2 pages, folio (31.8 x 25.3cm), 18-stave paper, upright format, on a bifolium of heavy brown paper, marked "M.B.M.8." (on the blank integral), [before 10 August 1901], even, overall browning, small tear at hinge, corners chipped
Kindertotenlieder ('Songs on the Death of Children') is a staple of the lieder repertory as well as being a key work for the understanding of other middle-period works of Mahler - notably his fifth, sixth and seventh symphonies. Composed in two phases, in 1901 and 1904, the song cycle sets five extraordinary poems by Rückert, chosen by Mahler from over 400 that the grieving poet wrote following the death of two of his children in 1833-1834. Mahler later explained to Schoenberg and his students that "After Das Knaben Wunderhorn, I could not compose anything but Rückert--this is lyric poetry from the source; all else is poetry of a derivative sort", and indeed the cycle represents an important change in his attitude to Lieder-writing.
The present song, "Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n" ('Now the sun wants to rise as brightly'), which dates from the summer of 1901, and which occupies the first place in the cycle, provides a good example of Mahler's approach, with its reminder to the listener not to let the night be enfolded in him but rather to 'sink it in eternal light'. The composer himself was no stranger to the death of children, eight of his siblings having perished during their childhood. To his wife Alma, it seemed that Mahler was provoking fate when he resumed composition of these songs around the time of the birth of their second daughter, Anna, in June 1904. Her awful premonitions were tragically realized when in July 1907 the four-year-old Maria died from scarlet fever and diphtheria, prompting Mahler to observe to Guido Adler that, in composing the songs, he had placed himself in the situation that a child of his had died, but that when he really lost his daughter, he could not have proceeded with them any further.
Kindertotenlieder nos. 2-5 are now all on deposit at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. Mahler wrote "Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n" on brown paper by the same manufacturer as he used in the piano versions of songs 3 and 4 in the Morgan manuscript ("Wenn dein Mütterlein" and "Oft denk' ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen"), the only difference being those two songs are on 20-stave (rather than 18-stave) paper, marked "M.B.M.9". However, Mahler wrote songs 2 and 5 on altogether different and much paler paper, in oblong format, by J.E. & Co. The appearance of this manuscript confirms that, like songs 3 and 4, "Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n" dates from 1901 (whereas nos 2 & 5 date from 1904, the year before the cycle was completed, performed and published)”. A sketchleaf for this song survives in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.
The manuscript contains a number of differences from the first edition and the Stichvorlage (on deposit at the Austrian National Library), including dynamic markings in the piano at bar 20, a C-natural rather than C-sharp in the piano at bar 76 and the "morendo" marking for the last four bars. The manuscript lacks certain details later added to the published editions, including a note later inserted in the vocal line at bar 34, and two accents later added to the voice at bar 55 (to where the "Nicht schleppend" marking here at bar 52 was later moved).
The manuscript is written on heavy-duty M.B.M. paper, used by Mahler mainly during a relatively short period in 1901. Apart from the piano-vocal versions of songs 1, 3 & 4 in Kindertotenlieder, it can be found in the fair copy of another Rückert setting, "Ich atmet einen linden Duft". The overall brown toning and ageing found on these manuscripts is caused by the high wood-content in the paper, and not through the effects of exposure to sunlight. This manuscript was for a long time in the possession of the Conrat family in Vienna: Hugo and Ida Conrat, whose musical salon in Vienna had made them regular hosts to Johannes Brahms as well Gustav and Alma Mahler. Her daughters Ilse and Erica were both childhood friends of Alma Mahler and Ilse became a well-known sculptor who made a portrait of her.
Sotheby's would like to acknowledge the assistance and advice of Berthold Over and Paul Banks in preparing this description.
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