Mahler in China (1907)

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This page was last edited on 4th March 2024 

Ostensibly it is one of cultural history’s previously unremarked coincidences that in December 1907, a few months before Mahler began to sketch his last and greatest vocal work, Das Lied von der Erde, based on German translations/adaptations of Chinese poetry, his music was performed in China for the first time. However, this conjunction of cultural events was hardly coincidental, and the context deserves some exploration. The essay that follows falls into three main sections. The first outlines the circumstances that resulted in a German Naval Band stationed in north China giving concerts of western symphonic repertoire (including one of Mahler’s orchestral songs) conducted by its bandmaster, O.K. Wille (1876–1962) in the early years of the twentieth century. The second begins by locating the composition of Das Lied von der Erde in the context of  Mahler’s professional career (as both composer and conductor) and personal life. It then reviews the sources and extent of Mahler’s knowledge of Chinese literature, philosophy and music, and argues that the appearance of a number of German translations or adaptations of Chinese poetry in the first decade of the twentieth-century can be associated with German colonial policy, specifically the Reich’s acquisition of a concession in the Kiautschou Bay area of China. The final section consists of two epilogues. The first summarises Mahler’s final years, including the composition of Das Lied von der Erde, the successful première of his Eighth Symphony, and that work’s wider impact but also notes that his unexpected death left unfinished both his creative and his re-creative legacies. The second epilogue traces the naval band’s experiences during World War I, including the Japanese siege of Tsingtau, the journey of Wille and thirty-six of his players to the USA, their recordings and concerts there and their internment as enemy aliens in 1917–19. It concludes with an outline of Wille’s final professional appointment, as conductor of the well-established spa orchestra at Teplitz-Schönau (1922–1938) where he conducted a number Mahler’s symphonic works – including Das Lied von der Erde – and introduced music by both avant-garde composers and local sudetendeutsch musicians.((Acknowledgements: I should like to thank David Wright for reading an early draft of this essay and for the wise and very helpful advice he provided. I’m also very grateful to the following for their help in the preparation of the text:
Michael Bosworth
Mgr. Roman Dietz (Severočeské filharmonie Teplice)
Simon Ertz (Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University)
Peggy Goforth (Madison County Public Libraries, NC)
Prof. William D. Keel (University of Kansas)
Prof. Erik Levi (Royal Holloway College, University of London)
Prof. Wilhelm Matzat†
Sarah Patton (Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University)
Suzette Raney (Chattanooga Public Library)
David Seubert (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Dr Rupert Ridgewell (British Library)
Hans-Joachim Schmidt (
Prof. Megumi Shimura (Kanazawa University)
George T. Valos (University of California, Santa Barbara) ))


Circumstances had conspired: the relative weakness of the Chinese Empire in the late nineteenth century, the local ambitions of Japan and the wider geo-political, colonial, trade and military ambitions of European powers, notably France, Germany, Great Britain and Russia.((For a concise account of the trade, military and other aspects of the development Germany’s policies towards China as well as the complete texts of the two crucial treaties of 1861 and 1898 referred to below, see Heiko Herald, Deustche Kolonial- und Wirtshaftspolitik in China 1840 bis 1914[,]  Unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Marinekolonie Kiatschou, 2. Auflage (Köln: Ozeanverlag Herold, 2006); see also Klaus Mühlhahn, “A New Imperial Vision? The Limits of German Colonialism in China”, in German Colonialism in a Global Age, ed. Bradley Naranch and Geoff Eley (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2014, 129–146) [hereafter: Mühlhahn (2014)].)) Although German trading stations were established in the Pacific from the late 1850s, prior to German unification in 1871 there had been no coherent development of either a German colonial policy or of a high sea fleet that could support and protect such activity either there or in Africa. Nevertheless, a Prussian diplomatic mission, led by Friedrich Albrecht zu Eulenburg was dispatched to establish diplomatic and trade relations with China, Japan and Siam, and on 2 September 1861 signed a treaty with the Quing Empire, which granted the German navy the right to enter Chinese waters to protect German shipping.  During the course of this trip Jiaozhou (Kiautschou) Bay was surveyed, and later the geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen recommended it as a possible site for a naval base.((The presence of coal deposits nearby were an added attraction: large coal-powered naval vessels had relatively small operational ranges and needed regular re-coaling. However it later emerged that the coal was of poor quality and almost unsaleable: see Heiko Herald, Deustche Kolonial- und Wirtshaftspolitik in China 1840 bis 1914 (Köln: Ozeanverlag Herold, 2006), 62–63.))

After 1871 Bismark’s attitude to the establishment of overseas possessions was equivocal, but between 1884 and 1888 German New Guinea was created and further territories in that region were incorporated as protectorates in 1899 and 1906. As the potential importance of East-Asian markets increased, the need for a German naval presence became apparent, but, although a squadron was formed in 1881, it had been significantly reduced in size by the end of the decade. The First Sino-Japanese War (1894–5) encouraged policy changes in Berlin, and an East Asia Cruiser Division was established, although, lacking its own base, it relied on the British (Hong Kong), the Chinese (Shanghai) and the Japanese (Nagasaki) for its logistical support. This clearly imposed operational limitations, and in 1896 Admiral Tirpitz was given command of  the Division and ordered to find a possible base. However, it was his successor, Admiral Otto von Diederichs, who encouraged the use of the murder of two German missionaries in southern Shandong Province as a justification for a landing at and seizure of the bay of Kiatschou, and with it a harbour at Tsingtau, early in November 1897. In Germany a  new III Seebataillon was rapidly formed from four companies within the existing two Seebataillons, and arrived at Tsingtau on 26 January 1898; negotiations with Chinese representatives commenced. Initially the German delegation had demanded the outright secession of the area around the port, but on 6 March accepted a 99-year lease (c.f. Hong Kong), and the Treaty was approved on 8 April by the German Reichstag.((The major study of the leased territory as an exemplar of German colonialist policy is Klaus Mühlhahn, Herrschaft und Widerstand in der „Musterkolonie” Kiatschou: Interaktionen zwischen China und Deutschland, 1897–1914 (Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2000) [hereafter Mühlhahn (2000)]: Tsingtau (now Qingdau) was a small fishing village in the territory redeveloped as the German quarter. For an informative, well-documented and superbly illustrated exhibition symposium, see Hans-Martin Hinz, Christoph Lind, eds, Tsingtau: Ein Kapitel deutscher Kolonialgeschichte in China 1897–1914 (Deutsches Historisches Museum, 1998); this is usefully supplemented by Dirk Bittner, Grosse illustrierte Geschichte von Kiautschou (Wolfenbüttel: Melchior Verlag, 2012) which helpfully includes the text of the lease agreement between China and Germany (6 March 1898). For a recent study of the economic development of the territory, see Fion Wai Ling So, Germany’s Colony in China: Colonialism, Protection and Economic Development in Qingdao and Shandong, 1898–1914 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019). This includes both a valuable summary of the trade and financial policies of the German Reich after 1871 – notably protectionism and the adoption of the gold standard (and their interconnected impact on shipbuilders, shipping businesses and traders that encouraged some to focus their activity on markets in the far East (notably China) – and the economic and trading policies of the Naval administration of Kiatschou after 1898. However it is a matter of regret that the often unidiomatic prose prevents the narrative from consistently achieving the clarity it deserves.   From Tsingtau – Remembering and Forgetting: Some Photographs from a Small Corner of the Great War, by Mark Facknitz offers a fascinating although disturbing account of this German enclave in China from a military man’s perspective, excellently illustrated with contemporary photographs.))

Fig 1. Georg Crusen

Recent scholarship has largely overlooked the cultural life of the European community in Tsingtau,((One notable contribution is Wilhelm Matzat, ‘Alltagsleben im Schutzgebiet: Zivilisten und Militärs, Chinesen und Deutsche’, in Hans-Martin Hinz, Chrisoph Lind, eds, Tsingtau: Ein Kapitel deutscher Kolonialgeschichte in China 1897–1914 (Deutsches Historisches Museum, 1998), 106–120. This is also available online (accessed 17.06.2020).)) but recent accounts of musical life in Tsingtau((Wilhelm Matzat, Beiträge zur Geschichte Tsingtaus (Qingdao) – 1897 bis 1953; Edmund A. Bowles ‘From Tsing-Tao to Fort Oglethorpe: The Perigrinations of a German Military Band during World War I’, Journal of Band Research, 44/1 (Fall 2008), 1–24; and Megumi Shimura, Musikleben im deutschen Pachtgebiet Tsingtau 1897–1914, (doi 10.24517/00054288; the text may be downloaded from the Kanazawa University Repository).)) can now be supplemented by a previously overlooked series of reports published in Die Musik in 1903–1914, written mostly by Dr. Georg Crusen (1867–1949). As the chief justice of the concession he was one of the senior civilian administrators, but he also also played an active role in the musical life of the European community as pianist, conductor and arranger.((A photograph of his villa in Tsingtau is available online.)) The earliest of his reports from Tsingtau was not the first contribution he had published in Die Musik: his article ‘Die Deutsche Musik in Japan’ (1901)((I/1 (Erstes Okotoberheft 1901), 57.)) offers a glimpse of European music-making in Yokohama, and makes it clear that he already knew the violinist Alfred Junker, who was to visit Tsingtau a couple of years later. In his next report, ‘Tokio und Yokohama’ (1902)((II/2 (1902), 156–7.)) Crusen indicated that Western music was chiefly cultivated by the European communities in both cities, and focused on classical and romantic repertoires, Brahms, Grieg and Wolf being the most recent composers featured.

Fig. 2. Announcement: Otto Rose, Tsingtau

That there was a perceived demand among the German community in Tsingtau for instrumental music was made apparent as early as 1898, when the first issue of one of the local newspapers, the Deutsch-Asiatische Warte carried an advertisement for weekly String Concerts, to been given at the Hotel Aegir every Sunday, 11:00–13:00, by the Kapelle des III. Seebataillons; from April 1899 these were supplemented by a weekly subscription series of string concerts.((Megumi Shimura, Musikleben im deutschen Pachtgebiet Tsingtau 1897–1914 (doi 10.24517/00054288), p. 29 & n. 35. It would appear that from the outset the band included players competent on both wind and string instruments.)) Two years later, on 7 September 1900, a local retailer (and publisher) advertised an interest in establishing business contacts – particularly in the popular music market – in the one of the major German trade periodicals, the Börsenblatt für den deutschen Buchhandel (Fig. 2).

The first public concerts devoted to serious music may have been the two given in Tsingtau by the soprano Marie Kayser in December 1902.((As reported by Crusen, Die Musik (II/14 (1903), 166); she also appeared at a concert in Shanghai the same month (see The North China Herald, 10 December 1902, p. 1229). [Ida] Marie Kayser (1863–1947) was apparently a soprano at Bayreuth in the 1880s and according to Neue Theater Almanack (Berlin, 1891 et seq.) was singing at the Grand Ducal Theatre, Weimar in the the 1890s (where on 23 December 1893 she created the role of Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel). For the 1894/95 season she was at the Stadttheater, Zürich, but moved to the Hamburg Stadttheater in 1895/96 and the Ducal Court Theatre at Coburg in 1896/7. From 1897/8 to 1901/02 Marie is listed only as living in Frankfurt am Main, but in 1902/03 she was singing second alto in the chorus at the Augsburg Stadttheater and in 1903/04 was described as being on tour in Yokohama; from 1904/05 until 1907/08 she is again listed as living in Frankfurt, but thereafter disappears from the pages of the Almanack. In part this evidence suggest a career that foundered in the late 1890s and certainly contradicts other reports that she was still singing in Weimar until 1905. She married her husband, Friedrich Wilhelm Karl von Syburg (1858–1934) on 6 March 1905 in Yokohama. He was Generalkonsul there (1903–1912) and later Ambassador to Ethiopia (1913–1918).)) Despite this well-received start, the performance of serious music initially relied on the contributions of a few enthusiastic amateurs and Crusen’s 1906 report (see below) makes it clear that it took some time to provide a suitable venue, and organisational infrastructure for a more ambitious musical life. Nevertheless there were a number of German military bands in the leased territory, including the those of the Marine Artillery, Kiatschou and the Field Battery, bands from the warships stationed in the bay, and most significantly for the narrative that follows, the aforementioned band of the III Seebataillon.  From 1901 the annual Adress-Buch des Deutschen Kiautschou-Gebiets listed the officers of the garrison, including (from 1902) those in the Kapelle of the III Seebataillon.((See the complete listing of all commissioned and non-commissioned officers who served in that band in the years 1902–1914 that have been traced to date. Bowles erroneously dates the creation of the band to 1903 (op. cit.).)) In 1901 the band numbered only twelve, though this rose to fifteen players in 1902:((Joachim Toeche-Mittler reports that when Albert Parlow, established the first Prussian Marine-Musikkorps in 1852 it consisted of fifteen players, a size later adopted  for the bands onboard the flagship of the fleet, and the ships of the commanding officers of various squadrons. On other ships of the line there would be one junior bandsman responsible for creating a ship’s band from among the musically talented members of the crew. See Joachim Toeche-Mittler, Armeemärsche, III.Teil Die Geschichte unserer Marschmusik (Neckargemünd: Kurt Vonwinckel Verlag, 1975), 163. This is an informative volume, but offers little support for further research, lacking as it does references or a bibliography.))  The modest size suggests that its functions were initially limited to military, ceremonial and social events  alongside external bookings (see above). By the summer of 1903 also it provided music on Tuesdays and Fridays for the increasing number of visitors to the beach resort at the Augusta-Viktoriabucht.((See Dr. M. Krieger,  ‘Badeleben in Tsingtau’, Deutsche Kolonialzeitung, 20/37 (10 September 1903), 373.)) These beach-side concerts continued to form part of the band’s schedule and the 1908–09 Addressbuch (p. 26) advertised its concerts in the newly-laid out Strandpark.((A photograph of what may been one of those park performances can be found on p. 115 of Hinz & Lind, op. cit.)) Megumi Shimura((Musikleben im deutschen Pachtgebiet Tsingtau 1897–1914 (doi 10.24517/00054288, 40–41).)) helpfully provides sample programmes for a Strand-Konzert, (8 June 1906), a Garden Concert (the opening concert of the Restaurant Paradies, on 12 June 1910) and a Promenade concert (26 April 1911), and the extent of  such civic performances is made clear by one of the last published schedules:

Fig.  3
Details of Strandkonzerte for the summer of 1914. Tsingtauer Neueste Nachrichten, 11/140 (23 June 1914), 7

The members of the various military bands were not well paid, so such external engagements may have been an important source of supplementary income.((See Shimura, Musikleben im deutschen Pachtgebiet Tsingtau 1897–1914 (doi 10.24517/00054288, n. 12, p. 44).))

Although an ensemble of fifteen could provide suitable entertainment for tourists, the band was certainly not of a size that could have supported even a modest repertoire of German orchestral music with its original instrumentation, but in 1903 the appointment of O.K. Wille (1876–1962) as bandmaster signalled a new and musically more ambitious role for the ensemble, as is reported in the history of the III Seebataillon:((C. Huguenin, Oberleutnant im III See-Bataillon, Tsingtau, ed., Geschichte des III. See-Bataillons (Tsingtau: Adolf Haupt, 1912), 147. A complete, free-text-searchable facsimile is available from the Universitätsbibliothek, Heidelberg.))

At this point mention must made of our battalion band which through the cultivation of good music has achieved great artistic importance not only in Tsingtau but also throughout East Asia. The band was built from small, humble beginnings. In 1903 the current music master Wille was appointed conductor. The band’s establishment was increased from 18 to 28, and later (1905) to 41 musicians.((The latter figure is confirmed by a contemporary document cited by Shimura, ‘Musikleben im deutschen Pachtgebiet Tsingtau 1897-1914’ (doi 10.24517/00054288), n. 12, p. 44.).))

With this new ensemble, the conductor understood how to bring his band to a high standard of performance. Every year it undertakes concert tours to Shanghai, Tientsin, Beijing and other places in East Asia with great success.  In Tsingtau it gives successful symphony concerts and in association with the local “Association for Art and Science” it makes possible the performance of operas and operettas. The band has developed into a cultural factor of importance for German communities in the East.

It may be that the prospect of an expanding (if seasonal) local tourist market of European visitors((The description of the area in Karl Dove, Die deutschen Kolonien: Das Südseegebiet und Kiautschou (Leipzig: Göschen, 1911), 75, 78, reports that some European visitors (out of a total of 575 in 1908, 537 in 1909) travelled substantial distances to enjoy the resort during the summer months. These apparently modest figures need to be viewed alongside the total number of civilian European residents, which in 1908 was 1484 (ibid., 79).)) helped to encourage the appointment of a bandmaster, who presumably also functioned as the business manager for external engagements, scheduling them within the ensemble’s naval commitments. Unfortunately little information about the most of the orchestra’s tours (e.g. to Peking, Tientsin, and Tschifu)  has been traced to date, but the visits to Shanghai are well documented in the reviews that appeared in The North China Herald,((Hereafter abbreviated as NCH; see also Appendices IIIa and IIIb.)) and the earliest of these,((NCH, 15 April 1904, 769.)) a review of a concert on 10 April 1904, records a programme containing three Wagner items that would certainly challenge an orchestra of only twenty-eight, and its conductor.((In fact the preliminary announcement (The North China Herald, 31 March 1904, 647) stated that it would consist of 30 players.))

Sepia photograph of Otto Wille in Uniform c. 1903

Fig. 4a
O.K. Wille in uniform
c. 1903 [BM]

O.K. Wille’s early life is not well documented, but he was born in Klosterdorf in Brandenburg on 30 November 1876.((Wille preferred to use his initials rather than his forenames as is clear from the majority of the primary sources, and his surviving family. Details of the family history and relevant documentary sources are available through family trees in Ancestry (subscription required).)) According to Edmund A. Bowles, Wille studied at the Königliche Hochschule für Musik in Berlin before taking up ‘minor posts’ in Germany.((The nature of his training has not been established, but his grand-daughter recalls hearing him play the piano, cello, and perhaps the violin (personal communication). In at least one concert (Shanghai, 14 February 1905) he appeared as a solo clarinettist. He had another, though non-musical skill: he was a good shot, and won the second prize for guests at the ‘Königs- u. Preisschiesen’ event held by the Schützenkorps on 10 May 1914. See Tsingtauer Neueste Nachrichten 11/108 (13 May 1914), pp. 7 and 9.))  Exactly when he decided to accept the post of Stabhoboist (i.e. musical director of the band) in Tsingtau is unclear, but something of the motivation that lay behind his decision to apply for a position that was not obviously attractive may been gleaned from the brief biography  (presumably based on information from Wille himself) by Erich Posselt in the periodical he edited for German internees at Camp Ogelthorpe, Georgia in 1918:((Orgelsdorfer Eulenspiegel, 4, (1 December 1918), [unpaginated].))

Dann wurde, 1902, von der deutschen Colonie in Tsingtau ein Kapellmeister gesucht: ein Pöstchen, das keinen so recht verlockte, da es keine Pfründe war und keine Reichtümer versprach. Wille aber, der dort ein Wirkungsfeld sah, das mehr sein konnte, als ein noch so gut bezahltes Amt in der Heimat selbst, ein Gelegenheit, für den deutsches Gedanken zu wirken, griff zu mit beiden Händen und baut das Orchester bald zu ein Organisation aus, die in ganzen Ostasien einzigartig dastand: Das Orchester Ostasiens …
Deutsche Arbeit!

Then, in 1902, the German colony in Tsingtau was looking for a bandmaster: a post that did not really entice anyone, since it was not a sinecure and promised no riches. But Wille, who saw a field of activity there that could be more than just a well-paid position in the homeland itself, an opportunity to work for the German idea, grabbed it with both hands and soon built the orchestra into an organization that was unique in all of East Asia: The East Asian Orchestra …

German work!

With his new appointment secure, on 24 February 1903 Wille married Augusta Luise Hedwig Busch (1875–1957) in Berlin.((The couple had two children, both born in Tsingtau: Wolfgang (1912–?) and Charlotte Hedwig (1914–1951). They divorced in January 1925 (see the official annotation on the marriage record available online via Ancestry ) though they remained on friendly terms for the rest of Hedwig’s life.)) The couple appear to have made their way to Tsingtau separately: he was probably anxious to take up the new appointment, and to establish himself as soon as possible in a new and unfamiliar environment, though details of his travel have not been located.

B&W photograph of Hedwig Wille [after 1903?]

Fig. 4b
       Hedwig Wille (née Busch),       [c. 1903?] [BM]

Hedwig sailed (as a second class passenger) on the SS Roon, a steamer of the Norddeutscher Lloyd that was due to depart from Hamburg for Shanghai on 20 August 1903 and she eventually disembarked in early October.((For the departure date, see the passenger manifest available via Ancestry (subscription required); her arrival was reported in the North China Herald (9 October 1903, 761). Curiously the manifest is on a Hamburg-Amerika Linie form. A photograph of the vessel is available online.)) In the 1905 Adress-Buch Hedwig was listed as living at Moltkeberglager (presumably close to the Moltkebaracken where Wille was based) which was relatively distant from the residential district of the town and probably offered limited opportunities for social contact with civilians.((See Wilhelm Matzat, ‘Alltagsleben im Schutzgebiet: Zivilisten und Militärs, Chinesen und Deutsche’, in Hans-Martin Hinz, Chrisoph Lind, eds, Tsingtau: Ein Kapitel deutscher Kolonialgeschichte in China 1897–1914 (Deutsches Historisches Museum, 1998), 108.)) However, by mid-1907 they had moved to Friedrichstrasse 354, the main shopping street in the centre of the German Quarter.((For a fascinating and substantial group of contemporary photographs of Tsingtau (rendered somewhat eerie by the virtually deserted streets) see Album von Tsingtau (Adolf Haupt: Tsingtau, n.d.), available online from the Bavaria State Library. See also Fig. 5.)) In some respects the move probably made it easier for Wille to be involved in the planning for larger events in the town at a time when the orchestra was playing an increasingly significant role in the cultural life of the European community. Moreover, the move would have facilitated Hedwig’s contribution as well: she seems to have been a capable soprano and appeared in at least seven performances between 1908/9 and 1913.((See Appendix IIIa for details. I must thank O.K.’s grand-daughter, Barbara, for kindly giving permission for the use of photographs from her collection in this article (identified with the label [BM]) and for other information and help.))

