Quoting Otto Dietz, visiting Austrian ambassador to the University of Western Ontario in 2004, "Who would have thought to find a piece of Vienna in London, Ontario?" Indeed, visitors to the Gustav Mahler-Alfred Rosé Room are astonished by the richness and variety of the treasures contained therein. From photographs to letters, etchings to sculpture, music manuscripts to published musical scores, the Gustav Mahler-Alfred Rosé Collection (GM-AR Collection) is indisputably one of the largest surviving bodies of primary source material relating to the life and times of Gustav Mahler and his brother-in-law, Arnold Rosé.
A bequest of Mahler's nephew, Alfred E. Rosé, and given to the Music Library by Alfred's widow Maria C. Rosé, the GM-AR Collection was largely assembled by Mahler's sister Justine (Alfred's mother). During the years following their parents' deaths, Justine functioned as her brother's housekeeper, saving some 700 letters, family photographs, and programs of performances conducted by Gustav; she also collected celebrity autographs. Justine married the violinist Arnold Rosé, founder and leader of the Rosé String Quartet; Rosé was also Mahler's concertmaster of both the Vienna Philharmonic and Opera orchestras. The Rosé children, Alfred and Alma, were musically gifted, Alfi studying piano, violin, and clarinet; Alma, the violin. Alfred became a conductor and repetiteur; Alma had a career as a violinist, founding a touring women's orchestra, the Wiener Walzermädeln.
The GM-AR Collection survived the Nazi Anschluss, packed in steamer trunks and accompanying Arnold and daughter Alma on their flight to England in 1938. Alma realized that her father's finances would not sustain him. Leaving the safety of England, she resumed her solo career in Holland, playing house concerts and sending funds to Arnold. While attempting to flee to Switzerland, Alma was captured by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, where she was recognized and conscripted to lead the Mädchenorchester. Following Arnold's death and the end of the war, the collection was shipped to Cincinnati, eventually accompanying Alfred and Maria Rosé to London, Ontario. Invitations of employment at the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music brought them to their adopted home.
Scholar Henry-Louis de la Grange described the GM-AR Collection as "the finest surviving collection of information about Mahler's early career." Dr. Stephen McClatchie's recent editions of The Mahler Family Letters (2005) and Liebste Justi!: Briefe an die Familie (2006) make much of this material newly available to scholars. Additional highlights of the collection include manuscript copies of Mahler's songs, a Rodin bust of Mahler, several large etchings by Ferdinand Schmutzer, Maria Rosé's father, and a professional copyist's manuscript of the earliest-surviving version of Mahler's First Symphony, with annotations and amendments in Mahler's hand, which offers insights into Mahler's compositional process. Richard Newman's meticulously researched Alma Rosé: Vienna to Auschwitz (2000) represents a major contribution to Holocaust history, and prompted a collaboration with the Jüdisches Museum's Alma Rosé exhibit in Vienna (2004), on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Alma's death at Auschwitz.
Collection Profile: Lisa Rae Philpott
Overview: Robin Keirstead
Illustrations: Alan Noon