In 1960 Alma finishes her famous autobiography "And
the Bridge is Love". (My life was beautiful.
God allowed me to know some masterpieces of our time before
they left the hands of their creators. And if I was permitted
to hold for an instant your stirrups, my glorious knights,
my life was justified and blessed. Everything, I feel, is
simultaneous. Time does not pass. My fathers death is
as alive in me as Gustav Mahlers or Franz Werfels.
There is to me no past apart from the present, but, as the
poet has written, there is a land of the living and
a land of the dead, and the bridge is love!)
In 1962 Alma attends rehearsals of Gustav Mahler's 8th symphony
under the direction of Leonard Bernstein in New York. She
lives to witness the resurrection of Mahler's compositions,
which are then initiated by Leonard Bernstein, and whose recordings
are also used as a soundtrack in "Alma".
On December 11th 1964, Alma dies in her apartment in Manhattan,
where she had spent the last decade of her life. In the 85
years of her life, Alma MahlerWerfel experienced two
World Wars and changes in civilization as had never previously
A malicious obituary was given to her by American songwriter
"The loveliest girl in Vienna was Alma, the smartest
Once you picked her up on your antenna, youd never be
free of her spell.
Her lovers were many and varied from the day she begun her
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
The New York Times,
Sunday, December 13, 1964
Alma M. Werfel: Widow of writer Franz Werfel. She was also
married to Mahler and Gropius
Mrs. Alma Mahler Werfel, widow of the writer Franz Werfel
and earlier of the composer Gustav Mahler, died Friday in
her apartment at 120 East 73d Street. Her age was 85. She
had also been married to Walter Gropius, the architect.
Mrs. Werfel, who was once described as "The most beautiful
girl in Vienna," recalled in her autobiography that she
had always been attracted to genius. She noted that she had
once confided to her first husband, Mahler, that what she
really loved in a man were his achievements.
"The greater the achievements," she told the great
German composer, "the more I love him." And genius
also seemed to have been attracted to Mrs. Werfel.
The former Alma Schindler, the daughter of Emil J. Schindler,
a landscape painter in Austria, she grew up in Vienna surrounded
by art and artists. Her intellect, which was nurtured by her
brilliant father, complimented her beauty.
She was a 21-year-old music student in 1902 when she met
Mahler, who was 41 years old and director of the Court Opera
House. He had already made his mark in the music world.
After a short courtship they were married. Alma traveled
with her husband on conducting tours in Europe and the United
States. They had two daughters, but only one, Anna, survived.
She became a sculptor.
While still married to the composer, she met Walter Gropius,
then a little known architect. She described him in her diary
as an "extraordinarily handsome German," and added
that the night of their first meeting wore into sunrise.
"There remained no doubt," she wrote, "that
Walter Gropius was in love with me and expected me to love
Mahler found out about their affair, brought the architect
to their home and asked Alma to make a choice. She chose to
remain with the compooser, but Gropius continued to write
love letters to her.
She said in her book "And the Bridge is Love,"
published in 1958, that Mahler read Gropius's correspondence
and "wrote beautiful poems about it."
Mahler died in 1911 and his widow returned to Vienna to live
with her parents. One day her father told her of "a poor
starving genius" who painted. Later he brought Oskar
Kokoschka home to paint her picture. She wrote that after
he had finished sketching her he stood up, embraced her and
walked out. He then started sending love letters and they
became lovers. The affair lasted three years until Kokoschka
joined the German Army. Shortly afterward Alma began corresponding
with Gropius, who had become successful, and they were married
in August 1915. They had a daughter, Manon, who died in her
While still married to Gropius she met Franz Werfel and had
a son by him. The child died in infancy. Gropius and Alma
finally agreed to divorce in 1918. She then moved in with
Werfel, and they were married in July, 1929.
She also wrote in her diary that she was pursued by other
geniuses. The following was dated 1926 and referred to a conversation
she had with Gerhart Hauptmann, the German drammatist and
poet: " 'It's a pity,'he said to me, 'that the two of
us don't have a child together. That would have been something
You, you my great love....' " 'In another life,' he once
told me, 'we two must be lovers. I make my reservation now.'