B&W photograph of Friedrichstrasse,. Tsingtau

Fig. 5. Friedrichstrasse, Tsingtau.
Album von Tsingtau (Tsingtau: Adolf Haupt, n.d.). Bavarian State Library: Digital Library

Posselt’s brief biography suggests that from the outset the attraction of this military posting was for Wille (at least in part) an expectation that the Kapelle would be expanded into a rather larger ensemble that could be responsible for a series of symphonic and other concerts in the winter season. One might also suspect that in any high-level discussions of such plans in Tsingtau, Crusen would have offered strong civilian support and advice. He described the outcome in his next report to Die Musik:

B&W facsimile

Fig. 6
Die Musik, V/22 (2 August 1906), 271

TSINGTAU (Kiautschou): The winter of 1905-06 was marked by two events that are gratifying for the musical life of our colony. Firstly, the completion of the concert hall of the Hotel Prinz Heinrich shortly after the New Year. It is sober in its simple but tasteful form, holds about 600 people and has a good, and when not completely filled, almost too good, acoustic. Thus, the former inconvenience of the concerts in the inadequate rooms of the seaman’s hostel is finally eliminated. The second event is the founding, after all sorts of difficulties, of an association for art and science. Among other things, it has established the cultivation of good music in its programme and will undertake the arrangement of concerts for visiting artists.
The cornerstone of musical activity is formed by 4–5 symphonic evenings given by the band, consisting of 42 musicians, of the III. Marine Battalion under the direction of their gifted and ambitious conductor, O.K. Wille. Refined programs and careful preparation are to be rejoiced at; performances included: Beethoven’s Pastorale, Overture “Consecration of the House” and Octet for Wind Instruments, symphonies by Haydn (D Major), Schumann (B Flat Major), Goldmark (Rustic Wedding) and Mendelssohn (Scottish), symphonic poems by Berlioz (fragments from Romeo and Juliet) and Liszt (Tasso), Serenade by Weingartner, Berlioz’s overture to Benvenuto Cellini and even the Tristan prelude. In addition the seven or eight popular concerts, which are generally dedicated to light music, always in part satisfy  higher aspirations.
Foreign artists did not visit Tsingtau last winter. Prof. August Junker from Tokyo, Marie Kayser (now the wife of Consul General von Syburg) from Yokahama and the much traveled Albert Friedenthal from Berlin,((Friedenthal (1862, Bromburg–1921, Batavia) was a pianist, composer and ethnographer who travelled the world from the early 1880s onwards.)) who earned their laurels here from 1903 to early 1905, did not return. Towards the end of the season, a young Frankfurt violinist, Anna Schäfer, appeared as a joyfully welcomed substitute, playing Bruch’s G minor Concerto, Beethoven’s Sonata in F major, op. 24, Bach’s Chaconne and Wagner’s Träume with beautiful tone and brilliant technique.  From among the local amateurs she was supported by Dr Freyer((Presumably the senior assistant doctor for marines based at the government hospital as listed in the  1905–6 Tsingtau Adress-Buch.)) (in Bach’s double concerto for violin), Schümann((Presumably the Leutnant Schümann listed in the 1905-6 Tsingtau Adress-Buch.)) and the undersigned (at the piano), and most effectively by the provision of a magnificent Steinweg grand piano by a local music lover.

Sepia photograph of the Hotel Prinz Heinrich, Tsingtau

Fig. 7. Hotel Prinz Heinrich, Tsingtau, soon after construction (1899); it was demolished in the late 1990s.((See Wilhelm Matzat, Short history of the „Prinz Heinrich Hotel“ in Qingdao. This should not be confused with the Strandhotel Prinz Heinrich which still exists as the Zhan Qiao Prince Hotel.))

B&W photograph of The concert hall of the Prinz Heinrich Hotel, with the band of the III Seebataillon and Otto K. Wille

Fig. 8. The concert hall of the Hotel Prinz Heinrich, with the band of the III Seebataillon and O. K. Wille.((I am most grateful to the late Prof. Wilhelm Matzat for supplying copies of this and other photographs of Tsingtau.))

Fig. 9. The concert hall of the Hotel Prinz Heinrich, with the band of the III Seebataillon, and choir.
The conductors are O. K. Wille (right) and (probably) Dr. Georg Crusen (left).

Fig. 8 and Fig. 9 both date from after late 1907 (when a harpist was recruited),((Die Musik, VII/10, (Zweites Februarheft 1908), 255; this report also indicates that for symphony concerts the Kapelle recruited additional players from the orchestra of the SMS Fürst Bismark, the flagship of the German East Asia Squadron, which was stationed at Tsingtau (1900–1909).)) but show the Kapelle at less than full strength, which by July 1909 was fifty players.((Die Musik, VIII/20, (Zweites Juliheft 1909,) 125‒6. This is also the figure given by Toeche-Mittler, Armeemärsche, III.Teil Die Geschichte unserer Marschmusik (Neckargemünd: Kurt Vonwinckel Verlag, 1975), p. 173.))  However, as early as 1906 Cl. Engelmann-Gerecke, reporting on the ensemble’s performances in Shanghai, commented that under the energetic leadership of O.K. Wille it had developed into an excellent concert orchestra.((Die Musik, VI/5, (Erste Dezemberheft 1906), 327.)) In the next issue of Die Musik (VI/6, (Zweite Dezemberheft 1906), 398) Dr Crusen commented on the problems caused for string players by the tropical heat of the north China summer, but noted the beauty of sound achieved by the strings in a recent concert conducted by a guest conductor, and violinist, August Junker (1866–1944), a leading teacher at the Tōkyō Ongaku Gakkō.((These two reports are important because, together with Fig. 8 and many other newspaper references, they offer tangible evidence that the assertion made by Edmund A. Bowles in his two important articles that refer to the band – that it consisted only of wind instruments – is not  entirely correct. It is particularly striking that whereas in Fig. 9 the male performers are all in evening dress, in Fig. 8 they are in uniform. It is significant that Bowles does not offer a detailed account of the band’s symphonic repertoire: the partial listing offered here as Appendix IIIa lists 214 works. The task of re-scoring the newer items alone would have been immense, and would surely have elicited some comment from Georg Crusen and other reviewers. This is not to deny that many of the band’s performances – not least at military events and ceremonies, and at out-door performances for civilian audiences – would have been by a wind-only ensemble.)) Essentially the Kapelle was similar in size, constitution and diversity of repertoire (alternating between and mixing serious and popular repertoire) and performance spaces, to a spa orchestra in Germany;((Toeche-Mittler (Armeemärsche, III.Teil Die Geschichte unserer Marschmusik (Neckargemünd: Kurt Vonwinckel Verlag, 1975), 163) makes this precise comparison.)) that the band, or at least Wille, would have accepted such a comparison is suggested by the way in which a much later ‘Symphonic Concert’ was announced in St Louis, MO:((Westliche Post, 28 September 1916, 2.))

Um den St. Louisern den Beweis zu liefern, daß die Tsingtauer Seebataillonskapelle in erster Linie ein Orchester ist, wurde ein spezielles Symphonie-Konzert arrangiert…. In order to provide the St. Louis [audiences] with proof that the Tsingtauer Seebataillonskapelle is primarily an orchestra, a special symphony concert was arranged….

In the following winter season (1907–08) the Kapelle undertook more journeys, to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tientsin and Peking.((Die Musik, VII/1, (Erste Oktoberheft, 1907), 127.))  The orchestra also made at least one trip – to Tientsin – in March 1909, where the venue was sold out, and in November 1913 (when it also appeared at least one choral-orchestral concert in Tsingtau) it gave six concerts in Tschifu, Tianjin and Peking.((Die Musik, VIII/20, (Zweites Juliheft 1909), 125‒6; Megumi Shimura, Musikleben im deutschen Pachtgebiet Tsingtau 1897-1914 (doi 10.24517/00054288), 20.))

The claims for the importance of the orchestra’s role in the cultural life of ‘German communities in the  East’ made by both Crusen and Huguenin were being asserted with good reason. The issue of the cost to the public purse of the German leasehold in China was a matter of considerable debate in Germany itself: by 1908 110 million Reichsmark had been spent; by 1914, 200 million.((Klaus Mühlmann, “A New Imperial Vision? The Limits of German Colonialism in China” in Bradley Naranch, Geoff Eley, eds, German Colonialism in a Global Age (Durham, London: Duke University Press, 2014), 129.)) Although the additional direct and indirect costs of maintaining the expanded ensemble in Tsingtau would have hardly registered in the overall accounts for the concession it was probably astute to put a positive gloss on its activity. Fortunately there was also independent and public regional support from the German conductor, composer and music critic Rudolf Buck (1866–1952) who was based in Shanghai for a number of years. In early 1907 he reviewed a concert given in Shanghai on 20 March for a Shanghai newspaper: this was picked up by the Allgemeine Musikzeitung, and an English version published in the Musical Courier 54/25 (19 June 1907), 7.((I am most grateful to Michael Bosworth for drawing the latter publication to my attention. A copy of Buck’s original review has not yet been traced; a different, anonymous account of the concert appeared in The North China Herald (28 March 1907), 675.))  The extent of the subsidy was noted approvingly by Buck (original orthography retained):

The culmination of Shanghai’s musical week was … reached in the twenty-third concert of the German Concert Club, which was given in the Town Hall. The orchestra of the Third Sea Battalion of Tsingtau, under their excellent conductor, O.K. Wille, rendered the orchestral part of the programme; a programme which, for modernity, could hardly be surpassed by those of the Philharmonic Concerts, consisting as it did of Berlioz’s “Carnaval Romain,” Brahms’ second symphony, Sibelius’s legend ‘The Swan of Tuolena,’ and Smetana’s symphonic poem, ‘Die Moldau.’ Further, were heard, Weber’s C major piano concerto, and songs by Wolf and Reger. It is worthy of notice that the Tsingtau Orchestra is maintained, at a great cost, by the German Government. Mr Wille undertakes large concert tours with his orchestra, and his reward lies in having introduced and brought to appreciation German music in such towns as Peking, Tientsin, etc.

This support was no doubt welcome, but Buck’s position in Shanghai – where, among other activities, he had taken over as the conductor of the Municipal Band early in 1907((See the report of the Municipal Council meeting held on 9 January 1907 (The North China Herald, 18 January 1907, 113); at the same meeting it was noted that proposals for an increase in the band’s tariffs (i.e. hire fees) would be submitted at an early date.))  – eventually contributed to a decline in the financial viability of the Tsingtau Orchestra’s visits to the city.

The earliest of those visits, in 1904,((See Appendix IIIb for a provisional listing of the Orchestra’s ‘symphonic’ concerts.)) had made it evident that the rather smaller Shanghai Municipal Band could not compete with the Tsingtau players in symphonic repertoire; moreover it was apparent that there was an audience for such music among the European community. Most, if not all the early ‘symphonic’ concerts given in Shanghai were presented under the auspices of the local Deutscher Konzert Verein. This society mounted concerts by visiting musicians or talented local amateurs and had occasionally employed the diminutive Municipal Band for accompaniments, but on 10 April 1904 the Tsingtau Band gave its first, very successful  concert for the Verein. However, it is worth noting that the band was scheduled to remain in Shanghai for a week, and that it was envisaged that it would also give open-air performances in the Public Garden,((The North China Herald, 31 March 1904, 647.)) and that a review from December 1905 indicated that when not in the concert hall the orchestra was playing in a hotel or restaurant.((The North China Herald, 1 December 1905, 480.)) Clearly the band was seeking to maximise income generation, but whether the various fees were used to improve the musicians’ income, or merely to defray the general running, travel and accommodation costs of the ensemble is unclear. Nevertheless, the experience of managing this aspect of the orchestra, which presumably fell to Wille, would prove to be of particular value a decade later.

The artistic success of the 1904 trip to Shanghai probably played a role in two decisions that were ultimately not entirely to the Tsingtau Band’s benefit. In 1905 the German Navy approved the enlargement of the ensemble to 41 players, a decision that in part must have been driven by Wille’s desire to offer better balanced performances of the symphonic repertoire and perhaps also to improve flexibility and capacity in providing smaller ensembles for hire, particularly in Tsingtau itself. However, this expansion had a downside: it significantly increased the orchestra’s costs – and hence its hire fees – when undertaking regional tours, and this was a matter that was discussed at the Annual General Meeting of the Deutscher Musik-Verein in Shanghai on 12 September 1905:((The North China Herald, 15 September 1905, 610.))

During the discussion following the reports it was stated that the band of Tsingtao Marines, which was entrusted with the orchestral part of last year’s concerts, had lately been increased from 29 to 41. Owing to this increased number of musicians the expenses of bringing the band from Tsingtao to Shanghai would be larger in future, and consequently there was the question, whether the Verein was to abandon the idea of bringing the band to Shanghai at all, or was to increase the membership fee. The meeting was unanimous that a better band cannot be procured in Shanghai, and firmly expected to hear it under Mr. O.K. Wille’s able leadership in the forthcoming season at the Verein’s concert. The increase of the membership fee to $15 was then unanimously adopted.

For Wille and his musicians this decision would have been welcome, but no doubt it must have been apparent to those running the Musik-Verein that it would probably be less expensive to hire a competent local orchestra, if one was available. Such thinking may have informed the decision of the the Municipal Council in Shanghai, taken sometime in 1906, to appoint a new conductor (Buck) and six additional musicians from Europe for an enlarged Municipal Band. By 1907 that ensemble was being compared favourably with the Tsingtau Orchestra in the pages of The North China Herald. After the 1906/07 season the latter’s concerts in Shanghai were not given in association with the Deutscher Musik-Verein (and so may have been undertaken at the band’s own risk) and they were relatively modest in number thereafter: 1909: one; 1910: three; 1912: two.((In 1909 Buck visited Tsingtau to accompany the baritone E. Kittmann in a performance of twelve of his songs at the 11th concert of the Tsingtau Verein für Kunst und Wissenschaft (Die Musik 9/36 (1909–10), 62).))

The extent of the Tsingtau Orchestra’s concert-giving in other centres in North China needs further research, but caution is probably desirable when estimating the cross-cultural significance of its activity.  The target audience that benefited from the orchestra’s budget was of limited diversity, consisting chiefly of European and American patrons listening to a surprisingly wide but entirely euro-centric repertoire. It is very unlikely that many non-Europeans ever heard (or rather, overheard) the orchestra play anything other than open-air public performances of military and popular music or indoor performances at restauraunts. Even to Crusen, the ardent supporter of  the Kapelle, the lack of any significant element of cross-cultural diplomacy would not have been a matter of concern, since he would have probably considered that for the present access to Western and specifically German art would be as inappropriate for the Chinese population as was access to equitable treatment under the German law of the Kiatschou concession. As Klaus Mühlhahn reports:((Mühlhahn (2014), [129].; the passages he quotes come from a two-part article by Crusen: “Die rechtliche Stellung der Chinesen in Kiautschougebietes”, in Zeitschrift für Kolonialrecht, 15:2 (1913), 4–7;  15:3, 47–57.))

Crusen explained that the natives of Kiaochou “are Chinese in an ethnological-cultural sense.” He further explained that “it had to be avoided that German law was applied to people who lack the basis for such an application.” He noted that law was related to the cultural standards and values of a people and thus reflected their beliefs and ethics. Only after the the modernisation of Chinese culture would the “natives” qualify for equal treatment with Europeans.

Even allowing for the likely desire on the part of Crusen and other commentators to offer a positive account of the Kapelle’s achievements while coincidentally offering the young conductor a generally encouraging response, it seems clear that Wille was successful in quickly melding the enlarged ensemble into a capable orchestra. He had also astutely recruited some players who could take on the role of soloist at concerts, most notably Karl (Henri) Bicknese (1886–1940), a Dutchman who probably joined the orchestra in 1912 where he played flügelhorn (and probably trumpet). However, on 20 May 1913 he was the soloist in a performance of Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto in G minor.((See Appendix  IIIb. After internment in America with other members of the ensemble he remained, became a US citizen in 1926, married and worked as a musician in Brooklyn.))

Unfortunately, because the reports published in Die Musik are sometimes imprecise in their references to works performed, and digital versions of a wide sample of German- and English-language newspapers published in North China during this period are not available, it has not been possible to compile a comprehensive list of the orchestra’s repertoire. In particular, it seems likely that the programmes of popular concerts (as distinct from its ‘symphonic’ concerts) were seriously under-reported.((For a complete programme of a Populär-Abend, see Megumi Shimura, Musikleben im deutschen Pachtgebiet Tsingtau 1897–1914 (doi 10.24517/00054288), 38: this includes works that might equally have appeared in a ‘Symphonic’ programme.)) Nevertheless, the partial repertoire list for the Symphony concerts and tours (214 works, 284 performances) offers food for thought. It is notable that some of the composers that one might imagine would form the core of the repertoire are rather under-represented, e.g. Brahms (5 performances) and Schubert (7 performances). On the other hand, the mainstays are not unexpected: Beethoven (23 performances) and Wagner (45 performances),  while the two surprises are perhaps Berlioz (13 performances) and Liszt (16 performances). The relative prominence of music by ‘living’ composers (i.e those alive for at least some of the period 1904–1914) is notable not just for the proportion it represented – 26% of all works performed and 24% of individual performances listed((It might be expected that if and when a more comprehensive repertoire list is available, this percentage will decline.)) – but also the number of different national traditions that were heard. The repertoire was by no means as centred around teutonic composers as one might have expected. But this attitude to programme-building was not without its problems.

Although in the article quoted above Crusen was at pains to identify the Symphony Concerts as the cornerstone of musical life in the colony, one of the local reviewers noted in 1914 that the latter were never sold out.((Tsingtauer Neueste Nachrichten, 11/75 (2 April 1914), 9. However the review of the final concert of the season reported that overall the series had been successful and had seen a rise in audience numbers (Tsingtauer Neueste Nachrichten, 11/103 (7 May 1914), 9).)) In later years the subscription series included both ‘popular’ and ‘symphony’ concerts, as well as ‘popular symphony’ concerts. Wille seems to have been determined to try to expand the audience for such events, and identified the need to provide the small community with published explanations and introductions to the repertoire in the daily press as well as handbills and programme leaflets. These were clearly designed to encourage interest and offer inexperienced listeners routes into unfamiliar repertoire. Unfortunately Wille was not always an astute judge of such works,((In particular Granzov’s unpublished Symphony No. 1 (performed in the second half of the 1911–1912 season) was comprehensively written-off by Crusen. The composer may have been Max Granzow who conducted some early recordings by the Westfälisches Infanterie Regiment Nr. 53. The attempts to mount opera (see Appendix IIIb, p. 9ff.), led by Crusen and the Verein für Kunst und Wissenschaft, were also dogged by financial problems, that appear to reflect a failure to understand that economic challenges posed by the genre.)) but compositions by, for example, Debussy, d’Indy, Dukas, Sibelius and Suk, show a willingness to explore unfamiliar but potentially accessible new idioms, and his interest in such repertoire was noted by a local reviewer.((Megumi Shimura, Musikleben im deutschen Pachtgebiet Tsingtau 1897-1914 (doi 10.24517/00054288), 39.))

So, the inclusion of orchestral songs by Mahler and Wolf in a concert on 10 December 1907 was entirely consistent with Wille’s evident interest in exploring newer music, though he and Jobst might also have been encouraged to perform the Wolf by Crusen, who in 1896 had been one of the founding members of the Wolf-Verein in Berlin.((See the anonymous report on musical life in Tsingtau published in the Neues Wiener Journal, No. 5276 (30 June 1908), 10.)) Curiously Crusen’s report on the event gives neither the titles nor the number of songs performed, so it is fortunate that the review in the Tsingtauer Neueste Nachrichtungen (12 December 1907) records that the Mahler item was “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”: a particularly apposite choice, as will become clear in the next section of this essay.((I am most grateful to Professor Megumi Shimura for providing me with copies of this review and the earlier press announcement of the concert.))  The singer was the baritone, Hans Jobst, whose name first appeared in the 1907–8 edition of the Adress-Buch, where he is listed as one of four junior lawyers (Referendaren) in the Department of Justice (Justizverwaltung), of which Crusen, as the Chief Justice, was the head. He had probably arrived in Kiatschou sometime between summer 1906 and early 1907, since on 7 July 1907 he gave his first performances with Wille and the Kapelle: the Prologue to I Pagliacci and Wolfram’s ‘Lied am Abendstern’ (Tannhäuser). These were followed in the 1907–08 season by the songs by Mahler and Wolf, and ‘Wotans Abschied’ (Die Walküre). The latter was perhaps particularly appropriate, since Jobst does not appear in the 1908–09 Adress-Buch or later editions.((His subsequent career has not been traced in detail, but he sang at a Wagner concert in Shanghai in early June 1908, after which the review commented that he had ‘a voice of very pleasant quality… [but] it is not large enough for the Lyceum Theatre’ (The North-China Herald, 6 June 1908, 612). On 9 September 1913 he gave a Lieder- und Balladenabend in Tsingtau (Schubert, Schumann, Strauss and Löwe) with Karl Bicknese (piano) and K. Pfeiffer (cello), both of whom were members of the band of the III Seebataillon (see Appendix II).))

