Liebst du um Schönheit

At the early age of 15, Gustav Mahler showed enough music proficiency to be accepted to study piano at the Conservatoire in Vienna.  During his training, he turned his attention to composition. After being awarded his diploma at the Conservatoire his aim was to gain recognition as a composer, however in order to accomplish his goal he needed to find financial stability, so he secured work as a conductor. A role that quickly became his main occupation, he began conducting at provincial opera houses, later rising to the ranks of conductor and director of the Vienna Court Opera in 1897. This meant that most of his compositional activities were completed during his summer holidays between seasons, what a worker bee!

Gustav Mahler

Despite regularly conducting operas, Mahler only dabbled with composing for this genre. His most notable works as a composer were his songs and his ten symphonies, (unfortunately, the tenth was left unfinished due to his passing). In the summer of 1901, Mahler composed four of the Rückert Lieder, the fifth, ‘Liebst du um Schönheit’, was composed the following year. The five songs were published together and their first performance took place on 29 January in 1905 in a small concert hall belonging to the Viennese Musikverein, the singers were from the Vienna Court Opera where Mahler worked.

Alma Mahler

Mahler wrote many songs, but it can be said that he wrote only one true love song: ‘Liebst du um Schönheit’, which he gave to his wife Alma Mahler as a wedding gift. It has been said that Mahler placed the manuscript for this love song inside a music score of Die Walküre, to surprise Alma Mahler as she had been listening to a lot of Wagner at the time. However, the gesture needed a few prods of encouragement, Alma recounted:

l suddenly he said ‘Today I would like to take a look at Die Walküre.’ He opened up the book and the song fell out. I was delighted beyond measure and we played the song at least twenty times that day.”

(MAHLER, G.: Symphonies Nos. 1-10 / Orchestra Song Cycles / Michael Gielen Edition (2017) [CD-ROM]).

Liebst du um Schönheit
Friedrich Rückert  

Liebst du um Schönheit, o nicht mich liebe!
Liebe die Sonne, sie trägt ein goldnes Haar.  

Liebst du um Jugend, o nicht mich liebe!
Liebe den Frühling, der jung ist jedes Jahr.

Liebst du um Schätze, o nicht mich liebe!
Liebe die Meerfrau, sie hat viel Perlen klar.

Liebst du um Liebe, o ja, mich liebe!
Liebe mich immer, dich lieb’ ich immerdar.
If you love for Beauty  

If you love for beauty, oh love not me!
Love the sun; she has golden hair.
If you love for youth, oh love not me!
Love the spring, which is young each year.  

If you love for riches, oh love not me!
Love the mermaid, who has many shining pearls.  

If you love for love, a yes, love me!
Love me always; I shall love you evermore.

This memory really makes me smile because it feels so human! I am sure that there have been countless times when each of us have tried to predict a loved one’s habitual movements in order to form a surprise only to have to think on our feet quickly or blurt out a ginormous hint to get the ball rolling. Within my family, I am known for being notoriously bad at keeping gifts a secret, it takes all my resolve to not spill the beans, but the surprise on their faces is worth it.

41 thoughts on “Liebst du um Schönheit

  1. Lyrically, a very simple song, but the sentiment is much deeper, and so much warmer. A lovely song, and a charming story to go with it. Many years ago, knowing my then girlfriend’s stereo was bust, I bought her a modest unit for Xmas Day. After distributing her children’s birthday presents, and she so bubbly and eager over what i miught have got her, I wished an electric plug out of my pocket and handed it to her. She looked bemused. Oh yes, I said, snapping my fingers as if I’d just remembered something. You want something to go on the end of that and got the box out of the car. I will never forget the look on her face which made every bit of that worthwhile. It can be better to give than to receive.

    1. That’s a lovely story Martin. I’ll have to remember that when I next buy George an electrical gift.

      The song is a lovely warm song with a great sentiment, I enjoy singing it.

      Best wishes

    1. I really do enjoy both giving gifts and making gifts, when I see beautiful items at a good price through the year I get them and put them up if I feel they are the perfect gift for someone.
      Best wishes

  2. Another interesting post! Thanks for sharing this. I am afraid that I am a bit of a dunce and cannot think of Mahler without immediately thinking of Death in Venice 😉

      1. OOps, apologies, should have made that clear. Yes, I think it was Dirk Bogard’s last film and he seems to act as if he knows he’s not long for this world. The music is as much a star of the movie as he!

  3. Wonderful and interesting post, Charlotte. On another subject. Resa’s art supplies care package is on its way with all the special colors she wanted for you.

    1. That’s brilliant Timothy you are such a good friend. Resa really has been creating lots during lockdown I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
      Best wishes

      1. It would be super cool if she could get you in one of her Art Gowns to perform in. You singing in one of Resa’s gowns would be magical.

