The GMSUK has been informed of the death at 92 of Henry-Louis de La Grange. Not only for his lifelong work on Mahler but especially for his hospitality to some of us on a past Mahler Composing Huts Tour this is sad news for GMS UK members.
On 20 December 1945, the young Henry-Louis de La Grange heard Mahler's music for the first time when his Ninth Symphony was performed by the New York Philharmonic under Bruno Walter who was a pupil of the composer. Impressed by this music, he began to study the author, met his widow, Alma Mahler, and Bruno Walter ... all giving birth, in 1973, to the first of what eventually was four volumes on Mahler's life.
'I believed in Mahler from the moment I heard his music. Something in me happened and it made clear the fact that I work for him. I would not be me if I had not discovered Mahler. I was immediately passionate about his fights, for the smallest detail of his life. His genius fascinated me.' The GMS UK sends its condolences to his family and friends.
GMS UK was delighted to hear some time ago that a book of essays was in preparation, which would be the second Festschrift (commemorative publication,) to honour Henry-Louis De La Grange. The title of this second publication is Naturlauf – Scholarly Journeys Toward Gustav Mahler – Essays in Honour of Henry-Louis De La Grange for His 90th Birthday.
The first Festschrift was published in 1997 and the second is newly available. It is prefaced by messages of congratulation on De La Grange’s 90th birthday and contains new research on Mahler and his music, encompassing historical, theoretical and aesthetic studies. Among the contributors are Jeremy Barham and Peter Franklin who have spoken to the GMS UK at our Study Days, as well as GMS UK member David Littlewood.
Henry-Louis De La Grange – his work
For those who are not familiar with Henry-Louis De La Grange (who was granted the title of Professor by the Austrian Government,) he is a noted musicologist, music critic and biographer of Gustav Mahler. The child of a French father and an American mother, he first heard Mahler’s music in 1945 at New York’s Carnegie Hall when Bruno Walter conducted the Ninth Symphony. In common with many GMS UK members, Professor De La Grange quickly developed a passion for Mahler’s music.
After attending Yale University School of Music and later studying piano, harmony, counterpoint and analysis in France (under Nadia Boulanger among others,) Professor De La Grange began to research Mahler’s works and life. He met Gustav’s widow Alma and became a close friend of their daughter Anna. His definitive biography of Mahler was written in several volumes between the mid-seventies and mid-eighties. His extensive materials and documents, providing a rich archive of the composer and his time, are now part of the multimedia library Bibliothèque Gustav Mahler.
Henry-Louis de La Grange – meeting the man
The GMS UK’s second tour of Austria in 2008, to visit Mahler’s composing huts, had the final destination of Toblach. The town lies in a corner of Austria that was lost to Italy in the First World War; consequently the name changed to Dobbiaco. The GMS UK tour coincided with Dobbiaco’s music festival, the Settimani Musicale Gustav Mahler.
To our great delight we learned that Professor De La Grange had his summer residence in Dobbiaco! First, he met us within sight of Die Drei Zinnen, the three Dolomite peaks that feature in a photograph of Mahler who is heading off for a customary brisk walk. Our group walked less briskly with Professor De La Grange, taking our photograph in the same place as Mahler and returning with our lunch guest to the nearby inn at Fischleinboden, in sight of the Three Peaks.
In return Professor De La Grange invited us to visit him at his summer residence two days later where he showed us around the garden, inviting us to pick and nibble the raspberries. Indoors he talked for an hour about Gustav’s widow Alma, difficulties in obtaining documents, the Dobbiaco Mahler festival and about his hopes for the archive of his materials. We, of course, listened enraptured, drinking in every anecdote and idea and disappointed that the encounter had to end after an hour. Shortly afterwards the GMS UK received a letter from Professor De La Grange, telling us that our visit had been the highlight of HIS summer. We would certainly have put that the other way around!
We know that the Professor’s 90th birthday is now some time in the past, but as the GMS UK considers the Professor a friend rather than a distant musicologist, we are especially pleased at the publication of the Festschrift, and we send him our belated birthday wishes.