* * *

When in the summer of 1908 Mahler sketched Das Lied von der Erde at Altschluderbach (in what is now the South Tyrol, Italy) it was probably the first creative work he had undertaken for nearly two years. By 1906 he was increasingly recognised as one of the most important conductors on the international circuit and (in his position of Director of the Court Opera in Vienna, where he was also the chief conductor) as an innovator in opera production; moreover his symphonies and songs were beginning to establish a foothold in the European concert repertoire. Then, during the summer of 1906, within an astonishingly brief spell of six weeks he had drafted his largest work, the Eighth Symphony. Yet within a year his life was utterly transformed.

One of Mahler’s great ambitions during his early professional career had been to return to Vienna – where he had studied in the late 1870s – as director of the Court Opera. This he achieved in 1897, but while he quickly gained the support and admiration of some sections of the audience and forward-looking members of intellectual and artistic circles, he was also dogged by unremitting criticism and obstruction inspired largely by aesthetic conservatism and/or antisemitism. During 1906–07 he came to the conclusion that that he could no longer continue the struggle and decided to take up a much less demanding (and better remunerated) role as conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. Nevertheless this was a difficult decision, apparently a tacit acceptance of defeat.

After travelling to Berlin in early June 1907 for final negotiations with the director of the Metropolitan, Heinrich Conried, and the public announcement of his resignation, Mahler eventually made his way to his villa at Maiernigg, for recuperation with his family and to resume creative work. But, within a few days of his arrival on 30 June 1907 his beloved eldest daughter, Maria Anna (b. 1903), showed symptoms of what developed into diphtheria and scarlet fever: she died on 12 July.((Earlier, in June, the Mahler’s youngest daughter, Anna Justine had contracted and survived scarlet fever.)) Mahler and his wife, Alma, were distraught, but for the composer a further blow was to fall immediately: during what Mahler thought would be a routine examination, the local doctor detected that he had a heart problem. Mahler returned to Vienna, where it was confirmed that he had a valve defect, and he was advised to give up the strenuous activity – walking, swimming and cycling – that formed an essential part of his summer relaxation, when preliminary creative thoughts could germinate.((The most detailed account of this summer is to be found in Henry-Louis de La Grange, Gustav Mahler, vol. 3, Vienna: Triumph and Disillusion (1904–1907) (Oxford: OUP, 1999), 687ff.))

It is not entirely clear whether Mahler was able to undertake any creative work that summer. Alma Mahler reported that an old friend, Theobald Pollak((Theobald Pollak (1855–1912) was a Doctor of Law and a senior official at the Austrian Ministry of Railways: see Schenker Documents Online (accessed 23.06.2020).)) had given Mahler a book of poems, Die Chinesische Flöte by Hans Bethge, which Mahler liked, and that during the summer of 1907 he began sketching what became Das Lied von der Erde.((Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Errinerungen und Briefe (Amsterdam: Albert de Lange, 1940), 152; Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters, ed. D. Mitchell, trs B. Creighton (London: John Murray, 1973), 23. However, she gives different versions of events in Alma Mahler-Werfel, And the Bridge is Love (London: Hutchinson, 1959), 37 – where the gift was made to Mahler ‘several years’ prior to 1907 (which clearly cannot have been the case) – and Mein Leben (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1960), 18, where the gift was to her, not Mahler.)) However, Mahler’s long-standing colleague at the Court Opera, the designer Alfred Roller, was convinced that the effect of the events of the summer on Mahler had been:

…schwer und unheilvoll. Dieser Sommer [1907] blieb ohne künstlerische Frucht…im Sommer 1908 … kehrte auch die Schaffenlust wieder. Zu seiner eigenen Überraschung, wie es schein: „Denken Sie sich, ich schreibe wieder etwas!“ so reif er mir dort entgegen. Es war „Das Lied von der Erde“.((Alfred Roller, Die Bildnisse von Gustav Mahler (Leipzig, Vienna: E.P. Tal & Co. Verlag), 18–19. The earliest date in the sketches and drafts of Das Lied is July 1908, at the end of the voice and piano version of the second song.)) … severe and harmful. That summer [1907] yielded no artistic fruit….In the summer of 1908 … the creative urge returned. Apparently to [Mahler’s] surprise: ‘Just think, I’ve written something again!’ he called to me as I arrived. It was Das Lied von der Erde.                                                                                                                   

Whatever the precise date of Pollak’s gift, seen in broader contexts the fact that it was a collection of poems based (albeit indirectly) on Chinese poetry((This complex issue is discussed by, among others,  Fusako Hamao in ‘The Sources of the Texts in Mahler’s “Lied von der Erde”‘, 19th-Century Music, 19/1 (Summer, 1995), 83–95.)) and that it caught Mahler’s attention is by no means surprising. There had been an interest in Asian cultures among German writers and scholars since the seventeenth century,((For a useful introduction to this history that ultimately focuses on the slow emergence of Sinology as an academic discipline in the 19th century, see Birgit Bunzel Linder, “China in German Translation: Literary Perceptions, Canonical Texts, and the History of German Sinology” in One into Many: Translation and the Dissemination of Classical Chinese Literature, edited by Leo Tak-hung Chan (Amsterdam  and  New  York: Rodopi, 2003).)) and as Stephen Hefling points out,((‘Das Lied von der Erde’ in The Mahler Companion, ed. Donald Mitchell and Andrew Nicholson (Oxford: OUP, 1999), 440ff.)) from the 1870s onward Mahler was familiar with and deeply influenced by the work of several nineteenth-century poets and philosophers who had absorbed ideas from the Orient (used in its widest sense of cultures from beyond the eastern edge of the Mediterranean), not least Rückert,((His major contribution to the dissemination of early Chinese culture in Germany was his translation of the Schi-King collection: Schi-king: Chinesisches Liederbuch gesammelt von Confucius, dem Deutschen angeeignet (Altona: J.F. Hammerich, 1833). His source was the Latin translation by Julius Mohl (Stuttgart & Tübingen: Cotta, 1830): for further details of the original Chinese collection and its early transmission, see Yunru Zou, Schi-King. Das »Liederbuch Chinas« in Albert Ehrensteins Nachdichtung. Ein Beispiel der Rezeption chinesischer Lyrik in Deutschland zu beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts (St. Ingbert: Röhrig Universitätsverlag, 2006). A complete facsimile of the first edition of Rückert’s volume is available online (open access) from Google (accessed 19.05.2020) See also Annemarie Schimmel, Friedrich Rückert: Lebensbild und Einführung in sein Werk, ed. Rudolf Keutner (n.p.: Wallstein Verlag, n.d.) and „Lyrik aus Letzter Hand“: Mahler und Ruckert, ed. Hans-Joachim Hinrischen, Erich Wolfgang Partsch, Ivana Rentsch (Würzburg: Könighausen & Neumann, 2015).)) Goethe, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. In particular Schopenhauer’s Buddhism-influenced views on the individual will and art (particularly music) had a powerful appeal for the composer.

Mahler subsequently gained access to very different perspectives on oriental cultures when, through his courtship and marriage (1902) to Alma Schindler, he come into contact with the artistic avant-garde in Vienna, particularly members of the Sezession. Some of the latter group were interested in far-Eastern art, most notably Emil Orlik (1870–1932) who between March 1900 and November 1901 made a trip to the Far East, including a stay in Japan where he studied print-making techniques. About six months before he left Europe he met Mahler in Prague and made a pen and ink sketch of the composer, signed and dated Orlik ’99.((Kaplan, op. cit, no. 216, where it is described erroneously as having been executed in a Viennese coffeehouse.)) The circumstances of its creation were recalled by the conductor Josef Stransky (1872–1936) in 1911:((Josef Stransky, ‘Begegnungen mit Gustav Mahler’, Signale für das musikalische Welt, 19 July 1911, 1027; English translation from Kurt Blaukopf, Mahler: A Documentary Study (London: Thames & Hudson, 1976), 220.))

After this performance [of Fibich’s Šárka, on 16 May 1899((Arranged because the composer wanted Mahler to hear the opera, the performance was originally scheduled for 15 May; Mahler was not impressed by the work.))], we had a long session in the café which was occasion of another interesting event. In a quiet corner of the café sat Emil Orlik, now so famous as a painter and engraver. He observed us at length and then called me over and begged to be introduced to Mahler. The Master agreed, and during the lively conversation Orlik sketched Mahler’s characteristic profile on a postcard. Mahler was delighted and sent the card straight off to his sister. He invited Orlik to come to Vienna, and so that evening was the real starting point for the universally admired etching which Orlik was later to produce.((That initial sketch indeed became part of the Rosé Collection, and Orlik was to move to Vienna.))

Not long after Orlik’s return from Japan, in April 1902, the Fourteenth Exhibition of the Vienna Sezession – which included Max Klinger’s Beethoven statue as the centre piece and Klimt’s Beethoven frieze as part of the associated display – opened with a private ceremony at which music from the Ninth Symphony, arranged and conducted by Mahler, was heard;((The original plan was the whole work would be performed under Mahler: see Henry-Louis de La Grange, Gustav Mahler, vol. 2, Vienna: The Years of Challenge (1897–1904), (Oxford: OUP, 1995), 514.)) this was followed by a banquet in Klinger’s honour attended by the Mahlers, at which Orlik ‘gave a toast in spoof Japanese’.((Felix Salten, ‘Erinnerungen an Klimt’, Neue Freie Presse, 18 October 1936, 1–3.))

Fig. 10. Two woodcuts by Emil Orlik printed in the catalogue of the XIV Exhibition of the Vienna Succession (April 1902), pp. [28] and [65]

It seems highly likely that the two men renewed their acquaintance at or around the time of these events, and that Orlik’s famous etching of Mahler((Gilbert Kaplan, ed.: The Mahler Album (New York: Kaplan Foundation/London: Thames and Hudson, 1995) no. 212.)) followed, although the exact date(s) of the sitting(s) remains unknown, and there is even some uncertainty about the year of its creation. Some signed copies of the print are dated 1902 by the artist, but in 1912 a collection of Orlik’s drawings was published in Munich((Zeichnungen von Emil Orlik: Zwei und fünfzig Tafeln mit Lichtdrucken nach des Meisters Originalen, mit einer Einleitung von Professor Dr. Hans W. Singer (A. Schumann’s Verlag: Leipzig, 1912).)) that included on p. 23 a page of sketches, signed and dated 1903, and  described in the caption as Studien zum radierten Gustav-Mahler Bildnis, 1903.((See also Gilbert Kaplan, ed.: The Mahler Album, no. 214.))

Orlik was not  a close friend and in 1904 he moved to Berlin, but in September 1908 the two men renewed their acquaintanceship. Mahler had travelled to Prague to conduct the first performance of his Seventh Symphony, arriving late on 4 September, and their paths quickly crossed at Mahler’s hotel, as he recounted in a letter to Alma dated 8 September:((Ein Glück ohne Ruh’: Die Briefe Gustav Mahlers an Alma, edited by Henry-Louis de La Grange, Gunter Weiß [and] Knud Martner (Berlin: Seidler Verlag, 1995), 362; Gustav Mahler: Letters to his Wife, edited by Henry-Louis de La Grange and Gunter Weiss in collaboration with Knud Martner, revised and translated by Antony Beaumont (London: Faber and Faber, 2004), 305.  Editorial notes to this letter in both editions make the erroneous claim that the 1902 Orlik etching was made from one of Moritz Nähr’s 1907 photographs.))

Gestern Abend kam ich ganz allein in den blauen Stern und traf den unvermeidlichen Orlik (dem ich überall begegne, wo ich hinkomme). Ich saß natürlich bei ihm und ließ ihn auspacken. Was er über Japan und China zu sagen hätte, »räumte ich ihm abi«. Er ist aber ein confuser Kerl und scheint das Ganze nicht eigener Anschaung, sonder aus irgend welchen Berichten zu haben….Im Übrigen hatte ich doch den Eindruck eines gutmüthigen und braven (im bürgerlichen  Sinne) Menschen. Returning alone to the Blauer Stern last night, I bumped into the inevitable Orlik (wherever I am, we seem to coincide). Naturally I sat with him and let him talk away. I gobbled up everything he had to say about Japan and China. But he’s a muddle-headed fellow, and his insights seem to be drawn not from his own experiences but from hearsay….Apart from that, he seems to be a kind-hearted person and an upright citizen (in the petit-bourgeois sense).

This letter suggests not only that Mahler may not have heard (or remembered) much about Orlik’s first trip to Japan, but that in any case, having just finished working intensively on Das Lied von der Erde, he wanted to learn more about his companion’s experience and views about the Far East. Given the turbulent recent history of the region (and European involvement in much of the conflict) it is certainly possible – perhaps likely – that alongside cultural and artistic issues this also formed a topic in the conversation. However, Mahler’s somewhat critical comments about Orlik’s opinions probably reflect the fact that before leaving New York in April 1908, he had meet and talked to a leading sinologist (see below).((In 1912 Orlik made a second extend trip, this time to the near and far east, including  North Africa, Ceylon, China, Korea and Japan, returning via Siberia: the artistic results included many sketches of Chinese subjects.))

The political and commercial ambitions that underpinned the development of German imperial aspirations after 1871, and more specifically the events that culminated in the temporary acquisition of Tsingtau in 1898, also raised the German public’s awareness of some of the indigenous cultures of newly-acquired territories. This was presumably one of the factors that encouraged what appears to have been a notable increase in the number of German-language book-format publications concerned with China, particularly its history, geography and culture in the decade leading up to 1898, and that the level of production significantly accelerated in the years immediately after the acquisition of the leased territory.((This assertion is based on numbers of registrations and advertisements for such publications in the Börsenblatt für den deutschen Buchhandel over two decades 1888–1907, made practical by the full-text search facility of the online version. The aggregate number of relevant new publications in the second decade (1898–1907) shows an increase of c. 400% over the first, with the highest annual figure (67) in 1900; thereafter there was a gradual decline in the numbers.)) So it might be tempting to view the appearance of Lao-Tsu’s Tao-te ching in German in 1903,((Lau-Tse, Die Bahn und der rechte Weg. Die chinesische Urschrift in deutsche Sprache, nachgedachte von Alexander Ular (Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1903).)) followed by three collections of German versions of Chinese poetry between 1905 and 1907 solely as commercially-motivated attempts to exploit a niche in the publishing market originally opened by the new, post-1898 geopolitical situation:

  1. Hans Heilmann, Chinesische Lyric vom 12. Jahrhundert v. Chr, bis zur Gegenwart: In deutscher Übersetzungen, mit Einleitung und Anmerkungen (München und Leipzig: R. Piper & Co., [1905])
  2. Hans Bethge, Die Chinesische Flöte: Nachtdichtungen Chinesischer Lyrik (Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1907)
  3. Conrad Haussmann, Im Tau der Orchideen: Chinesische Lieder in Deutschen Strophen (München: Albert Langen, 1907)((This was reviewed a number of times including by Albert Träger (Berliner Tageblatt (24.12.1907, p. 2), Hans Bethge (Deutsche Zeitung (06.01.1908) and (along with Heilmann’s Chinesische Lyrik) by Marie Fuhrmann (Preussische Jahrbuch (October 1908, 550–554); see Von Poesie und Politik: Hermann Hesse Conrad Haußmann Briefwechsel 1907, edited by Helga Abret (Berlin: Surkamp Verlag, 2011), 59–60.))

However, such a perception would be mistaken in at least two cases. At the start of his introduction Heilmann (1859–1930), an author and journalist, made it clear where he stood in relation to the wide-spread imperialist/colonialist mind-set (p. [v]):

„Chinesische Lyrik — ? Mit Verwunderung werden von hundert Lesern mehr als neunzig  frage, ob das nicht ein contradictio in adjecto ist. Was soll die Lyrik, die köstlichste Blüte der Kultur, bei diesen „gelben Teufeln”, deren Barbarei, Schmutz und Gefühlsroheit sprichwörtlich sind? Aber mit der gleichen Verachtung spricht der Chinese von der „roten Teufeln”, und wir spotten über seinen blinden Größenwahn, ohne zu merken, daß wir ihm gegenüber genau so in Unwissenheit und Vorurteilen befangen sind, wie er gegenüber uns. Selbst der Krieg der Westmächte gegen China hat die landläufigen Vorstellungen von den so ganz eigenartigen Volk der Chinesen nicht aufgeklärt. Die Geistige Befruchtung, die die Kreuzfahrer des Mittelalters vom Orient in die Heimat mitbrachten, is bei dem modernen Kreuzzug nicht erheblich gewesen. “Chinese poetry -?”Out of a hundred readers, more than ninety would ask in astonishment whether this is not a contradiction in terms. What is poetry, the most delicious blossom of culture, to these “yellow devils”, whose barbarism, dirt and emotional brutality are proverbial? But the Chinese speaks of the “red devil” with the same contempt, and we scoff at his blind delusions of superiority without realizing that we are as ignorant and prejudiced towards him as he is about us. Even the war of the western powers against China has not cleared up the popular ideas about the very different people of China. The spiritual fertilization that the crusaders of the Middle Ages brought back home from the Orient was not significant in the modern crusade.

b&w p[hotograph of Conrad Haussmann

Fig. 11.
Conrad Haussmann

For Heilmann, providing access to Chinese poetry could be a means of countering prevalent misconceptions (based on ignorance) of a geographically remote but long-established culture, and it seems likely that Conrad Haussmann (1857–1922) would have had some sympathy with this view. He studied law and qualified as an attorney, setting up a law firm with his twin brother, Friedrich (d. 1907). Both were also left-leaning politicians at local and national levels, and as a member of the Reichstag Conrad advocated ‘a distancing from excessive assertions of power and will in the foreign policy of the Reich, and … peaceful management of international relations.'((Lothar Albertin, ‘Haussmann, Conrad’, Neue Deutsche Biographie (Berlin: Heske, 1969), vol. 8, 130–131.))

Heilmann and Haussmann provide extensive, and potentially useful commentaries on Chinese literary history and the individual poets, as well as (in the case of Heilmann) the Chinese language and its orthography. Yet it is very unlikely either could read Chinese; Heilmann was open about his use of French, German and English translations as the basis for his own prose renderings and provided a bibliography (p. [liv]), and Bethge seems to have employed the same, or very similar sources.((See Die Chinesische Flöte, 103–104. One exception may have been his use of the second, not the first edition of Judith Gautier’s Le Livre de Jade, as suggested by Fusako Hamao, ‘The Sources of the Texts in Mahler’s “Lied von der Erde”‘, 19th-Century Music, 19/1 (Summer, 1995), 83–95. At the end of his volume Bethge provided a Geleitwort that included an outline of the history of Chinese poetry. This must also have been based on European-language sources because, as Bethge’s nephew confirmed, his uncle could not read Chinese (Eberhard Gilbert Bethge, Hans Bethge Leben und Werk: eine Biographie (Kelkheim: Yin Yang Media Verlag, 2002), 32). Bethge would not have known Haussmann’s collection, which was first published in December 1907.)) Heilmann’s Chinesische Lyrik was already known in Vienna by late 1907, as was made clear by a review of Bethge’s volume by Camill Hoffmann (1878–1944), the literary editor of Die Zeit:((Die Zeit, 10 November 1907, 22.))

Uebersetzer und Umdichter chinesische Gedichte sind in rascher Folge gerade genug aufgetauscht: Richard Dehmel, Otto Hauser, Hans Heilmann, Max Fleischer, Georg Busse-Palma, Hans Bethge. Die reichste Auswahl aus der Lyrik des Mandarinenreiches hat Heilmann gegeben. Aus ihr haben alle anderen zum große Teil geschopft. Er selbst benützte nur französische und englishe Antholgien, so daß es unmittelbare deutsche Uebersetzungen aus dem Chinesischen noch bar nicht gibt. Auch Bethge hat sich an Heilmann und noch an das „Livre de jade“ von Marquerite Gauthier* gehalten. Sein Buch kommt jenem Heilmanns an Reichhaltigkeit am nächsten, aber darin, das dieses nur Proseübertragungen enthält, während Bethge in Versen, die und da in Reimen umdichtet, steht es höher. Bethges Verse haben die duftig hingepinselte Zartheit, den feinen farbigen Schmelz, der den Originalen eigentümlich sein dürfte. Leider gestattet er sich Lizenzen, die man keinen Ueberstzer hingehen lassen kann: er dichtet zu. Es mag beim Uebersetzen manchmal unvermeidlich sein, daß ein Bild, ein Vergleich, irgendein Detail fallen gelassen wird; daß aber Bilder, Vergleiche, Details aus eigner Erfindung hinzugefügt werden, ist Verfälschung. Bethge ersetzt Worte der Vorlage durch unpräzise Ausdrücke nach seinem persönlichen Geschmack, er wird weitschweifig, wo das das Ieiginal kurz ist. Freilich erreicht er damit, daß sich sein Uebersetzungen überaus leicht und strömend lesen. – Die chinesiche Lyrik bleibt noch immer zu entdecken. Der Kreis, in dem sich die bisherigen Uebersetzer bewegten, ist zu eng; alle Uebersetzungen zusammen dürften nicht mehr aus der alten, unermeßlich reichen Schatzkammer der chinesischen Lyrik sein. Der Insel-Verlag hat Bethges Band sehr deliziös ausgestattet. Translators and adapters of Chinese poems have recently appeared in rapid succession: Richard Dehmel, Otto Hauser,((Hauser (1876–1944) was an Austrian writer and linguist  who translated from a wide range of languages including French, Chinese, Italian, Japonese, Hebrew, Swedish, Serbian and Dutch into German. After 1930 his writings were concerned with racial theory and promoted race hatred.)) Hans Heilmann, Max Fleischer.((Max Fleischer (1880–after 1942) was a bank clerk also active as a poet. He became known for his adaptations of Chinese poems and eventually published a collection as Der Porzellanpavillon (Vienna, Paul Zsolnay Verlag, 1927).)) Georg Busse-Palma,((This is probably a reference to In tiefer Nacht, ‘nach’ Yan Tsen Tsai, published in Die Muskete IV/80 (11 April 1907), 10; it was an adaptation of Heilmann’s version (Chinesische Lyric, 111).))[and] Hans Bethge. Heilmann gave the richest selection from the poetry of the Mandarin Empire. Most of the others have drawn from it. He himself only used French and English anthologies, so that there are currently no direct German translations from Chinese. Bethge also adhered to Heilmann and Marquerite Gauthier’s “Livre de jade”.((This is a curious error, since Bethge correctly identifies Judith Gautier as one of his sources.)) His book comes closest to that of Heilmann in terms of richness, but in that the latter contains only prose translations, while Bethge writes in verses that occasionally rhyme, it is superior. Bethge’s verses have the lightly-brushed delicacy, the fine, coloured lustre that may be peculiar to the originals. Unfortunately, he allows himself licenses that no translator can permit: he poeticises. It may sometimes be inevitable when translating that an image, a comparison, some detail is dropped; but if images, comparisons, details of our own invention are added it is falsification. Bethge replaces the words of the original with imprecise expressions according to his personal taste, he becomes long-winded where the original is brief. Of course, by doing so he ensures that  his translations read easily and fluently. – Chinese poetry still remains to be discovered. The circle with which previous translators were concerned is too narrow; no longer should all translations be from the ancient, immeasurably rich treasury of Chinese poetry. Insel-Verlag has produced Bethge’s volume most attractively.

