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Excavating Alma Mahler (oh, not again)

A German musicologist by name of Clytus Gottwald has retrieved three songs by the young Alma that Mahler dismissed as trash and set them for a capella choir. The premiere will take place in Stuttgart on February 26 in a concert conducted by Marcus Creed. The songs are titled Die Stille Stadt, Laue Sommernacht and Bei dir ist es traut. Details are listed here.

Clytus Gottwald, 85, is founder of the Stuttgart Schola Cantorum, a former IRCAM associate of Pierre Boulez and an expert in musical paleography – the art of reading old handwriting. I can’t imaging he – or anyone else – would have wasted precious time on the doodles of an untalented teenager, had she not become the love object of a great composer. There have been several attempts to make more of Alma’s sings than is actually in them – the best being the orchestral versions made by Colin and David Matthews – but after more than one listening it is hard to escape the conclusion that Mahler was right: she had nothing to say in music -

unless, of course, her third song was a sketch for a bigger hit, sometimes attributed to Mahler. Now that would be a world premiere…
Here’s the Youtube version:

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  1. “Bei Mir Bistu Shein” by Alma? Yikes! By me, it’s mind-boggling, especially given some of her less-than-tolerant non-musical writings! Sholom Secunda, Jacob Jacobs, Benny Goodman, the two departed Andrews Sisters and a host of others are having their eternal rest disturbed at this notion! According to the ASCAP database,”Bei Mir Bistu Shein” (under the Germanized title “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen”) is still under copyright and is listed with Secunda as composer; does this mean that royalties are owed to Alma’s estate? I shouldn’t let myself get started with these things! ;-)

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