ABOUT THE SOCIETY

In the beginning ...

To discover the origins of the Gustav Mahler Society UK, we need to go back to 2001 when Gina Brown (now Gina Walek) met Jim Pritchard at a meeting of the Wagner Society. They got to talking about the music of Gustav Mahler, and Gina remarked on the need for a society to enable his work to be discussed among likeminded friends. Jim’s response was “Why don’t you start one, then?” and that’s exactly what she did, with the help of Jim, who had considerable experience of working with various music societies.

One of the first things that Gina did was to approach some eminent people in the Mahler firmament - Sir Colin Davis, Henri Louis de La Grange and Bernard Haitink among others - and all were delighted to be associated with the new Society as Honorary Patrons. Soon a group of founder members was brought together to form a committee and to move things forward.

The foundation meeting took place in the Swedenborg Hall, London on 12 September 2001, attended by Donald Mitchell and a number of the early members. Then, with Jim Pritchard as Chairman, the task of arranging the new Society’s activities began. The first study day took place at the Austrian Cultural Forum in South Kensington, which has been a regular meeting place ever since. The subject was the Resurrection Symphony and proved to be so popular with members that it was decided to continue with a programme of regular study days devoted to one work or topic at a time so that each could receive the attention it deserves. The study days remain an intrinsic part of the annual programme which also includes a Mahler Birthday Dinner, held each July in central London.

In 2002 Gina made contact with the Gustav Mahler Society New York and visited the United States to attend events of that Society and of the MahlerFest in Boulder, Colorado, gaining inspiration from their organisers’ enthusiasm and experience. Also that year, the GMS’s inaugural concert took place at the Wigmore Hall, celebrating the centenary of Gustav and Alma’s marriage in 1902. The programme included the first complete performance in the UK of all Alma Schindler-Mahler’s surviving songs as well as Gustav Mahler’s Ruckert lieder. It was an undoubted success and almost a complete sell-out. The Gustav Mahler Society UK was here to stay, and Jim Pritchard was to remain as Chairman until after the anniversary years of 2010 and 2011.