Although the comments (and reservations) about Bethge’s re-poeticising are not uninteresting, the review is particularly notable for making clear that this volume was not an isolated phenomenon, but reflected a growing interest in Chinese verse in Vienna and elsewhere. Most striking is the reference to Richard Dehmel – not a Viennese poet, but one with whom Mahler became acquainted.((See Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters, ed. D. Mitchell, trs B. Creighton (London: John Murray, 1973), 79,  89ff. It is clear that Mahler and Dehmel were not close, but the latter’s wife, Ida, was a great admirer of Mahler’s music.)) However, Hoffmann might have mentioned other writers working around the turn of the century with similar interests, such as Otto Julius Bierbaum (1865–1910) who studied Chinese and published his ‘Chinese novel’ Das Schöne Mädchen von Pao in 1899,  and the poet Arno Holz (1863–1929) who knew Judith Gautier’s Livre de Jade (but perhaps only after 1898) and not only reworked Chinese texts, but also recommended that Reinhardt Piper publish Chinesische Lyrik by one of his friends: Hans Heilmann. ((Robert Wohlleben: Arno Holz und die Fern Osten: Skizze von Robert Wohlleben ( (accessed 17.05.2020).))

Hoffmann’s reference in the review to Dehmel presumably reflects the fact that when explaining in his ‘Forword to the Translations’ why he chose not to translate into verse, Heilmann had summed up (pp. lv–lvi):

Ich habe die chinesischen Lieder in rhythmischer Prosa wiedergeben, ohne mich der Einsicht zu verschließen, das diese Form als solche große Mängel besitzt und mit allerlei Einwänden und Vorurteilen zu kämpfen hat. Une traduction est une tenture fe gobelins vie au revers. Das gilt von der Prosaübersetzung chinesische Verse; in der Regel wird es nur mit weltläufigen Umschreibungen möglich sein, ihren Inhalt annährend wiederzugeben, — „als ob man eine Miniatur mit Kohle nachzeichnete!” kalgte Pater Cibot. Schon deshalb muß eine in das Prokrustesbett von Vers und Reim gezwängte poetische Übersetzung in den meisten Fällen eine Verstümmelung des Gedankeneinhaltes sein, wofür sie durch eine Fälschung des lyrischen Charakters und schlechte, mühsame Verse zu entschädigen glaubt. Ich kenne nur eine, die dem Original – bis auf kleine Mißverständnisse und bis an die Grenze des überhaupt Möglichen – gerecht wird und zugleich als deutsche Dichtung Wert besitzt: „Das chinesische Trinklied” nach Li-Tai-Pe von Richard Dehmel. Um solche wahre Nachdichtungen zu machen, müßte man eben ein Richard Dehmel sein…. I have reproduced the Chinese songs in rhythmic prose, while not neglecting the view that this form as such has great shortcomings and has to deal with all kinds of objections and prejudices. “A translation is a Gobelin tapestry viewed from behind.” That applies to the prose translation of Chinese verses; as a rule, it will only be possible to reproduce its content approximately, with mundane paraphrases – “as if you were tracing a miniature with charcoal!” complained Father Cibot. For this reason alone, a poetic translation forced into the Procrustean bed of verse and rhyme must in most cases be a mutilation of the content of the thought, for which it is believed to compensate by falsifying the lyrical character and by using bad, laborious verses. I know only one that lives up to the original – apart from minor misunderstandings and at the limit of what is possible at all – and at the same time has value as German poetry: “The Chinese Drinking Song” after Li-Tai-Pe by Richard Dehmel. In order to make such valid re-writings, one would have to be a Richard Dehmel ….

That Heilmann should have thought so well of Dehmel’s rendering also needs to be assessed in the light of his high estimation of Li-Tai-Pe’s original (p. xlvi):((Heilmann printed the Dehmel version on the next page. It had appeared in Aber die Liebe (München: Druck und Verlag von Dr. E. Albert & Co., 1893) and it is worth noting that of the 49 poems in that collection, ten were Nachdichtungen by Dehmel of texts by Cecco Angiolieri (c. 1260–c. 1312), José de Esproncieda (1808–1842), Li bai/Li-tai-po (701–762) (2), August Strinberg (1849–1912), Kornel Ujejski (1823–1897), Paul Verlaine (1844–1896) (2), François Villon (c. 1431 – c. 1463,) and  José Zorrilla (1817–1893).))

Der grandioseste Ausdruck des Weltschmerzes tönt aus dem „Lied vom Kummer”. Es ist nicht der Katzenjammer der Décadence, nicht der weinerliche Hilferuf des Déracinés, es ist der furchtbare Gram der Welteinsamkeit, mit dem ein Kulturnation der Klage eines einzelnen, der ihre Wortführer wird, den Ausdruck einer volkstümlichen Notwendigkeit, die Form einer Natursymbolik, eine Klage der unbewußt mitfühlenden Natur gibt (ich deute nur auf das volkstümliche Natursymbol des klagenden Affen im mondbeschienenen Leichenhaine), die wie der Aufschrei einer ganzen Menschheit, einer ganzen Erdenwelt klingen. Nur der Buddhismus, der zur Volksreligion gewordene Pessimismus, konnte eine Klage des Weltschmerzes eine so demotische, so elementare, so kosmische Kraft und Bedeutung geben. The most sublime expression of Weltschmerz resounds from the “Song of Sorrow”. It is not the misery of decadence, nor the Déracinés’ whingeing cry for help, it is the terrible sorrow of loneliness with which a cultural nation gives to the complaint of an individual who becomes its spokesman the expression of a popular necessity, the form of a nature symbol, a plea to unconsciously compassionate Nature (I refer specifically to the folkloric nature symbol of the plaintive monkey in the moonlit graveyard) that resounds like the cry of an entire humanity, an entire earthly world. Only Buddhism, the pessimism that has become a popular religion, could give an expression of Weltschmerz such a demotic, such an elementary, such a cosmic power and meaning.

There can be no doubt that Heilmann was deeply impressed by what he understood of Li-Tai-Pe’s poem, and it is striking that Bethge and Haussmann included adaptations of it in their collections, as did Max Fleischer in his 1927 volume; for Mahler, Bethge’s version was the text of the opening movement of Das Lied von der Erde.

Whether or not Mahler and Dehmel ever discussed Chinese poetry, it is clear that there was some German and Austrian interest in that rich literary tradition, and that Theobald Pollak, who kept an eye open for poetry that might interest Mahler, could have been aware of this, and perhaps, having seen the publication announcement, purposely sought out Die Chinesiche Flöte. However, as Stephen Hefling pointed out some years ago, the fact that in the summer of 1908 Mahler, still coming to terms with the loss of his daughter and his own prognosis, should have turned in the literary and musical directions that he did also presents a striking parallel with the events of the summer of 1901. The 1900–01  season had been demanding and on 24 February Mahler conducted a concert of the Vienna Philharmonic at midday, and Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Opera in the evening. After returning home he suffered a serious haemorrhoidal haemorrhage and he and his doctors knew that he had been close to death.((See Henry-Louis de La Grange, Gustav Mahler, Volume 2: Vienna: The Years Of Challenge (1897–1904), (Oxford, OUP, 1995), 334ff.)) After a convalescence at Abbazia (now Opatia in Croatia), Mahler was back on the podium on 12 April conducting Cosí van tutte.

At the start of the summer vacation, on 5 June 1901, Mahler and his sister moved into the recently completed Villa Mahler at Maiernigg, and during the summer, in the aftermath of his brush with death, Mahler composed Der Tamboursg’sell,  a large-scale song that was both his last setting of a Wunderhorn text, and the first example – for all its omnipresent yet subdued generic references to a military funeral march – of his late song style, with its emphasis on line and counterpoint rather than gesture, and an intense inwardness.((For an insightful account of this transitional role of the song, see Peter Reevers, Mahlers Lieder: Ein musikalischer Werkführer (München: C.H. Beck, 2000), 93–94.)) This was followed by seven settings of texts by Rückert in which Mahler’s new handling of the genre is established: three that eventually formed part of the Kindertotentlieder and four that were published separately. In a chapter about the latter group,  Stephen Hefling notes the way in which Rückert’s long study of Persian and Turkish literature had in particular influenced the ‘recurring liquidescent ‘l’ in the text of ‘Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft’,((This lyric was published under the title ‘Dank für den Lindenzweig‘ in the third edition of Rückert’s Haus- und Jahreslieder, Erster Band in Gesammelte Gedichte, Fünfter Band, (Erlangen: Carl Heyder, 1838), 265. It is no. 36 of the poems composed between May and July 1833, though whether this was its first appearance in print is unclear. I am grateful to Emily Ezust (The LiederNet Archive) for help in tracing this publication, a facsimile of which is available online [accessed 22.05.2020].)) and that additionally in ‘Ich bin der Welt ahbanden gekommen’ the anhemitonic pentatonic scale (a five-note scale that excludes the interval of a semi-tone) is((Stephen H. Hefling, ‘The Rückert Lieder’, in The Mahler Companion, ed. Donald Mitchell and Andrew Nicholson (Oxford: OUP, 1999), 354.))  

…exploited more extensively than in ‘Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft’. Yet, almost paradoxically, it is precisely the hybrid mixture of tonality and pentatonicism that infuses this piece with concentrated organic coherence…’.

So if Hefling is correct, Mahler – having for the first time confronted the possibility of his own imminent death – turned to a musical feature that was commonly associated with Chinese music, and which he would later exploited more overtly in Das Lied von der Erde. In fact there are two other features in ‘Ich atmet’ einen Linden Duft’ that foreshadow the later work: in bb. 4ff, the undulated thread of sound provided by a continuous flow of quavers above which melodic material is presented is a prefiguration of the radically pared-down texture of the opening of ‘Der Einsame im Herbst’, the second movement of Das Lied von der Erde; and the last chord, an added sixth, emerges naturally from the pentatonic elements just as does the same chord at the end of Das Lied. Even these modest parallels might encourage us to wonder what, in 1901, Mahler knew of Chinese music. Had he ever heard any? This question is further encouraged by an anecdote recorded by de La Grange:((Henry-Louis de La Grange, Gustav Mahler, Volume 4: A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911), (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 211 and note 391.)) towards the end of Mahler’s stay at Toblach, while he was in the final stages of drafting his new song-symphony, he was visited (probably on 21 July in 1908) by Paul Hammerschlag, his banker and friend. Years later Hammerschlag’s daughter Elisabeth Duschnitz told de La Grange that:

Hammerschlag heard Mahler expressing interest in China and Chinese music. When Hammerschlag returned to Vienna he went to a shop near the Sankt Stephan Cathedral and bought Mahler some phonograph cylinders of Chinese music recorded in China.

b&w photograph of Friedrich Hirth

Fig. 12
Friedrich Hirth
[c. 1908?]

Whether this anecdote does offer (as claimed by de La Grange) ‘clear proof that Mahler was not only reading about China, but had also listened to Chinese music during the same year that he was composing Das Lied von der Erde’((Ibid., p. 211; the shop concerned has not been identified, but the cylinders might have been from among the 46 issued by Edison Records in 1902. These were not recorded in China, but in San Francisco, and were aimed primarily at the Chinese market in the USA. Examples can be heard online at the UCSB Cylinder Archve (accessed 21.05.2020).)) is by no means obvious. Indeed it seems unlikely that the gift of these cylinders would have had much if any impact since at the time of Hammerschlag’s visit Mahler was probably close to completing orchestral drafts of all the movements except the last (which is dated 1 September 1908). But Mahler’s comments to Hammerschlag probably grew out of  discussions he had recently had with a new acquaintance, the leading sinologist Friedrich Hirth (1845–1927) who in 1902 had been appointed head of the Department of Chinese Studies at Columbia. These talks seem to have taken place shortly before the Mahlers returned to Europe at the end of the 1907/8 season, i.e. just weeks before Mahler began work on Das Lied.((Ibid., 161ff. The two men kept in touch: the Mahlers spent Christmas Eve 1909 with Hirth, listening to his reminiscences about China, and on 4 September 1910 Hirth visited Mahler in Munich at the start of the final rehearsals for the première of the Eighth Symphony (although it is not clear whether he stayed for the performances). See Ein Glück ohne Ruh’: Die Briefe Gustav Mahlers an Alma, ed. Henry-Louis de La Grange, Günther Weiß and Knud Martner (Berlin: Seidler Verlag, 1995), 459; Gustav Mahler, Letters to his Wife, ed. Henry-Louis de La Grange, Günther Weiß and Knud Martner, trs. Anthony Beaumont (London: Faber and Faber, 2004), 388.))

On the other hand, Hefling’s identification of pentatonic elements in two of the Rückert songs raises the possibility that by 1901 Mahler had already heard music from a non-European tradition in which pentatonicism was a prominent element. There was at least one occasion when this might have been possible: the Paris Exhibition of 1900. Unfortunately few letters survive from Mahler’s trip to the city with the Vienna Philharmonic((See Henry-Louis de La Grange, Gustav Mahler, Volume 2, Vienna: the Years of Challenge (1897–1904) (Oxford: OUP, 1995), 255ff. for details of this project, the first international trip made by the orchestra.)) and the only reference to the Exposition is in a letter to his sister, Justine, from which it appears that on the evening of the 18 June he visited the event, but gives no details of any displays or performances.((»Liebste Justi!« Briefe an die Famile, ed. Stephen McClatchie (Bonn, Weidle Verlag, 2006), 458; The Mahler Family Letters, ed., trs. and edited by Stephen McClatchie (Oxford, OUP, 2006), 336.)) Alternatively Mahler might have heard Chinese music in New York in 1907–08: Hirth may have been able to provide access to either live performances (although the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) had restricted the New York community to only about 7000) or the Edison cylinders. However, even though there is no conclusive evidence that Mahler had heard authentic Chinese music before he began work on Das Lied von der Erde, he would have been well aware of the musical devices that Western musicians used to evoke the Far East and there is no doubt that, as Hefling and others suggest, pentatonic phrases appear in and contribute to the organic connectedness of Das Lied.

The most overt example of the use of anhemitonic material is at the opening of the third song, Von der Jugend, that in bb. 1–5 uses an entirely pentatonic melody to decorate the opening dominant pedal, leading into an extended 28-bar passage in B flat major (bb. 6–34) that is (with the exception of two pitches in b. 24) entirely diatonic.((All major scales include two anhemitonic pentatonic scales beginning on the tonic and the dominant respectively.)) With no modulations or transitions this is succeeded by new material in a steadfastly diatonic G major and then E major. However, as Fig. 11 seeks to show, the predominance of diatonic material is challenged by the setting of the initial description of the reflection in the lake. The shift to a more consistently chromatic and harmonically more varied texture is coupled with the first tempo changes in the song (Ruhiger (b. 70: calmer), Langsam (b. 78: slowly), Rit. (b. 84: getting slower), a tempo (aber noch langsam) (b. 86: in tempo (but still slow), Rit. (b. 89).  The lilting music here does not reinforce the oriental setting of the text, but can be construed as instead evoking an alternative vision of a seductive, eroticised European social life.  This ‘reflection’ is swiftly swept aside by the return of the pentatonic/diatonic material which, interestingly, never resolves fully onto a root-position tonic chord, but instead leaves an unresolved tonic 6-4 hanging in the air at the end.

Tabular summary of the tonal design of 'Von der Jugend'

Fig. 13
Summary of the musical design of ‘Von der Jugend’

Despite a rather different interpretative approach to the song, Francesca Draughon has usefully identified a parallel between ‘Von der Jugend’ and Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Elizabeth Bachofen-Echt (1912; D. 188):((Francesca Draughon, ‘The Orientalist Reflection: Temporality, Reality, and Illusion in Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde‘, in Germany and the Imagined East, ed. Lee. M. Roberts (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2005), 159–173. At least two other Klimt portraits use oriental references in a similar way: those of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912, D.177) and Fredericke Maria Beer (1916; D.196). (The D numbers refer to the catalogue entries in Fritz Novotny, Johannes Dobai, Gustav Klimt (Salzburg: Galerie Welz, 1975).)) according to my reading, in both works the musical or visual centre (an evocation of European society through musical features in one, a portrait of a woman in Viennese couture in the other) is framed by musical or visual references to the Orient. Interestingly, Klimt’s portrait post-dates the first performance of Das Lied von der Erde (Munich, 20 November 1911, under Bruno Walter) and possibly the Austrian première (19 March 1912, under  Julius von Weis-Ostborn).

Hans Bethge and Mahler never met and were not in touch with one another. This created a temporary problem because neither Mahler nor his publisher, Universal-Edition, thought to contact Bethge in connection with the printing and performance of Mahler’s reworkings of Bethge’s Nachdichtungen. Soon after the vocal score was published in November 1911 Bethge became aware of, and was unhappy about, Mahler’s use and treatment of his texts, and Universal-Edition made changes to the score:  a rewording of the title page (the text was now described as being ‘after Hans Bethge’s “Die chinesische Flöte”’) and two additional pages in the vocal score that juxtaposed Bethge’s and Mahler’s versions, with a note:

Gustav Mahler, der die Texte seines Werkes “Das Lied von der Erde”, der Gedichtsammlung “Die chinesische Flöte”, Nachdichtung chinesischer Lyrik von Hans Bethge (Inselverlag zu Leipzig) entnahm, hat Änderungen in diesen Gedichten vorgenommen. Die Gegenüberstellung der Gedichte in Originalgestalt und in der Fassung Gustav Mahlers entspricht einem Wunsche Hans Bethges und wird zweifellos allgemeines Interesse erregen. Gustav Mahler, who took the texts of his work “Das Lied von der Erde”, from the collection of poems “The Chinese Flute”, adaptations of Chinese lyrics by Hans Bethge (Insel Verlag, Leipzig), made alterations in these poems. The juxtaposition of these poems in their original form and in Mahler’s version reflects the wish of Hans Bethge and will doubtless be of general interest.

The rewording of the title page was also adopted in the first editions of the full and study scores issued c. April and May 1912 respectively, but these did not include the pages juxtaposing the two versions of the texts.((It is not clear whether these extra pages were retained in later impressions of the vocal score, and if so, for how long. It is likely that some sort of financial settlement would also have been involved if Bethge’s rights had been infringed.)) Despite his initial reservation, when Bethge got to know Mahler’s work he developed an enormous admiration for it. In 1921/22 he dedicated an edition of another collection of ‘Nachdichtungen Chinesischer Lyrik’, Pfirsichblüten aus China,((Hans Bethge, Pfirsichblüten aus China: Nachdichtungen Chinesischer Lyrik,  Mit 6 Originallithographien von Georg A. Mathéy (Berlin: Ernst Rowohlt Verlag, 1922). The copyright date is given as 1921.)) to Mahler’s memory, and the following year published a sumptuous, illustrated edition of the texts of Das Lied von der Erde (Hans Bethge. Lieder nach dem Chinesischen zur Symphonie Das Lied von der Erde von Gustav Mahler. Mit Radierungen von Robert Genin. (Berlin: Gyldendal, 1923 [a limited edition of 250 copies]) with an extended note about the Symphony.((See Eberhard Bethge, ‘Hans Bethge and Das Lied von der Erde’, News About Mahler Research, 35 (1996), 15–21, which includes a translation of Bethge’s note about the work.))


Mahler’s last three years were busy, productive and included perhaps the most successful première of any of his works: that of the Eighth Symphony. But during the last eighteen months Mahler was faced with professional and personal crises unlike any he had previously encountered. A new annual pattern was established for Mahler, Alma, their surviving daughter, Anna, and her English nurse, Miss Taylor, in 1907. After Mahler had conducted his final opera performances in Vienna at the start of the 1907–08 season, he undertook a short concert tour (St Petersburg and Helsinki) before the party left Europe in November for the new season in New York. In the recent past Mahler had used the winter months to prepare the fair copy of whatever he had drafted during the summer, but that pattern was probably only resumed in the autumn of 1908, when presumably he worked on the (undated) full score of Das Lied von der Erde in spare time when he was not preparing or conducting opera performances at the Metropolitan Opera House, or concerts with the New York Symphony Orchestra.((One of the latter, on 8 December 1908, included the US première of his Second Symphony.))