"His wife heard it. 'I'm sure Alma will be booked up
there too.' she said flippantly. "He and I only smiled...."
She also wrote that other great men who were in love with
her were Dr. Paul Kammerer, the biologist, and Ossip Gabrilowitsch,
the Russian pianist and conductor who later married Mark Twain's
Werfel and Alma fled Nazi Germany in the late nineteen-thirties.
Their experiences prompting Franz to write "The Song
of Bernadette" and "Jacobowsky and the Colonel."
They came to the United States in 1940 and settled in California,
where Werfel died in 1945. She moved to New York in 1952.
Besides "And the Bridge is Love," Mrs. Werfel wrote
"Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters."
Alma Mahler was three times in New York between 21 December
1907 and 8 April 1911, together with her husband Gustav Mahler
who worked at the Metropolitan Opera till he became chef of
his own orchestra, the Philharmonic Society of New York.
21 December: Gustav Mahler and his wife Alma arrive in New
York and settle in a suite at the Majestic Hotel. Mahlers
arrival in New York is preceeded by a flurry of publicity
that surpasses even the New Yorkers sensation-seeking
See also Mahler and the Met at www.metopera.org/history/week-990816.html
Mahler conducts performances of Tristan und Isolde.
(The influence of the new conductor was felt and heard
in the whole spirit of the performance. Its comparable
with the best that New York has known. NYT), Don Giovanni
(January), Die Walküre, Siegfried (February),
23 April: Mahler leaves New York.
21 November: Mahler and Alma arrive again in New York, where
they stay at the Savoy. Mahler conducts three concerts with
the New York Symphony Orchestra, including his own 2nd Symphony,
and performances of Wagners Tristan und Isolde.
Mahler conducts Le nozze di Figaro in New York, Brooklyn
and Philadelphia. In February singer Marcella Sembrich bids
farewell to the Met with Mahler conducting. Mahler also conducts
Fidelio at the Met. March: Mahler conducts a trial
concert with the New York Philharmonic. 9 April: Mahler sets
sail from New York to Paris, where he sits for sculptor Auguste
19 October: Mahler and Alma arrive again in New York. Mahler
conducts 44 concerts with NYPO, including a series of six
historical concerts. Notable works included in the programmes
are Mahler's own 1st Symphony, Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel,
and Rakhmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto with the composer himself
at the piano. 16 December: Mahler conducts his own 1st Symphony.
December: Bote & Bock publish a pocket score of 7th Symphony.
January: Mahler conducts Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto with
Ferrucio Busoni as soloist; the occasion is a triumphant success.
4th historical concert, including Mahlers Kindertotenlieder
(Songs on the Death of Children). Pianist Josef Weiss
throws a tantrum and walks out of a rehearsal with Mahler.
February: first American tour (New Haven, Springfield, Providence
and Boston). 5 April: Mahler sets sail from New York.
25 October: Mahler and Alma arrive again in New York. Mahler
conducts 47 concerts, including seven in Brooklyn and eight
on tour. Among the works performed are his own 4th Symphony,
and works of American composers such as George Whitefield
Chadwick's Melpomene Overture, Stanford's Irish
Symphony, Elgar's Sea Pictures, Charles Martin
Loeffler's La Villanelle du diable and Henry Kimball
Hadley's The Culprit Fay. November: concert in Brooklyn.
December: second American tour, visiting Pittsburgh, Cleveland,
Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica; Christmas and New
Year spent nursing sore throat.
Mahler conducts all-Wagner programme in Philadelphia and Washington,
DC. 21 February: final concert in New York. 24 February: Mahler
falls ill with slow endocarditis, initially diagnosed as influenza.
8 April: Mahler and Alma sail from New York on the same vessel
as Ferrucio Busoni and Stefan Zweig.
18 May: Mahler dies in Vienna at 23:05.