An overheated news report in the New York Times suggests that he was. Building on scholarly ripples at the discovery of an amatory catalogue, Allan Kozinn intimates that Gustav Mahler had ‘numerous affairs and infatuations’ before his marriage to Alma in 1901.
That’s true. But it’s not new. Nor does it mean ‘affairs’ in the modern, sexual connotation.
The hot document is by Natalie Bauer-Lechner, a viola player who pursued Mahler with relentless ardour for 13 years and was dumped by him several times for being too persistent. He never fancied her and shoved her off when she tried to kiss him.
Six years after he died, Natalie sent a list of Mahler’s love interests to her cousin. That document has now turned up in an auction house and been grabbed by the Austrian National Library. It contains no names that were previously unknown to Mahler scholars, and no adult-rated revelations. All the names and the ‘affairs’ are documented in Why Mahler?
So far as we know, Mahler had one blazing sexual affaire before his marriage to Alma, with the soprano Anna Mildenburg. His wife would describe him as sexually inexperienced and (by her exacting standards) unsatisfying.
Natalie, the document’s author, never got past first base with Gustav. She is, at best, a jilted suitor and thirdhand witness to what the Times puffs up as his ‘love life’.