The summer of 1909 was devoted largely to the composition of the Ninth Symphony and Mahler certainly took the drafts to New York in the autumn, and it was there that he completed the full score. Nevertheless, it is likely that at the same time Mahler was preparing his Suite aus den Orchesterwerken von. Joh. Seb. Bach which was performed for the first time (with Mahler playing a Steinway baby grand modified to sound like a harpsichord) on 10 November, at the Carnegie Hall, New York. After a successful but tiring season mainly conducting concerts with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Mahler returned to Europe to give the French première of his Second Symphony in Paris (17 April 1910) before travelling on to Rome for three concerts.((For an admirably detailed account of these travels, see Henry-Louis de la Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 724ff.; see also Helmut Brenner, Reinhold Kubik, Mahlers Welt: Die Orte Seines Lebens (St. Polten: Residenz Verlag, 2011, 344–47.)) The trip back to Europe began with an Atlantic crossing that because of bad weather, was prolonged by a day: as a result Mahler missed the first of his four scheduled rehearsals in Paris. At first Mahler seems to have been ill at ease and irritable both at rehearsals and social gatherings – in part, no doubt because his command of French was poor – but after the performance the audience was enthusiastic and the reviews generally positive. ((See the extracts cited by de La Grange. However, Alma’s story that Debussy walked out of the performance, often dismissed in the past as implausible, was independently confirmed many years later (see de La Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 733, fn. 67 and 742, fn. 86) and many of his fellow countrymen to a greater or a lesser extent shared Debussy’s general antipathy towards German music.))

On 19 April the Mahlers travelled from Paris to Rome, where Gustav was contracted to conduct three concerts by the Accademia di Santa Cecilia at the huge Augusteo concert hall on 28 April, 1 and 5 May. He was shocked by the artistic situation he encountered: many of the best players were absent and the whole ensemble was undisciplined and uncooperative.  The situation provoked a serious disagreement with Alma, who urged her husband to fulfil the contract: he ignored her advice and cancelled the third concert.((See de La Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 757 ff.)) In part, the professional problems may have again been linguistic, as Mahler’s Italian seems to have been even more rudimentary than his French, but it is also likely that the anxieties (artistic and logistical) surrounding the daunting schedule of rehearsals of the Eighth that had to take place before and immediately after the summer break, were taking their toll. Apart from anything else casting the solo parts proved difficult, and Mahler was unable to decide on the singer for the crucial and demanding tenor role.((One solution Mahler considered was to have two tenors: Felix Senius (1868–1913), a lyric tenor, in Part I and Heinrich Knote (1870–1953), a Heldentenor (the Tristan in Mahler’s performances at the Metropolitan Opera in 1908) in Part II: despite the acoustic limitations it is instructive to compare their recordings (a good selection is available on YouTube). After rehearsing with Senius in June 1910 Mahler decided that he would also be ‘adequate’ for Part II, and commented on his ‘wonderful sense of style’ (de La Grange, op. cit., 804).))

Gustav and Alma arrived back in Vienna on 3 May, where he met with Emil Gutmann, the impresario who was organising (and seed-funding) the preparations for and première of the Eighth. The Wiener Singverein, conducted by Franz Schalk, had already agreed to participate, and Mahler attended many (perhaps all) of their rehearsals while he was in the city.((Schoenberg and Berg were invited to attend these rehearsals. (See de La Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 773 ff., for a detailed narrative of the preparations.).)) However, Mahler was satisfied neither with the attendance nor the progress the choir had made, as he made clear when writing to Gutmann early in June: he was still not convinced the performance could go ahead. Fortunately the other mixed choir involved, the Reidel-Verein Choir trained by the Mahler enthusiast Georg Göhler, was well prepared when Mahler heard them in Leipzig c. 11 June.((It is perhaps worth remembering that unless they had managed to buy their own copy of the vocal score, members of both the main choirs would have been learning and singing from vocal parts, not a chorus score of any sort.)) From there he travelled on to Munich for rehearsals with the children’s chorus, orchestra and the soloists.

Mahler quickly realised that the U.E. staff copyist, Karl Kornfeld, had notated the orchestral parts in a way that rendered the set almost unusable for rehearsal, so he had to correct them all.((Ein Glück ohne Ruh’: Die Briefe Gustav Mahlers an Alma, ed. Henry-Louis de La Grange, Günther Weiß and Knud Martner (Berlin: Seidler Verlag, 1995), 428–29; Gustav Mahler: Letters to his Wife, ed. Henry-Louis de La Grange, Günther Weiß and Knud Martner, trs. Anthony Beaumont (London: Faber and Faber, 2004), 360–61; according to the notes to the German edition, Mahler made such a fuss about these parts that Kornfeld was dismissed by UE. Be that as it may, very similar problems emerged in 1912 during rehearsals for another enormous work published by UE: Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder. See Christopher Hailey, Franz Schreker, 1878–1934: A cultural biography (Cambridge: CUP, 1993), 69.)) In the midst of these preparations Mahler’s father-in-law alerted him to the fact that Theobald Pollak – whose gift of Das Chinesische Flöte in 1907 had been so prescient – was seriously ill: Mahler immediately wrote a warm and compassionate letter to his old friend.((See de La Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 806. Pollak died of tuberculosis on 21 March 1912.))  Fortunately there was some good news: on 20 and 21 June the first rehearsals with the orchestra clearly pleased the composer – ‘it really does sound overwhelming’ – and a run-through with the soloists and orchestra on 23rd was ‘staggering’ despite the absence of the choirs.((Ein Glück ohne Ruh’: Die Briefe Gustav Mahlers an Alma, ed. Henry-Louis de La Grange, Günther Weiß and Knud Martner (Berlin: Seidler Verlag, 1995), 431–33; Gustav Mahler: Letters to his Wife, ed. Henry-Louis de La Grange, Günther Weiß and Knud Martner, trs. Anthony Beaumont (London: Faber and Faber, 2004), 363–65.)) It was as if even Mahler was surprised by the power and scope of the work, just as he had been four years earlier, when his letter to Willem Mengelberg announcing its completion had already used language that suggested that he was struggling to encapsulate in words his recent creative experience and the scale of the music that he had composed:((Gustav Mahler Briefe, Neuausgabe erweitert und revidiert von Herta Blaukopf, 2 Auflage (Wien: Paul Zsolnay Verlag, 1996), 335; Selected Letters of Gustav Mahler, ed. Knud Martner, trs. Eithne Wilkins, Ernst Kaiser and Bill Hopkins (London: Faber and Faber, 1979), 294 (revised).))

Ich habe eben meine 8. vollendet. – Es ist die Größte, was ich bis jetzt gemacht. Und so eigenartig in Inhalt und Form, daß ich darüber gar nicht schreiben läßt. – Denken Sie sich, daß das Universum zu tönen und zu klingen beginnt. Es sind nicht mehr menschlich[che] Stimmen, sondern Planaten und Sonnen, welche kreisen. I have just finished my Eighth. – It is the largest thing I have yet done, and so peculiar in content and form that it really is impossible to write anything about it. Try to imagine the whole universe beginning to ring and resound. These are no longer human voices, but planets and suns orbiting. 

The significance of this period of intense creative inspiration can perhaps be better understood if one recalls that the Seventh Symphony (1904–05) had had an uncertain gestation. But the intoxication that Mahler sought to express to Mengelberg, and later to Alma as he began to assemble the Eighth Symphony at the preliminary rehearsals, suggests that for Mahler the creative experience in the summer of 1906 may have had a rather deeper meaning, perhaps initiating a shift in his self-image to one in which his role as a re-creator (in which, as director of the Court Opera, he had considerable – but not omnipotent – power)  was to play a less significant role. If so, such a shift would help to account for both Mahler’s marked anxiety before the early rehearsals and his subsequent relief and excitement when the work finally came to life, especially if such a shift had been a factor in his decision, in early 1907, to resign from the Directorship.((Another specific factor in that decision could have been his inability in 1905 to overcome the Viennese Censor’s objection to the libretto of Strauss’s Salomé, a new work he believed to be of the highest artistic importance: see Henry-Louis de la Grange, Gustav Mahler: Vienna, Triumph and Disillusion (1904–1907) (Oxford: OUP, 1999), 247ff.))

By the end of June Mahler was feeling confident about the première of the work, but he was exhausted: writing to Alma on 21 June he commented ‘with all this exertion I simply must have peace and seclusion’ and two days later he expressed a similar sentiment, though now alluding to a sense of psychological dissociation: ‘I believe it will do me a power of good to “withdraw into myself” for a while – (I no longer know how things are inside myself).'((Ein Glück ohne Ruh’: Die Briefe Gustav Mahlers an Alma, ed. Henry-Louis de La Grange, Günther Weiß and Knud Martner (Berlin: Seidler Verlag, 1995), 432, 434.)) At the time Gustav and Alma had been apart for almost a month: while he was rehearsing she had been in the spa town of Tobelbad taking a ‘cure’ for  what she described as ‘hysteria’.((See Henry-Louis de la Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 777 and footnote 226.)) As soon as the rehearsals were completed Mahler travelled via Vienna to Tobelbad for a brief visit to Alma and Anna, before heading off to Toblach: it was there, on 7 July 1910, that he celebrated his 50th birthday alone. He received many messages and birthday greetings, including a book of tributes edited by Paul Stefan.((Paul Stefan, Gustav Mahler, Ein Bild seiner Persönlichkeit in Widmungen, (Munich: Piper, 1910). Mahler may actually have seen a copy only when he returned to Munich in September.)) When discussing the many messages Mahler received de La Grange, writes ‘…[these] must have brought him some sort of consolation. To an extent it may have compensated for the lack of interest shown by orchestras towards his music.'((Henry-Louis de la Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life cut short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 830.)) That as a composer Mahler was controversial is undoubtedly true, but the notion that there was a ‘lack of interest’ in his music needs to be qualified. According to my database of Mahler performances (a work still ‘in progress’ after twenty years), in the ten concert seasons 1900/01–1909/10 a minimum of 211 orchestral concerts directed by conductors other than Mahler and which included a complete symphony (151 concerts), or movements therefrom and/or at least one of his vocal works with orchestral accompaniment, were given in Europe, the United States and China. The eighty-five conductors range in reputation from that of a local Kapellmeister to international maestros:  see Appendix IV for details.

Although Mahler had hoped to be undistracted while at Toblach, he was disappointed: replying to all the birthday messages proved burdensome, and soon he was dealing with administrative matters in connection with the upcoming season of the New York Philharmonic and the final rehearsals for the Eighth, as well as a new contract with Universal-Edition. Nevertheless, probably about 16 July, he started work on the Tenth Symphony, and around same time Alma joined him.((De La Grange was firmly of the opinion that it was ‘highly unlikely’ that Mahler could have drafted so much of the new work in July and August 1910 unless he had already ‘prepared quite a number of preliminary sketches’. (Henry-Louis de la Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 1453. No such ‘preliminary sketches’ have been located and none of the manuscripts that have been traced are dated. It is worth recalling that the Eighth Symphony was drafted in six weeks.)) It was at the end of the month that whatever sense he had of ‘normality’ was destroyed when he received a letter written by a young architect, Walter Gropius (1883–1969), which revealed that while Alma was at Tobelbad Gropius had begun a passionate affair with her.((See Jürg Rothkamm, Gustav Mahler’s Zehnte Symphony: Enstehung, Analyse, Rezeption (Frankfurt am Main etc.: Peter Lang, 2003), 34ff. for an excellent account of these events, and how they impacted on the Tenth Symphony; also Henry-Louis de la Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 821ff.)) Mahler was understandably devastated, remorseful for his neglect of Alma, and especially his infamous insistence that when they married she would have to give up composing. He now took a renewed interest in her songs, suggesting revisions, encouraged their performance, and also publication by UE (1910).((Henry-Louis de la Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 1105.)) He also wrote a number of poems addressed to Alma, and requested (c. 9 August) that a dedication ‘Meiner lieben Frau Alma Maria’ be added to the vocal score of the Eighth Symphony.((Gustav Mahler, Briefe an seine Verleger, ed. Franz Willnauer (Vienna: Universal Edition, 2012), letter 25 [recte: 24], p. 229.))

During the rest of August Mahler continued to deal with the planning for the première in Munich, and with work on the Tenth, but, unlike Alma (who could confide in both her mother and Gropius), Mahler was confronting the crisis on his own. He eventually took the decision to seek Freud’s help in resolving his psychological turmoil, but was anxious about their planned meeting, and according to Freud he cancelled it three times. Part of the problem was, no doubt, that the appointment required an extended rail journey from the Tyrol to Leiden in northern Holland (where Freud was on vacation) and the whole trip took three days (25–28 August) at a time when Mahler was still trying to work on the Tenth Symphony. Freud broke with his usual therapeutic practice and conducted the four-hour session while the two men walked around the Dutch town. Mahler clearly found the discussion helpful, and returned to Austria in better (though fluctuating) spirits.((For an admirably detailed account, see Henry-Louis de la Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 883ff.))

Because of the trip to Leiden Mahler cancelled a planned visit to Vienna (to rehearse the Singverein choir and soloists) and travelled directly to Munich on 3 September where he immediately fell ill with tonsillitis. Nevertheless, he proceeded with the rest of the gruelling  rehearsal schedule as planned, and was rewarded with an unusually warm reception when he stepped onto the platform for the first performance on 12 September (one account reports that the whole audience joined the performers in standing to mark his appearance) and enthusiastic ovations at the end of both performances. With some exceptions the reviews were very favourable, and it soon became clear that the work had struck a chord. Numerous organisations began the arduous artistic, logistical and financial planning necessary to mount performances: between 1912 and the outbreak of the First World War (August 1914) at least thirty-seven further performances were given in Germany, Austro-Hungary, Holland and Switzerland.((Details of these, with links to selected announcements, reports and reviews are available online.)) Even the smallest-scale event required local collaboration, but regional and even international partnerships were also established. The former is well exemplified by the two performances in Coblenz and Bonn (8, 11 November 1912)), the latter, by the opening concert of the Geistliches Musikfest in Frankfurt on 3 April 1912. This used 2000 performers from Frankfurt and Amsterdam under the direction of Willem Mengelberg. In some cases the internal layout of the venue had to be adapted (e.g. for the performances at the Zircus Schumann in Berlin (17, 18, 19 May 1912), and for the performance in Breslau (21 September 1913) what was claimed to be the largest pipe organ in the world was installed in the just-completed Centennial Hall.((Description of the organ: Rigasche Rundschau, 12.09.1913, 7; Berliner Volks-Zeitung, No. 443 (21.09.1913), 2. Beiblatt, p. 1.)) If the content of the work itself captured the mood of the time, particularly among German-speakers, the challenges it posed also seem to have been welcomed as offering opportunities for the demonstration of organisational, financial and artistic strengths.

Following the première of the Eighth the Mahler’s returned to Vienna where they went house hunting for (and found) a property in Semmering that in the future could be their base while in Austria. Mahler met up with younger colleagues, including Berg and Schoenberg (he anonymously purchased three of the latter’s paintings during the trip), and attended the first night of Erich Korngold’s ballet Der Schneemann (orchestrated by Zemlinsky) before setting out for New York. The new season with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra began on 1 November and included tours in early December (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica), January (Philadelphia and Washington) and February (Springfield and Hartford). During these months Mahler was also revising his Fourth Symphony (in preparation for performances on 17 and 20 January 1911) and re-orchestrated the Fifth Symphony, but he seems to have done no further work on the Tenth.

On a personal level, Gustav and Alma had apparently found a satisfactory modus vivendi (although Alma was  maintaining a clandestine correspondence with Gropius), and professionally Mahler had a generally fruitful relationship with the orchestra’s musicians. But relations with the orchestra’s sponsors were less harmonious: Mahler rejected their requirement that he conduct an additional 20 concerts in addition to the 45 specified in his contract: this went to arbitration and Mahler’s position was upheld. However, other administrative changes proposed by the funders appeared to threaten Mahler’s artistic autonomy, and although it seems likely that he planned to return the following season, nothing was finalised by the end of February 1911.((See Henry-Louis de la Grange, Gustav Mahler. A New Life Cut Short (1907–1911) (Oxford: OUP, 2008), chapter 10 for an admirably detailed account of this period.)) Up to this point Mahler’s health had been generally good but on 20th February he was suffering a sore throat and a temperature. Nevertheless he insisted on taking the rehearsal for a concert of Italian music that was to include the first performance of Busoni’s Berceuse élégiaque, and after the rehearsal the two men, who had known one another for many years, met for dinner. Despite his doctor’s advice Mahler insisted on conducting the concert the following day, and it turned out to be his last. A streptococcal infection had taken hold and by mid-March Mahler understood that his condition was hopeless. He and Alma, Anna and Anna Moll (his mother-in-law) sailed back to Europe at the end of the month: by coincidence Busoni was also onboard, and was profoundly moved by Mahler’s plight. The Mahlers travelled first to Paris to visit a specialist in the forlorn hope that there might be some possible remedy, but he could offer no hope: the family returned to Vienna where Mahler died on 18 May 1911.

Mahler left three major works to a greater or lesser degree unfinished. Das Lied von der Erde and the Ninth Symphony existed as complete autograph fair copies of the full scores, but as Mahler had made clear to his publisher, Hertzka, until he had conducted a work (and refined all aspects of the score during rehearsals) it could not be considered ‘finished’.((Gustav Mahler, Briefe an seine Verleger, ed. Franz Willnauer (Vienna: Universal Edition, 2012), 233–34. Universal-Edition were anxious to market these two works, but as Mahler pointed out, his contract with UE specifically reserved the right of first performance to him.)) Although all five movements of the Tenth Symphony had been drafted, they had reached different stages in the creative process and the work was much further away from Mahler’s conception of ‘completion’.

However, there was another aspect of Mahler’s artistic legacy that was left incomplete. During his career he had had formal artistic responsibility for concert series only briefly, while working at Hamburg and Vienna, and in both cases such activity was secondary to his main post as an opera conductor. Nevertheless, there were opportunities to conduct orchestral music by living composers: as can be seen from Appendix V some were already established figures (e.g. Brahms), while others were still relatively little-known (Bruckner). Although Mahler was also increasingly in demand as a guest concert conductor in the first decade of the 20th century, he performed mainly standard repertoire and/or his own music. However, from the start of the 1909/10 concert season Mahler had at his disposal the reformed New York Philharmonic Orchestra and as the Appendix shows, he began to explore a much wider range of new repertoire by European and American composers from various national schools. If he had lived longer and continued such programming, would he have persuaded the orchestra’s wealthy but conservative sponsors and its audiences to listen to new music? One can only speculate on what ‘might have been’ for the development of his own music, and for the dissemination of new music generally.


By 1911 the Kiatschou Bay concession in China was an active commercial centre.  However, from a military perspective it was vulnerable, as it would be difficult for Germany to provide speedy support for such a geographically remote outpost if the latter were attacked. That this might become an issue was signalled by the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1902,((The text of the 1902 Treaty is available online, and the Wikipedia entry (accessed 13.06.2020) offers a lucid and well-referenced account of the history of this Treaty.)) under which both countries recognised the other’s sphere of influence in the region (i.e. India and Korea respectively) and their rights to protect such interests (Article II).  Should either country be attacked, the other party would provide assistance (Article III). The Treaty was initially motivated by the two powers’ distrust of Russia’s ambitions in the region and the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05), in which Japan sought to protect its interests in Korea, had ended with crushing defeats for Russia on both land and sea. For Germany this outcome emphasised the exposed position of Tsingtau and its military garrison, especially in the event of a European war involving both Britain and Germany on opposing sides.

In the wake of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, and Serbia’s failure to respond to the resulting Austro-Hungarian ultimatum, Europe slithered towards war, and various treaties were invoked. When neutral Belgium was invaded by Germany, the 1839 Treaty of London came into play, and Great Britain declared war on 4 August. This in turn triggered the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Treaty, and on 6 August Japan demanded that the Kiatschou concession should be handed over unconditionally and undamaged to Japan by 15 December. No response was received and on 27 August Kiatschou Bay was blockaded by a Japanese fleet, and a force of 50-60,000 troops were landed and surrounded Tsingtau, which was defended by about 3,500 German soldiers and marines.((German women (and one hopes, their children) had presumably already been evacuated to Peking and Tientsin: see the entry for 8 November in Edith von Maltzan, Briefe aus China an ihre Eltern Hermann und Carola Grusen sowie Tagebuch-Aufzeichnungen 1914–1917 (Munich: privately printed, 1986), 59.)) Despite the odds, it was only on 7 November – when all ammunition was exhausted – that the white flag was raised.((This narrative is in part based on Joachim Schultz-Naumann, Unter Kaisers Flagge: Deutschlands Schutzgebiete im Pazific und in China einst und heute (München: Universitas Verlag, 1985), 204–11, but this citation is in no sense an endorsement of the volume’s attempted rehabilitation of militarism and colonialism.)) Two days later, the official ceremony for the German troops killed in the conflict took place, an event was recorded in the diary of C.J. Voskamp (1859–1937) a German missionary based in Tsingtau:((C.J. Voskamp, Aus dem belagerten Tsingtau. Tagebuchblätter (Berlin: Buchhandlung der Berliner evang. Missionsgesellschaft, 1915), 137.))

9. November. Heute um 5 Uhr war auf dem Friedhofe eine Totenfeier. Da standen im großen Karree unsere braven Leute fertig zum Auszug nach Japan….Zum letzten Male spielte die berümte Kapelle des III. Seebataillons, und ein tiefer Unterton des Schmerzes und der Traurigkeit klang durch die Akkorde der Choralmusik hindurch. In langen Massengräbern, mit Tannengrün bedeckt, lagen die Gefallenen da. November 9th. At 5 o’clock today there was a funeral at the cemetery. There in the large square our good people stood, ready to move to Japan…. For the last time the famous band of the III. Naval Battalion played, and a deep undertone of pain and sadness sounded through the harmonies of the hymns. The dead lay there in long mass graves, covered with pine branches.

