14 pages in all, folio (34.5 x 26.5 cm), on 3 bifolios numbered by the composer, the title-wrapper and the music of the song on 12 pages, enclosed within an additional wrapper inscribed by the recipient, Guido Adler, in blue crayon ("Autograph von Gustav Mahler" and "Neumen") and 6 additional blank pages, Vienna, 1 November 1905, the paper a light cream colour, some damp-staining to the leading margins, horizontal creases along folds
"Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" is among the best-loved of all Mahler's works, a vocal counterpart to the celebrated 'Adagietto' in the Fifth Symphony, although more restrained and without the passionate orchestral climax. It has become almost a touchstone for the beautiful in music and the early recordings by Kathleen Ferrier, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Janet Baker are classics of the gramophone. As an orchestral song, it can only be compared with certain numbers in Berlioz’s Nuits d’été ('Le Spectre de la rose'), Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder ('Träume') or Strauss’s Four Last Songs.
Mahler composed "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" ("I am Lost to the World"), in the summer of 1901, at the height of his powers as a Lieder composer. The song can be seen as expressing Mahler’s detachment from his surroundings as he becomes engrossed in his world of music, either as a composer or performer. Mahler was described by a critic whilst conducting this song in Graz on 1 June 1905: ”he had his eyes closed and looked as if he was far away, lost, completely submerged in a musical world of his own”. Mahler is very spare in his use of the orchestra: nine solo instruments supported by strings and harp, and a series of lyrical solos, most prominently by the cor anglais, give the music its personal and contemplative air.
The words are by Friedrich Rückert, arguably the most important and personal poet for Mahler, who provided texts for the Kindertotenlieder as well as five great Rückert-Lieder, of which "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" is the most celebrated. As Anton Webern recalled in his diary, Mahler explained that, “after Des Knaben Wunderhorn, I could not compose anything but Rückert--this is lyric poetry from the source; all else is poetry of a derivative sort”. This immensely personal Rückert setting, along with "Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder", "Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft", "Um Mitternacht" and the three Kindertotenlieder, also composed in 1901, represents a new direction in Mahler’s songs, generally turning away from the folk-inspired Knaben Wunderhorn works to the great emotionally-charged masterpieces of his maturity, leading eventually to 'Der Abschied' in Das Lied von der Erde.
This is the most important manuscript of Mahler’s greatest song: it is the only autograph source for the orchestral version of "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen", which is how Mahler always seems to have conceived it. He first wrote a manuscript for voice and piano in 1901, but only premiered the song after orchestrating it. All but one of the six performances he gave himself were with orchestra, and all were with a male voice, generally Friedrich Weidemann, his principal baritone at the Vienna Opera (Weidemann had recently sung the role of Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde under Mahler’s baton). The premiere was in the Kleiner Musikvereinssaal in Vienna on 29 January 1905, a concert also including the premiere of Kindertotenlieder.
Several of Mahler’s songs are musical blueprints for movements in his symphonies (or "fertile seeds" that found fulfilment in his symphonies, as he explained to Natalie); indeed some were imported almost entire, as with 'Urlicht' in the Second Symphony, so that providing them with an orchestral garb seems in many cases inevitable. The music of "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" is closely related to the endings of the slow movements of both the Fourth and the Fifth Symphonies, perhaps especially to the 'Adagietto' in the passage "Ich leb’ allein in meinem Himmel, in meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied" ("I live alone in my heaven, in my love, in my song"). This sublime music is characterized by the use of pentatonic scales and many soft dissonances that resolve only slowly over the prevailing harmonic bass, meanwhile maintaining long-held chords spiced with ninths and added sixths. An example of this is found at the word "ruh" in the final verse, "und ruh’ in einem stillen Gebiet". Stephen Hefling writes that "the link between the song and symphony is hardly fortuitous. He had met Alma Schindler in November 1901; his Fifth Symphony lay incomplete. Literally overnight, it became Mahler's most fervent hope to unite his innermost being with the stunningly beautiful 23-year-old musician--"in meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied", but no longer "allein". The oft-noted connections between passages in the song and the end of the 'Adagietto' indeed refer back to the ecstatic harmonies found in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, in their expression of Mahler's love for Alma. In addition several features point ahead to the music of 'Der Abschied' in Das Lied von der Erde, including the mildly-exotic flavour imparted by the use of pentatonic scales, the new suppleness of the vocal line and the intimate chamber-music style of Mahler's orchestration.
