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Too Lonely!


In the fall of 1886 Gustav Mahler was the director of the Leipzig Opera house. In a letter that he wrote to his friend Friedrich Löhr, he spoke of positive experiences with composer Karl Reinecke and pianist Anton Rubinstein. He spoke in less positive terms of his relationship with Leipzig Opera principal conductor Arthur Nikisch:

My dear Fritz, First of all, thanks for what you have done for my father. You can imagine how painful all of this has been for me. I’m not in a position to have a relationship with my own people and have to watch them going down without lifting a finger. How alienated and lonely I feel sometimes. My whole life is one long case of homesickness.

You’d like to know how I’m getting along with Nikisch! I’m often quite happy about him and can look forward to a performance directed by him as much as if I were conducting it myself, even though the heights and the depths are beyond him. But how seldom I have a chance to bring them out myself. Mostly I have to content myself with preventing outright cruelties.

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I really have little to do with him. He is cold and distant, whether from vanity or mistrust–I simply don’t know! In short, we pass each other by without saying a word! Other than that I get plenty of recognition, often from those who are quite dear to me. Right now I’m rehearsing Armida. Not long ago Reinecke invited me to meet Rubinstein (just me). Unfortunately, he had never heard of me, so that I could only “look and not create.” On such occasions it’s always painful just to be an unknown quantity. I say nothing so as not to be a bore because I know how annoyed I get by admiring nobodies and how ridiculous they are.

Mahler closed his letter with the words, “Too lonely! Too lonely!”