By late November German civilians were being allowed to leave, and arrived in Peking.((See Edith von Maltzan, Briefe aus China an ihre Eltern Hermann und Carola Grusen sowie Tagebuch-Aufzeichnungen 1914–1917 (Munich: privately printed, 1986), 60.)) Interestingly, after the surrender the members of the various military bands active in Tsingtau were treated differently. Most, including reservists who had joined the III Seebataillion when mobilised on 1 August, were deemed prisoners of war and taken to POW camps in Japan where they remained for at least five years.((For details relating to those in the III Seebataillon, see Appendix II. One ex-member of the Kapelle, Johann Jesse, died on 10 November 1914 (causes unspecified) and was buried at Tsingtau.)) But the majority of the senior ranks in the Kapelle served as medical orderlies during the siege and were classified as non-combatants and allowed to travel to Tientsin.((See Edmund A. Bowles, ‘From Tsing-Tau to Fort Oglethorpe: The Peregrinations of a German Military Band during World War I’, Journal of Band Research 44/1 (Fall 2008), 5. However, war-work as a medical orderly apparently did not of itself ensure a ‘non-com’ classification: at least two ex-members of the Kapelle who undertook such work, Maximillian Krüsel and Richard Nitschke, were prisoners of war until 1919.))

In earlier years the Kapelle had given several concerts at Tientsin, but it is not clear whether it did so during its enforced visit. However, on 11 April 1915 the band gave a concert in Peking attended by Edith von Maltzan, the wife of the First Secretary of the German Embassy:((Edith von Maltzan, Briefe aus China an ihre Eltern Hermann und Carola Grusen sowie Tagebuch-Aufzeichnungen 1914–1917 (Munich: privately printed, 1986), 93.))

Am vergangenen Sonntag war abends bei uns im Détachement ein groβes Konzert von der Tsingtauer Militär-Kapelle, welche jetzt aber in Tientsin  stationiert ist. Es war das „Dritte Seebataillon” aus Tsingtau unter der Leitung von O.K. Wille. This past Sunday (11 April) in the foreign enclave (Detachment) here in Peking, there was a big concert by the Tsing-Tau Military Band, which is now based in Tientsin. It was the ‘Third Naval Batallion’ from Tsing-Tau under the direction of O.K. Wille.

Presumably the members of the ensemble were being supported by the German Embassy and/or the Red Cross, but may also have been able to generate some additional income through other performances. The reference to a ‘big concert’ might suggest that the ensemble was substantial in size, but at present there is no evidence to hand that it included many Hoboisten-Seesoldaten, most of whom were POWs. When, on 5 June Wille, his family and thirty-six members of the band boarded the S.S. Siberia (an American-owned, and therefore neutral vessel) at Shanghai,((Edmund Bowles (‘From Tsing-Tau to Fort Oglethorpe: The Peregrinations of a German Military Band during World War I’, Journal of Band Research 44/1 (Fall 2008), 5.) gives the number of band members who embarked as twenty-six.)) the ensemble included only three rank-and-file players, Bammel, Köppen and Mende, who remained with the band. One other German musician on the Siberia manifest, Max Zach, was not originally a member of the band at all, having served as Oberhoboistenmaat on the gunship Iltis, but he became a permanent member of the ensemble for its travels in the USA.((See also Appendix II.)) So the band that travelled with Wille was rather smaller than the ensemble of fifty or so musicians he had at at his disposal in the final years of the German presence in Tsingtau.

A glimpse of what conditions may have been like on this voyage of over three weeks can be gleaned from one of Edith von Matzlan’s later letters:((Edith von Maltzan, Briefe aus China an ihre Eltern Hermann und Carola Grusen sowie Tagebuch-Aufzeichnungen 1914–1917 (Munich: privately printed, 1986), 97. The Frau von Pappenheim mentioned in the letter did not travel on the Siberia.))

[Frau von Pappenheim] wird doch Ende dieses Monats zurück nach Deutschland reisen, und zwar über Amerika…Sie schliesst sich einen Transport für Frauen und Kinder an. Wie ich bereits mal schreibt, sind solche Transporte von der deutschen Regierung eingerichtet worden, um haupsächlich die Tsingtauer Damen mit ihren Kindern und die Weiblichen Angehörigen der in Japan gefangenen gehaltenen Männer zurück nach Deutschland zu bringen…….Diese Reise ist jetzt sehr unkomfortable und beschwerlich. Es verkehren nur wenige und schlechte Schiffe, die dann obendrein auch immer uberfühllt sind, so daβ die Damen zu dritt oder viert eine Kabine teilen müssen. Von hier bis Berlin unter Umständen 2 bis 3 Monate und auch gar nicht ungefährlich wegen die Minen in der Nordsee.
[Frau von Pappenheim] will travel back to Germany later this month, via America … She will join a transport for women and children. As I have written before, such transports have been set up by the German government to bring the Tsingtau women with their children and the relatives of the men held in Japan back to Germany mainly … This trip is now very uncomfortable and arduous . There are only a few and bad ships that are always overcrowded, so that the women have to share a cabin with three or four people. From here to Berlin it could take 2 to 3 months and not at without risk because of the mines in the North Sea.

The Tsingtau party disembarked at San Francisco on or about 29 June and were all described on the ‘List or Manifest of Alien Passengers’ as ‘Passing through U.S.A. for Germany’ with Wilhelmshaven as their port of destination.((A facsimile of the relevant Manifest that documents their journey is available online from Ancestry (subscription required).)) The majority of the 102 refugees from Tsingtau were doctors and nurses from the colony and the San Francisco Examiner reported that they all left for the East Coast on 29 June.((San Francisco Examiner, 30 June 1915, 3. This and (unless otherwise stated) all other US newspapers referred to in this section can be accessed on (subscription required).)) However, the Tsingtau Band/Orchestra seems not to have been in a hurry to return to Europe, and the same article reported that:((The overestimate of the size of the Tsingtau Band was presumably the result of an error or misunderstanding.))

The party was also accompanied by a band of forty-five pieces, which has the reputation of being the finest band in the Orient, It is under the leadership of Major Otto Willy [sic], and may remain in San Francisco to play at the Exposition.

Wille was obviously alert to a good opportunity for promoting the band in the USA, but no reports of a performance at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition or on the West Coast generally have been traced so far,((For a suggestion (which can probably be discounted) that the band began it US ‘tour’ in California, see Edmund A. Bowles, ‘From Tsing-Tau to Fort Oglethorpe: The Peregrinations of a German Military Band during World War I’, Journal of Band Research 44/1 (Fall 2008), 6.)) and later newspaper articles confirm that the band travelled to or was soon removed to New York.((The Passaic Daily News, 25.iv.1916, 13, reports that they were interned on arrival at New York on 3 July. Hedwig Wille was the only woman in the party, and it is not clear whether she and the children remained in America, or travelled on to Germany. The latter seems more likely because she did not travel back to Europe with the rest of the Tsingtau group in 1919 (see below).)) A detailed but not entirely accurate account of this process and the background to it appeared in early October 1915:((Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 3 October 1915, 43; the same article was carried by the The Chat, 9 October 1915. It repeats the reference to a performance in Tokio and, as in the San Francisco Examiner, the size of the ensemble is over-estimated.))

Jointly with Tsingtau Symphony Orchestra, which is interned on board the Hapag steamer President Lincoln, the Brooklyn Saengerbund will give a big concert at the Academy of Music about the end of October. The orchestra is a German marine band of over forty pieces and has given philharmonic concerts at Shanghai, Pekin [sic], Tsingtau and even Tokio….When Tsingtau was lost the musicians were brought to the United States with members of the Tsingtau Hospital Corps. The Japanese . . .  gave them passports to the United States instead of making them prisoners of the war. When the musicians arrived in this country, however, they could not obtain passports that would have allowed them to continue their trip to the fatherland. As a result they were interned in Hoboken.

The concert will be given for the benefit of the fund collected by the physicians committee of the local German-Americans…The Brooklyn Saengerbund volunteered to assist the Tsingtau musicians.

The S.S. President Lincoln (owned by the Hamburg-Amerika Linie (HAPAG)), had been berthed at Hoboken since its last Atlantic crossing in July 1914:((Built in Scotland, the vessel was acquired by HAPAG in 1907; it was requisitioned by the USA in 1917 for use as a troop transport ship and was sunk by U-90 on 31 May 1918, with the loss of 26 lives. See, accessed 29.07.2020.)) after the outbreak of the war in Europe all German shipping was liable for attack or seizure by the British Royal Navy, so where possible such vessels remained in American ports with many of their crews living on board.((By mid-August 1914 an American syndicate had offered $20,000,000 for HAPAG’s fifteen vessels in American ports, including the thirteen at Hoboken (see The Sun, 16 August 1914, 7); it would appear that this offer was not accepted.)) That the members of the Tsingtau band were probably being accommodated in the President Lincoln by late August 1914 is made clear by a newspaper report published in early September:((Middletown Times-Press, 2 September 1915, 6. The size of the ensemble (including Wille) is correctly reported.))

[T]he chief medical officer at Ellis Island, and … the health officer of the port, are convinced that the eighteen cases of illness aboard the steamship President Lincoln, tied up at the Hamburg-American pier, were not Asiatic cholera, as originally was suspected….

It seems that three of the thirty-seven musicians who came from Tsingtau were the first who were taken ill….”[T]he cases were simply mild ptomaline [i.e. food] poisoning.”

It is possible that such press reports had alerted local German-Americans to the presence of the band at Hoboken, and that the proposed  collaboration between the Saengerbund and the interned band was the result. However, it was not until 28 November that the event took place when it was described as a ‘Grand Concert with Ball’ (for details of all the public performances by the Band in the US that have been traced to date, see Appendix IIIb). In the early months of 1916 the ensemble made a few more appearances at increasingly prestigious venues in New York – a parish hall on Madison Avenue, Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden – before topping the bill at the New York Hippodrome alongside Sousa’s Band in April. Wille and his players must have made a positive impression and – aided no doubt by useful contacts – they were invited to both give a concert at Passaic, New Jersey,((In the case of this booking the crucial contact may have been Hans Ruser, under whose auspices the event was organised (see Passaic Daily News, 25 April 1916, 13). Ruser was Commodore of the HAPAG fleet and captain of the S.S. Vaterland (at the time of her completion in 1913, the largest passenger vessel in the world), which was also tied up at Hoboken. He therefore would have had an opportunity to hear, or hear of, the Tsingtau Band. For a transcript of a hearing at which he was questioned, at Ellis Island on 5 July 1917, see Jacqueline Burgin Painter, The German Invasion of Western North Carolina: A Pictorial History (The Overmountain Press, Johnson City TN, 1997), 106.)) and, more significantly, to make a series of twenty commercial recordings (all with military associations) for the Columbia Graphophone Company. These were issued on 10 double-sided 10-inch discs in the company’s ‘Ethnic’ series (see Appendix VI for a complete listing), one of which was advertised in the the January 1917 issue of the Columbia American-German catalogue (p. [2]).((A scan of the advertisement is reproduced at the end of Appendix VI. This is particularly valuable as it reproduces two photographs, of Wille and the band: the latter appears to show twenty-nine performers on stage.)) The discs themselves preserve very crisp and disciplined performances: the reputation of the band in this repertoire was clearly well-founded.

Behind the scenes there were also high-level negotiations afoot involving the German Embassy that were designed to allow the Tsingtau ensemble to appear more regularly in Chicago, and to perhaps to travel within the United States:((The Chicago Live Stock World, 1 July 1916, 1.))

Of great importance is Riverview’s announcement of the appearance there for a limited number of concerts, of the famous Tsingtau Orchestra Band of the Imperial German Third Marine Battalion of the Chinese forces of Germany, formerly stationed in China.

…[T]he Japanese Army, who, to their credit be it said, observed—more than any other nation, the niceties of the articles of the Geneva Compact,((This is probably intended as an anti-British comment, reflecting a not uncommon standpoint at the time in certain sections of the US press.)) in dealing with the prisoners which included the members of this wonderful band of musicians, who, though compelled to relinquish most of their military equipment were allowed to retain their orchestral instruments.

The engagement at Riverview was made possible by arrangements executed between the German and Austro-Hungarian Relief commission of this city and the German embassy, who, after long negotiations, consented to these special concerts, but under conditions expressly stipulating that this military band play in the United States for charitable purposes only; so, commencing on Saturday, July 1, their inaugural concert will be heard under the auspices of the German and Austro-Hungarian Relief association and for its benefit and in aid of the needy relatives of Illinois guardsmen now in the field [in Mexico].

The orchestra is under the leadership of O.H.[sic] Wille, who bears the title of Imperial German Master of Music.

This engagement in Chicago was to last for nearly two months (July–September) and presumably offered the Band a means of subsistence. Riverview Park was an extensive amusement complex (covering 74 acres) on the north side of Chicago (fl. 1904–1967)((There is an archive relating to the Park at the Newberry Library, Chicago.)) and the Orchestra normally gave two performances a day (afternoon (15:00) and evening (20:00)). From 20 September the ensemble was in St Louis, at the invitation of the St. Louis War Relief Bazaar Association, for a two-week booking at the Mission Inn where it was to give eighteen ‘Military’ concerts.

b&w photograph of the Tsingtau Band on stage at the Mission Inn, St Louis

Fig. 14
The Tsingtau Band at the Mission Inn, St Louis (September 1916). This photograph, together with  Fig. 15a–b offers strong evidence that the Band had developed a well-choreographed stage show.  A trimmed version of this photograph was used by Columbia to advertise the Band’s 1916 recordings:  see Appendix VI, p. 3.  (Reproduced by kind permission of the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous.)

From the press reports it would seem that at St Louis that the ensemble received its warmest welcome: it was greeted at the railroad station by a crowd of three hundred, and on the afternoon of 27 September  the Bäckermeister Verein hosted a car trip to the Sun Set Inn and a banquet.((Westliche Post, 26.ix.1916, 5; ibid. 28.ix.1916, 2; and Mississippi Blätter, 01.x.1916, 11.)) The local Deutsche Militär-Verein also supported the concerts, including the Band’s final performance on 30 September at which Wille was apprently presented with a comemorative pin/medal.((Westliche Post, 28 September 1916, 3. The Verein also organised a scheme to send a small gift and card to all members of the band spending Christmas 1916 on the President Lincoln (see Westliche Post, 14 December 1916, 7).))

Fig 15a. The obverse of the medal presented to O.K. Wille by the D.K.V. [Deutsche Kriegs-Verein?], St. Louis [BM]

Fig. 15b. The reverse of the medal presented to O.K. Wille by the D.K.V. [Deutsche Kriegs-Verein?], St. Louis [BM]

The final extended engagement seems to have been at Milwaukee, where the ensemble played every night for a week (2–15 October).((Wood County Reporter, 5 October 1916, 6.)) No performances later in 1916 have been traced, so presumably the players returned to the President Lincoln thereafter.

This falling-off in bookings may reflect shifts in the political climate in the US even before Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare (which was aimed chiefly at the North Atlantic supply routes) on 1 February 1917. However, Wille had continued to seek engagements, and successfully booked the band for a return visit to Passaic on 27 January 1917 and a short tour of three towns in Connecticut  New Britain,((The announcement was made in the Hartford Courant, 16 January 1917, 13, where the band was described as numbering 38 ‘pieces’.)) Hartford((Hartford Courant, 24 January 1917, 5.)) and Meriden –  on 4, 5 and 6 February respectively. Details of the last event were published in the Meriden Morning Record:((27 January 1917, 3.))

Germany’s Tsingtau Military band which was captured by the Japanese army and taken prisoner to Japan has been paroled in this country and Meriden people will have the good fortune Tuesday, February 6 to hear the noted musicians in a benefit concert at the town hall auditorium. In the band are 38 musicians, including Captain Heisler [?] and Lieutenant O.K. Wille, the conductor. They are the band of the German Third Sea battalion.

The concert will be given under the auspices of the German-Austro Hungarian relief committee which has conduct so many successful events….A fine programme… will be given by the orchestra which has been made up from players in the band.

The players were in the sanitary corps of the Tsingtau garrison. After a long siege on the part of the Japanese the garrison finally capitulated and troops were removed to Japan. Later they were paroled to America[,] Ambassador Bernstorff being accountable for their loyalty to the parole.((This narrative account is difficult to reconcile with the (admittedly poorly) documented movements of the band in 1914–15.)) They have been aboard the steamship Lincoln of the North German Lloyd line interned in Hoboken Wharf. Their expenses for the Meriden concert are very small because the only money they require is enough to keep them in food and clothing. The rest of the money raised at the concert will go direct to Germany to aid widows and orphans…..

However, on 3 February President Wilson addressed Congress to announce the breaking-off of diplomatic relations with Germany.  The same day the Tsingtau ensemble’s concert in Meriden was again advertised, accompanied by a report that tickets for half of the seats had already been sold, but the organising committee were subsequently informed that ‘Members of the Tsingtau orchestra, the organisation that had arranged to give a concert at the town hall auditorium … have been ordered to remain on the interned German liners in New York City’.((Meriden Morning Record, 6 February 1917, 8.)) A replacement programme, featuring two singers, Paul Morenzo (Manchester, NH)((Morenzo had previously been booked for the band’s Hartford concert.)) and Flora Mahler (New Haven, CT), and a violin prodigy, Allen Avrutin (New Haven, CT) was arranged and advertised at short notice. Press announcements of the Hartford cancellation (without explanation) by the German-American Alliance of Connecticut (presumably the organisation underwriting the concert) and that of the New Britain concert by the United German Societies were published on 4 February.((Hartford Courant, 4 February 1917, pp. 24, 27.)) The Tsingtau Band’s public career in the US was over.

On 6 April 1917, the day on which the US Congress declared war on Germany, the crew of the President Lincoln was interned and sent to initially to Ellis Island((See the annotation on the ‘List or Manifest of Alien Passengers’, which documents the internment of the Tsingtau Band and other residents left on-board, available online from Ancestry (subscription required). A good summary of these maritime issues (and the whole issue of the internment of enemy aliens by the US in general) is to be found in  Jeanne Glaubitz Cross and Ann K. D. Myers, ‘Orgelsdorfer Eulenspiegel and the German Internee Experience at Fort Oglethorpe, 1917–19′, The Georgia Historical Quarterly, XCVI/2, (Summer 2012), 233–234; see also William B. Glidden, ‘Internment Camps in America, 1917–1920’, Military Affairs 37/4, (December 1973), 137–141; Edmund A. Bowles, ‘From Tsing-Tau to Fort Oglethorpe: The Peregrinations of a German Military Band during World War I’, Journal of Band Research 44/1 (Fall 2008), 7.)) but the residents appear to have been detained on board the ship((See  Edmund A. Bowles, ‘From Tsing-Tau to Fort Oglethorpe: The Peregrinations of a German Military Band during World War I’, Journal of Band Research 44/1 (Fall 2008), footnote 23.)) and their details recorded on a ‘List or Manifest of Alien Passengers’ to document their status as interned enemy aliens. This list also has a rubber-stamped date – 21 June 1917 – next to the names of all the members of the band which probably records the date of their transportation to the Department of Labour Facility at the Mountain Park Hotel, Hot Springs, North Carolina.((This appears to be consistent with the arrival of 430 internees at the camp on 22 June 1917 (Jacqueline Burgin Painter, The German Invasion of Western North Carolina: A Pictorial History (The Overmountain Press, Johnson City TN, 1997), 106.) This is a well-researched account of the Hot Springs Internment Camp, and reproduces or transcribes many photographs and archival documents.))

Sepia photograph of Adolf Thierbach

Fig. 16. Adolf Thierbach
Self-Portrait (1917-18)
© Madison County Library, NC. Reproduced by kind permission.

Although relatively few narrative sources of information about the band’s stay at Hot Springs have been traced, a fascinating and detailed photographic record survives in an album at the Madison County Library, NC. It was created by Adolf Thierbach, a long-serving member of the Tsingtau Band: that, as an enemy alien, he had access to and was allowed the use of a camera seems surprising, but it presumably reflects the relatively benign regime that prevailed at the camp.(([Hermann] Adolf Thierbach was born in Berlin on 17 May 1883, the son of a carpenter and was a non-commissioned musician in the Kapelle des III. Seebataillons from 1908. After his release from internment in the USA in 1919 he returned to Berlin and in local directories he was listed as a musician; he died there on 18 February 1956. See Appendix II and his entry in Ancestry (subscription required).)) The images he created do not restrict themselves to the musicians at the camp, but include shots of the camp staff, the barracks, the ‘German Village’ created in the grounds of the hotel by the internees, field games (baseball?), the swimming pool (!) and the fire brigade. (The latter was particularly important as the Hotel burnt down three times in its history.)((See (accessed 12.08.2020).)) The contemporary press reports stress that life was relatively comfortable for the camp’s guests,((See for example the report from the Raleigh News and Observer, of 19 August 1917 (accessed 12.08.2020).)) and there seem to have been plenty of opportunities for music-making.((It is interesting to compare Hot Springs with another internment camp that boasted unusual facilities and a well-trained, largely ‘professional’ German orchestra: Alexandra Palace in north London. The band, conducted by Anton Wüst, numbered up to 44 players and regularly gave concerts, often in the Palace’s theatre. See Paul Barnfield, Rupert Ridgewell & Jennifer Taylor, Interned in Alexandra Palace – Wilhelm Reinhold Teuchert (n.p, Anglo-German Family History Society, 2019), and Rupert Ridgewell, Music behind barbed wire in World War One (accessed 28.10.2020).))

Some of the photographs capture aspects of the band’s self-presentation at its earlier concerts in the USA: a wind-and-brass ensemble of thirty-five or thirty-six players in a standard outfit and with distinctive drapes for the drums. and banners for the Fanfaren-trompeten (c.f. the 1917 Columbia advert for a recording by the band and Fig 14 above).

Photograph of the Tsingtau Kapelle, 1917-18. Woodwind, brass and percussion.