This beautiful manuscript, written with calligraphic care and dedicated to Mahler’s friend and supporter Guido Adler (1855-1941), was completely unknown to the world until its rediscovery in 2000. Mahler signed and dedicated it to Adler, averring in his inscription that he would never become alienated from him. Yet, this manuscript had a rather sad history during the twentieth century, a silent memorial to Adler, the father of Austrian musicology. The fate of his Jewish family and his own legacy, including this manuscript, were severely afflicted by the rise of Nazism in Austria in the 1930s. This manuscript of “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”, effectively disappeared and was declared lost by the editors of the Complete Edition (1984).
Adler is revered for publishing much music from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque eras for the first time in the monumental series Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Oesterreich, which he founded and edited from 1893 until 1938. The bifolio wrapper into which he placed Mahler’s precious gift had previously been used to contain “Neumen” (the word written by him in blue crayon), evidence that he had used the paper in his studies of medieval music. Like Mahler, Guido Adler had been brought up in Iglau in Eastern Bohemia, and into the same German-speaking Jewish culture. Adler tried to give practical support to the composer in the 1880s and, later, helped provide funds for the publication of the first three symphonies. Mahler may well have dedicated this manuscript to Adler in recognition of his support of the Vereinigung schaffender Tonkünstler that staged the premieres of "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" and Kindertotenlieder on 29 January 1905, Even after Mahler’s death, Adler continued to support and promote his music, despite the sometimes unhelpful attitude of the composer’s widow Alma.
The last years of Guido Adler were clouded by the advance of anti-semitism in Austria, particularly after the Anschluss with Nazi Germany in 1938. In that year, he had the opportunity of leaving Vienna for the United States with his son Achim and daughter Melanie, but the prospect of this move was too much for Guido, already 83 years of age, surrounded with all his books and working papers. The family home was ransacked during the “Kristallnacht” pogrom and part of his library confiscated by a former student, who was now a Nazi. After Guido’s death in February 1941 at the age of 85, Melanie tried desperately to save the remainder of her father’s beloved library, first asking for support from leading musical figures in Vienna and eventually appealing to Winifred Wagner, but all without success: she was transported to Minsk in 1942 and disappeared, presumably murdered. The present manuscript was one of those that disappeared from view; it was appropriated by the lawyer appointed to take care of Guido Adler’s estate and only restituted to Guido Adler’s descendants in 2004, after a four-year court case in Vienna.
This manuscript of “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”, preserves the orchestral version best known today. Mahler’s earlier autograph manuscript for piano and voice (1901) is on deposit at the Médiathèque Musicale Mahler in Paris and sketches for the song survive in the Morgan Library and Museum. The Stichvorlage for the orchestral version in F major was copied by Alma Mahler, but is unfortunately incomplete, comprising only the first twenty-seven bars. It contains a few markings by the composer; otherwise the present manuscript is the only autograph source for “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” as a song for voice and orchestra. The manuscript contains many annotations by Mahler, mostly erased and now barely legible, concerning the transposition of the song down a tone into E-flat major, which involved rearranging the cello and bass parts to accommodate the lowest pitch, now a B-flat (he presumably needed the transposition into E flat to accommodate his favoured baritone Friedrich Weidemann, who gave the first performance). These instructions, presumably to the copyist, relate to the first editions by Kahnt of Leipzig (1905), who published piano versions of this song in both keys.
Sotheby's would like to acknowledge the assistance and advice of Professor Paul Banks in preparing this description.
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