  4. Aww, I had a similar picture of Mahler on my wall when I was growing up. My favourite Mahler symphony is his 6th. Hope you and George are doing well? xx

    1. It sounds like you grew up in a very musical home Christine do you play an instrument or sing? I love to listen to George playing – it’s a good thing because he practices for hours. He got in to a very big piano competition and had practiced for it throughout lock down and was supposed to go on it’s first re-booked date in April but the competition was put off to our new wedding weekend! He’s a very philosophical person and I’m just praying another opportunity comes up after all the work he put in.
      Best wishes

      1. Good luck to George with his competition, hope he has another chance. Ohh did you finally get your wedding?? No, I don’t play or sing but when I was little I used to listen to my mum’s old classical albums and dance around to Holst and Tchaikovsky. It was when I was 19 that I discovered Mahler’s music. He’s one of my favourite composers, him and Rachmaninov 🙂 x

      2. Fingers crossed the new date will go ahead on the 28th August 🤞🏻 4th time lucky. Yes I love to listen to George play Rachmaninov and when I took ballet classes Tchaikovsky was my favourite.

  5. I love this story about Mahler and his gift to his wife! My elder daughter Alice was always unfortunate in that her best friend in primary school could never keep a secret about the birthday gift she was to give Alice. Alice used to run away with her fingers in her ears but her friend Charlotte never gave up! Eventually Charlotte grew out of it but my other daughter Elinor was old enough by then to know about presents and loved letting Alice know what she had got her! Poor Alice!
    A gorgeous song! Take care, Charlotte xx

    1. Perhaps its a Charlotte thing to want to give treats early, hehe, (although I am very good keeping secrets).

      I love to tell the stories of the fabulous composers I learned about during my studies. I was very fortunate to meet Gary Waller, who was the president of the UK Mahler Society at the time, through my blog as he was the person who gave me the joy of Mahler.

      You take care too Clare.

      Best wishes

  6. Morning Charlotte.
    I love your posts, they are very interesting,hope you are both doing well and looking forward to better times this

    1. Good morning 😊 we’re doing well thank you, we’re preparing for a couple of concerts next month, keep your fingers crossed for us that they go ahead and George also has a concert with his string trio. Stay safe and well x.

      Best wishes

    1. Thank you Derrick, this lockdown has given me the motivation to write all of the super stories I’ve learned during my studies and store them in my blog to share. It made me think ‘what does love mean to you?’ and I believe the true meaning of love comes not from our work but from all the people we spend time with, our soulmate, professional, personal, community etc. This is why the lockdown has been so punishing, I can’t wait to be truly free again.

      Best wishes

    1. Thank you, Jovina, before writing a post I think why do I sing this song, what do I like about it, what have a learnt about it and if the song is in a foreign language to share the librettist or poets beautiful words. It makes me happy to know that you enjoyed reading it.

      Best wishes

  7. So entertaining to hear about Mahler – when I sang in an oratorio chorus, Mahler was one of the composers we sang. I regretfully didn’t “get” him back then (1969-71) – I was taken by the less demanding 18th century composers. Good for you for this feature!

    1. Thank you Sheila, lovely to learn that you sang in an oratorio chorus, do you still sing in a choir? I’m happy you enjoyed my post, these features are something that I love to do.

      Best wishes

      1. I was the soloist (contralto) for chorales, worship services, small ensembles many, many years ago. I sang in front of Baptist church services from the time I was five years old. My mother had me stand on a wooden folding chair, taught me the words by rote, and made sure all the congregation gave a hearty “amen” when I finished! These performances were in the 1950s – now more than 70 years ago.
        No more singing now. Except to my granddaughter who loves to sing along. Music is a joy meant to share. You are an ambassador for us all.

      2. No more singing, I’m afraid. Very long story – but I can still appreciate music, thank goodness. And our granddaughter can already”carry a tune” as we say in the South.

    1. Thank you Noelle, these balcony concerts, creating the album, writing posts about the inspiration for the songs I learn and share it all gave me a purpose during this last year spent mainly in lockdown and locked out of my true passion for performing. I hope that you are happy with your move now and are settling well.

      My best wishes

  8. Wonderful history and a grand love story!
    Thank you, Charlotte!

    What a crazy year! Like I need to tell you.
    At least I have my Art Gowns and drawing.
    Hmm, seems due to the lockdowns, art supplies have thinned out. The main store looks like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. The worst is pencils! If all things go well, the art store will open again in mid June. I can’t order on line, because they use UPS or the likes. They leave the package on my 1 front step. I live at a streetcar stop. Packages are stolen within minutes.
    Timothy heard about my pencils woes. He has bought me a lot of pencils and sent them on by post. As they are taking time to get here, I started scribbling Art Gowns out of Ballpoint pens. Tim loves them! SO, I’ll be drawing you in scribbles. I’ll show you first. I want Lala & the AGMs to do a thank you fashion show for Tim.
    I hope you are okay with this idea!
    Resa xoxo

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