you – it is beyond doubt that you will sing 10 years longer here than anywhere else in the world: just ask Mrs. Mildenburg, who just was here, about everything, or Demuth, who has just signed and knows Vienna intimately. Secondly: After having encountered great difficulties, I have managed to get the management to agree to the following terms: From the second year onwards, a salary of 24,000 fl., and 4 weeks of holiday in the winter. Take into account that here you would have your summer and winter holiday for yourself and your own purse, instead of having to work for Pollini, and you will agree that you would be much better off here than anywhere else. – I now beg of you, dear friend, seize the opportunity and send me your word of consent by telegram, whereupon I will send you the contracts immediately. [...] I do request you to make up your mind soon, for I cannot wait any longer. […] Be smart, my dear Birrenkoven! I wish you well! “ – Mahler had got to know the singer Birrenkoven (1865–1955) during his time as chief director of music at the Hamburg City Theater in 1891–97. At Cosima Wagner’s request, he in 1894 prepared Birrenkoven for the role of Parsifal, and after the first rehearsals in Bayreuth Cosima declared that nobody had ever sung the role so perfectly. Enraptured by Birrenkoven’s talent, she also gave him the role of Lohengrin. – Mahler, however, who was director of the Vienna Court Theater since 1897, was unsuccessful in his plans to woo away Birrenkoven. The tenor remained at the Hamburg City Theater, where he enjoyed a yearly top salary of 25,000 Goldmarks. – Last page inconspicuously stamped “Wenzel” near lower edge (i. e. the previous owner, Joachim E. Wenzel, archivist at the Hamburg State Opera and author of the History of the Hamburg Opera 1678–1978). – Includes: album with newspaper clippings (chronological reviews of individual performances), a ms. list of Birrenkoven’s roles at the Hamburg City theatre from 1893 to 1912, and other material.