Fig. 17a. The Tsingtau Band, 1917–18
© Madison County Library, NC. Reproduced by kind permission.

Photograph of the Tsingtau Band, c. 1917-18.

Fig. 17b. The Tsingtau Band, 1917–18
© Madison County Library, NC. Reproduced by kind permission.

Other photographs show different ensembles, including an image (fig. 18) that Thierbach labelled ‘Nach einem Streichkonzert’ (lit. ‘After a string concert’). One might conjecture that he was well aware that there were wind instruments involved, but was drawing attention to the fact that the ensemble for this indoor performance included strings. Some of the players were no doubt drawn from the wider camp community. In this respect it is worth noting that when Hot Springs was repurposed in 1918 (see below) and the ships’ crews and members of the Tsingtau Orchestra sent to Fort Oglethorpe, a Seaman’s Orchestra (which certainly included a number of string players) was established alongside that Tsingtau ensemble. So, this photograph may well be evidence that the two musical groups had collaborated while at Hot Springs.

Fig. 18. ‘Nach einem Streichkonzert’: The Tsingtau Orchestra (with guests?), Hot Springs, 1917–18
© Madison County Library, NC. Reproduced by kind permission.


Unfortunately no details of the programmes of any of the concerts at Hot Springs have been traced, but figs 18 and 19 suggest that it is likely that the Tsingtau Band, which certainly must have had access to parts of at least some of its wind-ensemble library while touring in the US, may also have retained material for other combinations acquired while stationed in Tsingtau. Thierbach’s caption for fig. 19 below implies that this was an ensemble made up of members of staff of the camp, and the dress of the players (particularly the suited violinist and high collar of the flautist) lend some support for such an interpretation.

Fig. 19. ‘Amateur Band’, Hot Springs, NC, 1917–18
© Madison County Library, NC. Reproduced by kind permission.

Two further photographs provide  glimpses of the other participants at one of the Tsingtau Band’s outdoor ‘public’ performances: the audience. Standing and sitting on the grass are (presumably) fellow internees and members of camp staff, but in the background there is a cluster of listeners from the local community standing on the raised platform of the nearby Hot Springs railway station:((Jacqueline Burgin Painter, The German Invasion of Western North Carolina: A Pictorial History (The Overmountain Press, Johnson City TN, 1997), 39.))

[The Band] gave concerts — ones that wafted over stockade walls to the enjoyment of the town and visitors. People from Hot Springs and surrounding towns gathered on Sunday afternoons under the depot’s loading shed where they could look over the fence at bright crest-emblazoned pennants hanging from shiny trumpets and kettledrums. The band’s performances were likened to the Boston Symphony Orchestra by one news reporter. “Everyone brought their own chairs to those Sunday concerts — it was good music,” remembered Hot Springs native Alene Burgin Izlar decades later.

Fig. 20a. ‘Zuhörer beim Konzert’, Hot Springs, NC, 1917–18
© Madison County Library, NC. Reproduced by kind permission.

b&w photograph of people standing on the platform of a railway station to hear an outdoor concert of the Tsingtau Band

Fig. 20b. Concert audience on the station platform, Hot Springs, NC, 1917–18
© Madison County Library, NC. Reproduced by kind permission.

This rather comfortable form of captivity came to an end in 1918, when the internees were moved to other sites in the US, to make way for the building of a new hospital for returning US Army veterans.  By mid-June small numbers had already been relocated westwards for farm work in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma,((Painter, The German Invasion of Western North Carolina: A Pictorial History (The Overmountain Press, Johnson City TN, 1997), 67.)) but the majority – 2124 – were to be moved to the rather more rigorous custody of the War Department’s camp at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, beginning about 1 July.((Ashville Citizen Times, 15 June 1918, 2. Responsibility for the Hot Springs internees had already passed from the Department of Labour to the War Department on 30 June – see Painter, The German Invasion of Western North Carolina: A Pictorial History (The Overmountain Press, Johnson City TN, 1997), 105–06.)) This target date soon slipped back to 1 August because the facilities at Oglethorpe were not completed on time, but even before that internees began to fall ill, and by 5 August there were 110 cases of typhus at the Hot Springs Camp. Colonel Penrose, the Commanding Officer at Fort Oglethorpe requested that transfer of healthy prisoners be delayed, and it was not until 22 August that the first were shipped out; by 31 August all internees – except for 26 too ill to be moved – had been transferred.((This narrative is based on the detailed account in Jacqueline Burgin Painter, The German Invasion of Western North Carolina: A Pictorial History (The Overmountain Press, Johnson City TN, 1997), 67–72.))

The internee facility at Fort Oglethorpe was divided into three camps, the regimes of which have been well summarised by Cross and Myers:((Jeanne Glaubitz Cross and Ann K. D. Myers, ‘Orgelsdorfer Eulenspiegel and the German Internee Experience at Fort Oglethorpe, 1917–19′, The Georgia Historical Quarterly, XCVI/2, (Summer 2012), 238–240. Three short silent film clips of the camp and German internees taken in 1918 are available from Critical Past (accessed 25.09.2020).))

Camp A, nicknamed the “Millionaires’ Camp,” housed approximately ninety internees who paid for their own care, either with personal funds or with monies received from sponsors [$35 per month]…. Camp A prisoners lived in two or three barracks divided into private rooms.((A sketch of the interior of such a room was made by one of the internees, Federico Stallforth (probably its occupant).)) They had a separate wash house. They purchased their own food through the camp canteen. German cooks and stewards hired from among the other prisoners prepared and served the food. Camp A internees even enjoyed dinner music played for them on a piano in their dining hall. No one in Camp A was required to work.

Camp B was more crowded. Men slept in unpartitioned barracks. The activity room, a giant mess hall, and the canteen were all located in Camp B. The food was adequate despite some “meatless” and “wheatless” days. Internees with extra money could buy additional food in the camp canteen. The canteen sold food and many other items to the internees, who were even able to special order some items. But luxury goods such as coffee and sugar were forbidden, likely due to rationing. Men in Camp B were required to work on the upkeep of the camp, without pay. They would, however, be paid for voluntarily working outside the camp on the road or in the nearby rock quarry. Wages were twenty-five cents per day for laborers and thirty-five cents per day for supervisors. Initially wages were equivalent to the local labor rate, about one dollar fifty cents per day, but following negotiations with Germany on March 28, 1918, these wages were lowered to match what Germany was willing to pay American POWs. The significant wage cut caused a great deal of conflict….

Camp C was a punishment barracks for those who tried to escape or caused unrest. These men were given half rations. Some may have been sent there as punishment for working outside the camp, or for refusing mandatory camp duties. Many of these troublemakers belonged to the IWW [Industrial Workers of the World]. Seaman Franke described this camp as a “Special Stockade” for “very difficult lads” (ganz schwere Jungens) who had caused trouble for themselves through mutiny or other delinquencies.

Musical life, probably of a modest scope, had been established at Fort Oglethorpe before the arrival of the Tsingtau Orchestra, although accessible sources of information are scarce for the period up to August 1918, when a camp newspaper, Die Bombe, began fortnightly publication.((I am most grateful to Sarah Patton and Dr Simon Ertz of the Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford University, for their help in providing access to the Institution’s copies of Die Bombe and the other publication produced by internees, Orgelsdorfer Eulenspiegel.))  By the 26th January 1918 three pianos (one for each Camp?) had been provided for the internees by the Camp Chaplain, Major J.M. Henderson, who also helped the conductor Ernst Kunwald organise the shipment of his favourite Steinway piano to his room in Camp A.((Edmund A. Bowles, ‘Karl Muck and His Compatriots: German Conductors in America during World War I (And How They Coped)’, American Music, 25/4 (Winter, 2007), 423–440. The narrative relating to orchestral performances that I offer here differs significantly from that offered by Bowles. His view is that ‘the Orchestra [i.e. the Tsingtauer Orchestra] was largely the creation of Ernst Kunwald …. Within two weeks of his arrival [January 1918] it was reported that an orchestra was being formed … The nucleus was the twenty or so [recte: thirty-six] members of the German naval band from the former German protectorate of Tsing-tao, China.’ (op. cit., 424).   The source of this assertion is given as a newspaper report ‘Kunwald to Organize Orchestra from among Compatriots in Alien Enemy Camp’, Cincinnati Enquirer (30 January 1918), 11. Kunwald may have expected to form an ensemble at the camp, but since Wille and his colleagues did not arrive until late August Bowles’s chronology cannot be correct. Moreover, Kunwald’s own review (see the next endnote) of a concert  given under the baton of Dr R. Krüger in mid-August, gives no hint of any competing camp orchestra, and the review of the Tsingtau Ensemble’s first concert (see below) asserted that before its arrival there had been no orchestra in the camp.  Later in his article Bowles goes further and asserts that Kunwald ‘almost single-handedly took charge of music-making at Fort Oglethorpe, forging an impressive series of concerts and creating the first and only professional symphony orchestra in an American war-time prison for enemy aliens’ (op. cit., 429).)) The first documented orchestral performances were given on 18 August in a heterogeneous concert of orchestral works, chamber music, songs  and community singing had been given and was reviewed within a week in the second issue of camp newspaper, Die Bombe.((Die Bombe, I/2 (24 August 1918), 2–3. The programme included the Overture to Boildieu’s La dame blanche, an Hungarian Dance by Brahms, and Wiener Blut by Johann Strauss, along with two movements from a Mozart Violin Sonata (presumably K. 317d or K. 454), songs (Franz and Jensen) and a vocal octet by Abt.)) It is notable that neither of the two professional conductors in the camp (Ernst Kunwald and Karl Muck) took part in the concert, although Kunwald was the encouraging reviewer. It had been left to Krüger, an amateur musician who had never conducted before, to put the programme together, recruit the performers and direct the ensemble that was ‘somewhat more than chamber music, but somewhat less than an orchestra.'((Die Bombe, I/5 (5 October 1918), 5.))

facsimile of the programme of the Tsingtau Orchestra's first performance at Fort Oglethorpe

Fig. 21.
Programme of the Tsingtau Orchestra’s first performance at Fort Oglethorpe (5 September 1918).
(Die Bombe, I/3 (7 September 1918), 10)

Once he had arrived with the Tsingtau Band Wille lost no time in providing a suitable opening concert, given on 5 September. The layout of the listing is revealing. It consisted entirely of items from the ensemble’s military band repertoire (almost certainly because, like the second concert in the series (8 September), it had to be given in the open air), drew attention to the fact that it consisting of music for wind instruments, and adopted an ordering of the first two items – a march followed by an overture – that was typical of its military band performances; but nevertheless the group was described as an orchestra. As was the case in St Louis, Wille was clearly anxious that the audience should be aware that his ensemble had two strings to its bow.  Although it was modest in scale and ambition, this first appearance drew a very appreciative review from the anonymous critic of Die Bombe.((Die Bombe, I/3, 9–10.)) In the next issue((Die Bombe, I/4 (21 September 1918), 5.)) an anonymous report details of the outcome of  discussions between interested parties within the musical community (those whose names are marked with a * were members of the Tsingtau Kapelle):((Here, as in other transcriptions from Die Bombe, Umlauts and ß – unavailable on the typewriter used – are silently supplied in place of the additional ‘e’s and ‘ss’s of the original.))

Über Mangel an musikalischen Genüßen aller Art dürfen wir uns in der Zukunft nicht zu beklagen haben, den unsere Seeleute haben im Bunde mit der bereits hier bestehenden musikalischen Verbänden dafür gesorgt, daß wir von jezt ab Konzerte in abwechslungs-reicher Fülle haben werden. Ein bestimmtes Programm für die verschiedenen Musikverbände ist noch nicht aufgestellt werden, da noch einige technische Hinderniße zu überwinden sind, doch wird ein solches bald aufgestellt werden können. Vorläufig kommen nur die im Freien stattfindenden Konzerte in Betracht, und zwar werden sich folgenden Verbände an die Abhaltung von Konzerten beteiligen: We may not have to complain about a lack of musical enjoyment of all kinds in the future, because our seafarers, in league with the musical associations that already exist here, have ensured that from now on we will have concerts in varied abundance. A specific program for the various music associations has not yet been drawn up as there are still some technical obstacles to be overcome, but one will soon be drawn up. For the time being, only outdoor concerts are eligible, and the following associations will participate in the holding of concerts:
  1. Tsingtauer Orchester
    Leiter: O.K.Wille*
    Stellvertr.:  Richard Brüger*
  2. Orchester der Internierten Seeleute
    Leiter: A. Ebel
  3. Mandolinen und Guitar Vereinigung
    Director: Erich Dischleid*
  4. Musikliebhaber Vereinigung
    Director: Emil Berg*
  1. Tsingtau Orchestra
    Director: O.K.Wille*
    Deputy:  Richard Brüger*
  2. Orchestra of Interned Seamen((The precise make-up of this ensemble is not known, but it could certainly provide a string orchestra for a programme of cabaret and theatrical performances given nightly on 2–4 February 1919 (see the announcement in Die Bombe, I/12 (28 January 1919), 5–6.).  Edmund A. Bowles believed that interned members of orchestras from the larger liners supplied all the strings for the Tsingtau Orchestra. As discussed above, there were string players in the original Tsingtau ensemble, and in the orchestra directed by Dr Krüger which merged with the Tsingtau Orchestra, but it is possible that some of Ebel’s players (many, if not all of whom had previously been at the Hot Springs Camp) helped to strengthened the Tsingtau Orchestra’s string section for some of its symphonic performances.))
    Director: A. Ebel
  3. Mandolin and Guitar Society
    Director: Erich Dischleid*
  4. Music-lovers Society((This was probably the ‘Amateur-Orchester’, conducted by Berg, that performed at the Unterhaltungsabend held on 10 and 11 November 1918 in the School Hall (see Die Bombe I/9,  [2]).))
    Director: Emil Berg*
Für die kühlere Jahreszeit stehen uns in musikalischer Hinsicht noch ganz besondere Genüße bevor, indem sich das unter der Leitung von Herrn Dr. Krüger bestehende Kamp Orchester mit dem Tsingtauer Orchester ver-schmolzen hat, und jezt unter der Leitung des Herrn O.K. Wille ein sechzig Mann starkes Orchestra bildet, von dem man mit Recht erwartet, daß es uns, falls wir Herbst und Winter noch hier verbringen, manch genußreiche Stunde bereiten wird. For the cooler season of the year there are still very special musical pleasures ahead of us, as the existing Camp Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Krüger has merged  with the Tsingtau Orchestra, and now under the direction of Mr. O.K. Wille forms an orchestra of sixty people, which, if we have to spend autumn and winter here, one justifiably expects will give us many an enjoyable hour.
Der augenblicklich noch bestehende Mangel an einer geräumigen Halle zur Abhaltung der von diesem Orchester geplanten Symphoniekonzerte, dürfte auch in Bälde behoben werden, da ein Vertreter der Y.M.C.A. zwecks Erichtung einer großen Halle bereits mit den Lagerberhörden in Verbindung getreten ist. The current lack of a spacious hall [in which] to hold the symphony concerts planned by this orchestra should also be remedied soon, as a representative of the Y.M.C.A. has already contacted the warehouse authorities for the purpose of building a large hall.

The Y.M.C.A. proposal to build a new hall seems to have been delayed and it was Wille who successfully pressed ahead with plans and negotiations to create an (albeit acoustically compromised) temporary indoor performing space, as was made clear in the review of the first Symphony Concert given by a camp orchestra.((Die Bombe, I/5 (5 October 1918), 5–6. The precise date of the event is not recorded – it presumably took place between late September and 4 October. For a photograph of the mess hall (which was the venue), along with many others of the internment camp, see Gerry Depken, Julie Powell: Images of America: Fort Oglethorpe (Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2009), 37); the accompanying texts and captions are not consistently reliable. For a complete listing of performances of the Orchestra while at Fort Oglethorpe, see Appendix IIIb.)) The reviewer – ‘E.F.K.’ – outlines the earlier attempts at music-making in the camp, none of which resulted in the formation of a genuine orchestra, and continues:

Und dann kamen die Tsingtauer und die Seeleute von Hot Springs. Und da ward ein Orchester.

Mut hat Herr O.K. Wille, der treffliche Leiter, Hinderniße in Gestalt der aufsichtübenden Behörden, Gerüche des Speisesaals, eine niedere Halle, die akustisch die fürchterlichste “Wolfsschlucht” darstellt, Aufbau eines Podiums mit Primitiven Mitteln; Schwerigkeiten der Placierung der Musiker, Erkrankung von etwa einem Dutzend Orchestermitglieder, all das stört ihn nicht. Er überwindet sie. Wer wagt, gewinnt. Und Herr Wille hat gewonnen. Er hat uns allen den schömsten Genuß verschafft, den wir bislang hier hatten.

And then came the Tsingtauer and the sailors from Hot Springs. And there was an orchestra.

Mr. O.K. Wille, the excellent director, has courage; obstacles in the form of the supervising authorities, dining room odours, a low hall that acoustically represents the most frightful “Wolf’s Glen”, construction of a podium with primitive means; difficulties in placing the musicians, illness of a dozen or so orchestra members, none of that bothered him. He overcomes them. Who dares wins. And Mr. Wille won. He has given us all the most wonderful pleasure we have had here so far.

The review itself was generally enthusiastic – although it did comment on over-dominant wind in the Mendelssohn Wedding March – and the performance of Vltava was singled out for especial praise. After a final peroration it ended mischievously:

Zussamenfaßend können wir nur wiederholen, daß das Konzert ein voller, ungetrübter Genuss war. Die aus etwa 1100 Köpfen bestehende Zuhörerschaft würdigte das Ihnen Gebotene einmütigen und herzlichen Beifall. Wir sehen den weiteren Symphonie-Abenden mit Intereße und erwarten noch Großeres für die Zukunft von einem gut geschulten Orchester und seinem trefflichen Dirigenten.
Unter den Zuhörern waren unsere musikalischen Koriphäen, Dr. Muck und Dr. Kunwald, bemerkbar, die aufmerksam dem Programm zu folgen schienen. Wie wir hören, haben sich beide Herren bereite im Prinzip erklärt, ….(Gestrichen von der Redaktion, als nicht zum Thema gehörig.)
In summary we can only repeat that the concert was a full, untroubled pleasure. The audience, consisting of around 1,100 people, acknowledged the offerings with unanimous and warm applause. We look forward to the further symphony evenings with interest, and expect even greater things in the future from a well-trained orchestra and its excellent conductor.

Noticeable among the audience were our musical luminaries, Dr. Muck and Dr. Kunwald, who seemed to be attentively following the program. As we hear, both gentlemen have declared themselves ready in principle …, (Removed by the editorial staff as not belonging to the topic.)

Both Muck and Kunwald did later appear as guest conductors of the Orchestra (in December 1918 and January 1919 respectively), but in the meantime Wille probably wanted an opportunity to meld the expanded orchestra, which presumably included non–professional players, into a disciplined ensemble. In November he prepared a second symphonic programme that was performed three times (for details, see Appendix IIIb): all the works (Beethoven, Wagner and Liszt) were familiar to the Tsingtau players, so he would have been able to concentrate on integrating new members into the ensemble. The importance these and other concerts had for fellow internees was expressed (apparently informally) at a meeting held early in December to celebrate the German novelist and poet Fritz Reuter (1810–1874): it was reported that during the discussions ‘speakers also took the opportunity to thank other comrades who, like Messrs. Wille, Ebel and Walter, have made a contribution to the well-being of [their] comrades through artistic and organizational work.’ ((Die Bombe I/9 (12 December 1918) [unpaginated].))

A two-colour woodcut portrait of O.K. Wille

Fig. 22.
A two-colour woodcut portrait of O.K. Wille, by L. Slimbach (1918).
Orgelsdorfer Eulenspiegel, No. 4, 1 December 1918.

Wille’s activity with the Tsingtau Orchestra necessarily gave him a degree of status among the internees, particularly those in Camps A and B, and presumably as a result he was invited to join the Honorary Committee, chaired by Karl Muck, that oversaw a Kunst- und Kunstgewerbe Austellung mounted at Fort Oglethorpe on 2–5 January 1919. Fellow members included Richard Goldschmidt, Ernst Kunwald and Commodore Hans Ruser, who in April 1916 had sponsored the band’s first concert at Passaic.((Typescript catalogue of the exhibition, Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford.)) Wille was also the subject of a woodcut portrait by L. Slimbach and a short biography (partially quoted above) published in the Orgelsdorfer Eulenspiegel.((No. 4, 1 December 1918.)) The latter ends with the exhoration ‘We’ve heard the First Symphony and other things – now play us the Eroica, Wille!.’: This request was based on the spontaneous audience response to one of the Tsingtau Orchestra’s concerts in November – which included Beethoven’s First Symphony – recorded by one of those present: ‘[t]he audience clamoured for more. “Now play us the Eroica!”, they shouted.'((Edmund A. Bowles, ‘From Tsing-Tau to Fort Oglethorpe: The Peregrinations of a German Military Band during World War I’, Journal of Band Research 44/1 (Fall 2008), 11, quoting an unpublished memoir by one of the internees: Dr Max von Recklinghausen, Fortschritt: Volldampf, Halt und Rückwärts. Kosmopolitische Wanderung eines Forschers, typescript (Munich, 1934), 175. Recklinghausen (1869–1934) was a chemist and an amateur artist responsible for some of the illustrations that appeared in the Orgelsdorfer Eulenspiegel. A portfolio of his graphic work at Oglethorpe was published as Block prints, drawn and cut on linoleum and wood at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, during 1918 and 1919, New York: Weyhe, [1920].)) Wille programmed the work and, according to Edmund Bowles, invited Karl Muck to conduct the concert.((Exceptionally, the concert was not repeated. An account of Muck’s internment at Fort Oglethorpe is also offered in Melissa D. Burrage, The Karl Muck Scandal: Classical Music and Xenophobia in World War I America (Rochester: Rochester UniversityPress/Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2019), 218ff., but it does not cite or refer to the scholarly articles by Bowles or Cross and Myers but to a considerable extent relies uncritically on contemporary local press reports. On the basis of the article ‘Celebrated Tsing-Tau Orchestra Engaged’ in the Meridan Morning Record (27 January 1917), p. 3, Burrage reports “Karl Muck provided his services as a guest conductor with the eighty-piece Oglethorpe Tsing-Tau Orchestra, made up of medical men and amateur musicians from the Sanitary Corp of the German Third Sea Battalion…” which, while partly true (the members of the Tsingtau band had worked as medical orderlies during the siege of Tsingtau), hardly does justice to the professional status of players who had recently made recordings for Columbia, garbles the newspaper announcement cited, and skates over the fact this was the only contact Muck had with the Camp Orchestra, and according to one source it was Wille who persuaded him to conduct.  But, more significantly, Burrage seems to be unaware of the existence of and distinctions between the three internee compounds at Fort Oglethorpe. Her description of Muck’s daily routine, if accurate, indicates that he was in Camp B, rather than Camp A. The reason for Muck’s unexpected placement is unwittingly revealed later in Burrage’s narrative: when he was arrested all of his assets (cash and property) were confiscated by the Federal authorities. This itself begs a question, the answer to which might have been germane to the author’s overall narrative slant: why did Muck not receive from his friends and admirers in Boston the very modest financial support necessary to allow him to enjoy the relative comfort of Camp A?)) Interestingly, the autobiography of the biologist and geneticist Richard Goldschmidt who, as a capable amateur violinist, took part in Muck’s concert offers evidence that the Beethoven may have caused some problems:((Richard B. Goldschmidt, In and Out of the Ivory Tower, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1960, 175–76.))

