Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Alma Mahler: The Muse That Roared

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI first heard of Alma Mahler in the song of the same name by Tom Lehrer, which he wrote upon reading her obituary in 1962; I was as instantly impressed by her as he had been.

Here was a woman at the heart of Viennese society, and who in turn married a composer, an architect, and a novelist, each of them at the vanguard of their art. In between times, she satisfied herself with scandalous affairs - affairs which would have been a darn sight less scandalous if they hadn't been, for instance, painted.

And when she was done being a Muse she returned to what she'd loved: musical composition.

40 years after her death, Alma Mahler continues to inspire: whether dread in those who seek to study Mahler, or awe as in the 'polydrama' Alma. For those of you who might have missed it, Lehrer's poem about her is included below...

* * *

The loveliest girl in Vienna
Was Alma, the smartest as well.
Once you picked her up on your antenna,
You'd never be free of her spell.

Her lovers were many and varied
From the day she began her - beguine.
There were three famous ones whom she married,
And God knows how many between.

Alma, tell us,
All modern women are jealous,
Which of your magical wands
Got you Gustav and Walter and Franz?

The first one she married was Mahler,
Whose buddies all knew him as Gustav,
And each time he saw her he'd holler,
"Ach, that is the Fräulein I must have!"

Their marriage, however, was murdah.
He'd scream to the heavens above,
"I'm writing Das Lied von der Erde
And she only wants to make love!"

Alma, tell us,
All modern women are jealous.
You should have a statue in bronze
For bagging Gustav and Walter and Franz.

While married to Gus she met Gropius,
And soon she was swinging with Walter.
Gus died and her tear drops were copious,
She cried all the way to the altar.

But he would work late at the Bauhaus,
And only came home now and then.
She said, "What am I running, a chow house?
It's time to change partners again!"

Alma, tell us,
All modern women are jealous.
Though you didn't even use Ponds,
You got Gustav and Walter and Franz.

While married to Walt, she'd met Werfel,
And he, too, was caught in her net.
He married her but he was carefel,
'Cause Alma was no Bernadette.

And that is the story of Alma,
Who knew how to receive and to give.
The body that reached her embalma
Was one that had known how to live.

Alma, tell us,
How can they help being jealous?
Ducks always envy the swans
Who get Gustav and Walter,
You never did falter
With Gustav and Walter and Franz.
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