During the summer [of 1918] the Department of Justice did us the favor of interning the entire army [recte: navy] band from the German Colony of Tsingtau. They brought their instruments and scores, and the energetic band-master, Witte [recte: Wille], a very good musician, increased his band with amateurs into a fully fledged symphony orchestra. I was able to borrow a violin and happily spent hours each day at rehearsals. Later the two conductors Karl Muck and Ernst Kunwald consented to conduct some concerts. Thus I had the wonderful experience, otherwise unattainable by an amateur, of playing the Eroica under Muck’s baton. A huge hall, erected by the Y.M.C.A.,* was filled with three thousand men, many of them in the most unbelievable garb, many of them tough and untractable characters. When Muck raised his baton one could have heard a mouse running. The whole performance was unforgettable. I do not think that a symphony ever created a more profound impression than this upon thousands who had probably never before heard classical music. The American officers who attended said it was the greatest revelation they had experienced. I still have the score [part?] my friend Muck wrote out for me, in notes that look like engraving, because I could not read the rough handwriting of the military band’s music sheets.

* The programme sheet (Fig. 18) gives the venue as the Messehalle, which  Wille used for the earlier symphony concerts and which seems to have seated about 1200. Had the Y.M.C.A built a replacement mess-hall by mid December?

The details of the Tsingtau band’s concerts giving in 1915–17 tend to confirm Goldschmidt’s statement that they brought with them both their instruments and scores, although how much of what must have been an extensive library of  scores and parts made the journey half-way around the world with the musicians remains unclear. In bulk and weight the library could have been a substantial item of luggage or freight, in addition to the band’s instruments. Despite the difficulties it seems clear that Wille did succeed in retaining at least a substantial part of the library: the band’s repertoire was extensive (see Appendix IIIb), and one St Louis press report refers specifically to a collection of ‘about 1000 first-rate pieces’.((Westliche Post, 15 September 1916, 8.)) It is also interesting to note that the 1915 records of the band’s arrival at San Francisco include the number (but, alas, not the dimensions) of items of luggage each passenger had on board:((See Ancestry, for which a subscription is required)) most members of the band had between three and five items although the Wille family had sixteen. So it is possible that between them the party could have transported a substantial amount of music as well as instruments but nevertheless it is striking that Goldschmidt had to play from a manuscript part. It is worth remembering that in China the Tsingtau Band had played relatively little Beethoven, and that so far no documentation of a previous performance of the Eroica by the ensemble has been located. So the work may not have been in the Band library. Even if it was, there may only have been a score or a score with a part set for a relatively small string section. So this challenging work may have been relatively unfamiliar even to the professional core of the Tsingtau Orchestra, and at the very least some additional string parts may have been hand-copied.

Fig. 23. Programme for the Third Symphony Concert, conducted by Karl Muck. (Hoover Library and Archives, Stanford University, Stanford CA.)

Fig. 24. Programme for the Fifth Symphony Concert, conducted by Ernst Kunwald. (Hoover Library and Archives, Stanford University, Stanford CA.)

Wille himself conducted the Fourth Symphony Concert (music by Wagner and Raff) on 12 and 13 January 1919) and then handed over to Kunwald as guest conductor of the fifth (28 and 29 January, see Fig. 24). The opening of the review of the latter is intrusively candid, and therefore revealing:((Die Bombe, 11 February 1919, signed ‘E.F.K.’))

Kannten ihr Jenen wieder, der sonst mit eiligen Schritten zwanzigmal um den grossen Rundlauf toste, gesenkte Hauptes, den grünen Ledenhut schief ins Gesicht gedrückt, den wetterverbrämten Stock – einst war es einer – in den lehmigen Boden stampfend? Kanntet ihr Jenen wieder, der bedruckt von widriger Botschaft mürrisch sich abseits hielt, Trost suchend in wuchtigen Partituren alter Meister?
Nein, der war es nicht, der heute das Orchester führte; das war der andere Kunwald . . . 
Did you know the one who usually stomped around the large circular track twenty times, in rapid steps with bowed head, the green leather hat crooked over his face, stamping the weather-worn stick – once it was one – into the claggy ground? Did you know the one who, depressed by adverse news, sullenly kept himself apart, seeking consolation in the massive scores of old masters?
No, it wasn’t he who led the orchestra today; that was the other Kunwald . . . 

This suggests that Kunwald might have been suffering from ‘barbed-wire’ disease (Stachelheit-Krankheit) and that the critic should have been alert to this possibility is not surprising. Although it was only in 1918 that the path-breaking study by the Swiss physician, A. L. Vischer, was published((A. Vischer: Die Stacheldraht-Krankheit: Beiträge zur Psychologie des Krieggefangen, Zürich: Rascher & Cie, Verlag, 1918.)) other professionals had been thinking along similar lines: the characteristic symptoms included ‘a gradual loss of memory, irritability and continued concentration of the mind on certain aspects of camp conditions’.((Quoted from John Yarnall, Barbed  Wire Disease. British and German Prisoners of War, 1914–19 (Stroud: The History Press, 2011), 163.))

[Vischer’s] curiosity was heightened when he also witnessed similar symptoms among European and Indian POWs in Turkish captivity during an inspection tour with the Red Cross in Asia Minor in 1916–17, and again among German civilian internees on the Isle of Man and prisoners held in military and civilian camps on the British mainland when he acted as special attaché to the Swiss Legation in London in 1917–18. This brought Vischer to the conclusion that what was already being dubbed ‘barbed-wire disease’ in some of the camp newspapers was a universal human response to being held behind barbed wire for prolonged stretches of time. It was not confined to a pathological minority within camp communities, but was something common to all (long-term) inmates. Furthermore, it was not eased or worsened by peculiarities in the educational, class, ethnic or religious background of any particular group of prisoners; rather, its sole cause was the fact of living behind barbed wire itself, and the degree of severity depended primarily on the duration of captivity, not on experiences prior to capture.((Matthew Stibbe, Barbed-Wire Disease during the First World War, (accessesd 29.xi.2020).))

The editors of Die Bombe were clearly aware of the condition: they had published a lead article about Stacheldrahtitis in its second issue,((Die Bombe, I/2, 24 August 1918, 1–2.)) followed up by another on the ameliorative effects of keeping busy and, in particular, participation in sport.((Ibid., I/3, 1–2.)) With his apparently boundless ‘can-do’ attitude and work ethic, Wille was probably less susceptible than many to the syndrome, and, although not conducting the concert, had undertaken a rebuild of the performing space in the Messehalle which succeeded in improving the string-wind balance for Kunwald’s concert. However, after noting the success of Wille’s changes, the reviewer ended by drawing attention to his other contribution:

Und dann: wir müßen ihm wahrhaft dankbar sein, daß er den einsamen Wanderer mit dem grünen Hute von seiner Rennbahn heruntergeholt hat und wieder einmal in bessere Bahnen, die seines wahren Könnens gewiesen hat. And also we have to be truly grateful to him that he brought the lonely hiker in the green hat back from his track and once again to better paths that demonstrated his true gifts.

Fig. 25. Programme of the Seventh (last) Symphony Concert conducted by O.K. Wille. (Hoover Library and Archives, Stanford University, Stanford CA.)

Since the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918 hopes were no doubt raised among internees that release and repatriation would be swift, but in fact there were many delays as the peace talks in Versailles dragged on, and a further problem was the shortage of suitable transport ships. It was not until June that the members of the band with other internees from Fort Oglethorpe sailed to Europe. However, four months earlier the Seventh Symphony Concert, given on 25 and 26 February 1919, was already described on the programme as the last (see Fig. 25 above). Why the series was discontinued is unclear, although it might be noted that the programme of the last concert could have been performed with a modest string section: this may suggest that the pool of additional string players was diminishing. At least one such example can be documented. Immediately after the Armistice was signed Richard Goldschmidt wrote to the Department of Justice requesting release; this was granted, and he left, heading for New Haven to join his family, on Boxing Day, 1918.((Richard B. Goldschmidt, In and Out of the Ivory Tower, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1960, 179–180.))

Other musical activity did not cease, and according to Edmund A. Bowles:((Edmund A. Bowles, ‘From Tsing-Tau to Fort Oglethorpe: The Peregrinations of a German Military Band during World War I’, Journal of Band Research 44/1 (Fall 2008), 9.))

The band [i.e. in its military band formation] performed throughout the period of incarceration, mainly at outdoor events, culminating in a final week-long series of games beginning on Sunday, 6 April 1919. At the opening ceremonies a brass quartet performed fanfares, then later the entire band led the procession of participants to the field. On the following day a short concert took place during the afternoon intermission. [For further details see Appendix IIIb.]

If the ensemble gave further performances at the camp, details have not yet been located. Finally in late June 1919 Wille and most of his players were moved to Charleston SC to join the S.S. Martha Washington, which was due to depart for Rotterdam on 28 June.((Four – Karl Bicknese, Nikolaus Frisch, Martin Reinhardt and Josef Satzky – decided to remain. All four were naturalized and — except for Frisch who worked as an electrician — had careers in music.)) The passenger list documents 947 German nationals (825 men and 122 women and children) onboard.(( (accessed 08.10.2020); subscription required.)) Somehow Richard Goldschmidt, who was having difficulty arranging a passage back to Germany for himself and his family, heard of the sailing (probably from friends still at Fort Oglethorpe), and managed to arrange passage for them all. Once on board he found Commodore Ruser, another ex-Oglethope internee, helping to arrange accommodation facilities in the hold.((Richard B. Goldschmidt, In and Out of the Ivory Tower, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1960, 182–183.))

If during the crossing he was inclined to reflect on the previous sixteen years, Wille could have looked back at an impressive achievement: he had enlarged and refashioned a modest naval band into a well-disciplined ensemble that could tackle both military music and a symphonic repertoire that included challenging, recently composed works. Moreover he appears so have sustained a consistently high standard of performance despite the fact that the membership of the band was far from stable: of the thirty-six who travelled to the USA only eight had been members for four or more years, and the maximum continuous service had been six years (see Appendix II).  Under his leadership the Band/Orchestra had contributed to German cultural diplomacy within European communities in China, and in the aftermath of the siege of Tsingtau he had kept those classified as non-combatants together as a smaller, functioning ensemble. Once they arrived in New York he presumably managed the negotiations and logistical arrangements necessary to allow the ensemble to undertake another diplomatic task, that of bolstering the morale of the German-American community, especially in the north-eastern states. After internment the orchestra kept itself busy, and their fellow internees entertained, with a variety of performances. But the journey home, to a defeated nation, may well have been one fraught with anxiety and concern for the future.

How much the returning party knew about conditions in a Germany that was still under a trade blockade is unclear, but for Richard Goldschmidt the reality clearly came as a shock:((Richard B. Goldschmidt, In and Out of the Ivory Tower, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1960, 185. For a harrowing account of post-war conditions and the widespread and barbaric fighting that continued in large areas of Europe, see Robert Gerwarth, The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917–1923, London: Penguin Random House, 2017.))

For years we had anticipated this great moment. Now that it arrived we were deeply disillusioned. We were prepared to find conditions bad in a Germany beaten to dust. We had not, however, imagined that such a complete disorganization would be possible. The streets were filthy, the shop windows empty; nothing was for sale in the food stores…. Breakfast consisted of ersatz coffee (toasted barley) with saccharin. Since we did not have any bread cards there was nothing for us to eat…. At the station nobody knew when a train was to leave or if one was to leave at all…. Finally the good news came that a train would be put together to take everybody east. But what a sad sight this train was to a German accustomed to cleanliness and efficiency: filthy, antediluvian fourth-class cars, with every piece of metal, leather, and cloth removed, leaking roofs and squeaking axles, moving at the speed of a snail. It was a typical sign of the material and moral breakdown.

It was into this chaos that O.K. Wille disappears temporarily, but in early 1922 he was appointed to a position for which his years at Tsingtau had apparently offered the ideal preparation: the conductorship of the well-established spa orchestra at Teplitz-Schönau in the Sudentenland (i.e. north west Czechoslovakia).((See the announcement in Zeitschrift für Musik 89/7 (8 April 1922), 175, where Wille is described as an experienced, impulsive conductor.)) In the years 1908–1922 this ensemble had been established as an important regional orchestra by Johannes Reichert (1876–1942), and Wille soon set to work re-organising the concert schedule,((He established four concert series: spa concerts, workers’ concerts (with introductions), popular concerts and symphony concerts. In later years the orchestra also occasionally broadcast (sometimes from the Kurgarten) – see for example Radio Wien: 15 Juli 1932, 48; 11 August 1933, 44; 18 August 1933, 34; 16.vii.1935, 42); 4.ix.1936, 54.)) expanding the orchestra to 90 players and inviting guest conductors such as Siegfried Wagner, Weingartner and Richard Strauss.((See Roman Dietz, Lenka Přibylová: Severočeskčá Filharmonie Teplice | North Czech Philharmonic | Nordböhmische Philharmonie Teplice / Historie a současnost | History and Present | Geschichte und Gegenwart / … 1838–2018 (Teplice: Severočeskčá Filharmonie Teplice, 2018), 52ff., 196 (English summary) and 210 (German summary).))

An examination of the separately printed report on Wille’s first season((Reproduced in Dietz and Přibylová, op.cit., 54–55.)) is revealing on many levels. It is clear that his capacity for work was undiminished. The orchestra gave 390 concerts at which 2320 works were performed, and of these, 70 ‘symphonic’ (as opposed to ‘popular’) items were receiving local premières. However, an extended end-of-season report published in Die Musik by Robert Gabriel, while it included a (presumably authorised) summary of Wille’s agenda,((Die Musik, XV/11 (August 1923), 832–34.)) also indicated that his programming strategy did not meet with universal approbation:

Die kulturelle Aufgabe unserer Zeit, an Stelle der einseitigen Pflege einer eng begrenzten Epoche des musikalischen Schaffens eine großzügige Musikpflege mit Berücksichtigung auch des Zeitgenössischen Schaffens zu setzen, ist ihm stets oberste Ziel; nach diesem Grundsatz stellt er auch seine Programme zusammen. Der Kreis der »Klassisch-Orienterten« und derer, die ein städtisches Orchester nicht als kulturfaktor ansehen, sondern zum Unterhaltungsfaktor degradieren möchten, stellt sich naturgemäß diesem Bestreben vielfach entgegen. Zurückhaltende, ja ablehnende Haltung in der Anerkennung der geleisteten Arbeit ist an der Tagesordnung. Mahl baut ein neues Theater, einen Riesenbau, der über zwanzig Millionen Kč, kostet und spricht gleichzeitig von Ersparnissen am Orchester! The cultural task of our time, to replace the one-sided cultivation of a narrowly limited epoch of musical creation, with a wide-ranging cultivation of  music including regard for contemporary creation, is always his [Wille’s] top priority; he also uses this principle to compile his programmes. The group of the “classically orientated” and those who do not regard a municipal orchestra a cultural matter but want to degrade it to a matter of entertainment, naturally oppose this endeavour in many ways. A cautious, even negative attitude towards the recognition of the work done is the order of the day. A new theatre is being built, a huge building that will cost over twenty million Kč, and at the same time there is talk of savings on the orchestra!((The earlier theatre (which opened in 1874, but was destroyed by fire in 1919) seated 1100 in the main auditorium. According to Die Musik (XVI/9 (June 1924), 696) its replacement seated 4000, a report in line with the assertion of the 1923 article, but the annual entries for the theatre in the Deutsches Bühnen-Jahrbuch (Berlin: Genossenschaft Deutscher Bühnen-Angehörigen, 1925ff.) record substantially lower figures of c. 1100-1400 for the main auditorium and 400–700 for the Kammerspiele. Wille is included in the staff lists for the theatre in the 1926 and 1927 volumes as ‘Musik-Direktor’. ))

Figs. 26a-b. Neues Stadt Teplitz-Schönau
Opened: 20 April 1924

Whether the publication of such views – whoever’s they were – proved helpful in the negotiations between  Wille and his paymasters, may be doubted.  The threatened cuts were eventually made to the orchestra’s budget, resulting in the abandonment of some of the local premières planned for the 1924/25 season.((See the Jahresbericht 1924–25 reproduced in Roman Dietz, Lenka Přibylová: Severočeskčá Filharmonie Teplice | North Czech Philharmonic | Nordböhmische Philharmonie Teplice / Historie a současnost | History and Present | Geschichte und Gegenwart / … 1838–2018 (Teplice: Severočeskčá Filharmonie Teplice, 2018), 54. It is worth noting, however, that Wille was able to assemble an orchestra of eighty for his performance of Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony on 24 October 1924 (see Appendix IIIc, p. 8).))

Interestingly the listing of the ‘symphonic’ repertoire in the 1922/23 season includes a number of ‘new’ works that Wille had first performed before the war (the date column records that of his first performance):

Composer Work Date
Brase Suite: Aus meiner Heimat 1912
Charpentier Impressions d’Italie 1912
Debussy Prélude l’après midi d’un faune 1910
Kaun Symphony No. 2 1912
Reifner, V. Symphonic Poem: Frühling op. 12 1913
Schillings Prelude to Act 3 of Pfeifertag 1912/13
Sibelius Finlandia 1909/10
Sinding Symphony in D minor 1909
Strauss, R. Till Eulenspiegel 1912/13
  Tod und Verklärung 1912/13
Suk Scherzo fantastique 1913
Weingartner Die Gefilde der Seligen 1907
  Serenade 1905/06
Wolf Italienische Serenade 1909

Table 1

In one or perhaps two respects these choices may reflect pragmatism. The inclusion of these works alongside items from the standard repertoire reduced the number of new works that Wille had to learn from scratch in the midst of a busy schedule. But it has to be wondered whether their selection may also be evidence that Wille still had access to all or (perhaps more likely) part of the Tsingtau Orchestra’s library of performance sets. Be that as it may, he was also  continuing to explore other new — though not avant-garde — repertoire, by composers such as Bruckner, Delius, Elgar, Rachmaninov, Reger, Sibelius and Suk (Asrael), and he also continued (at least for a time) one particular programming strand that he had inherited from Reichert: the music of Gustav Mahler. Between 1908 and 1918 his predecessor had introduced the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rheinlegendchen and the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies to local audiences;((See for a calendar of Reichert’s performances of Mahler.)) in the 1922/23 season Wille gave the local premieres of the Sixth Symphony and Kindertotenlieder and also conducted the Fourth Symphony, following up with Das Lied von der Erde and the First in 1924 and 1925 respectively. In the 1926/27 season, Wille invited Zemlinsky, who was the guest conductor of the Fourth Symphony((The exact date has not been established: see Prager Tagblatt, 50/206, (8 November 1925), 8; Signale für das musikalische Welt, 85/43, (26 October 1927), 1494; [Neue] Zeitschrift für Musik, 95/9 (September 1928), 537–538.)) before himself conducting the local premières of the Second (1928) and Ninth Symphonies (1931/32).((See Appendix IIIc, pp. 3–4 for details.)) Alongside such relatively well-established recent composers, Wille was also willing to explore works by more radical and controversial figures such as Berg (1925), Hindemith (1926/27; 1934), Schoenberg (1924/25; 1926/27; 1930/31; 1937), Schreker (1925), Schulhoff (1926/27, 1932) and Zemlinsky (1925/26).((A complete repertoire list is not yet available but there are nevertheless some striking absences, such as Stravinsky, Bartók, and Janáček.))

Sepia photograph of O.K. Wille with an orchestra

Fig. 27. This photograph from the family collection shows O.K. Wille (front row, sixth from the right) with a group of 44, possibly the musicians of the Kurorchester Teplitz-Schönau. (BM)

It would be an unqualified pleasure if this narrative could conclude with Wille’s re-engagement with Mahler’s music and a well-deserved retirement, but in the early 1930s shadows were cast yet again over life — including musical life — in central Europe, and in that context what in other times and places would have been innocuous programming decisions in support of local composers could take on political significance.((I have been greatly helped in the exploration of this period in Wille’s career, and the dissemination of Mahler’s music, by Prof. Erik Levi, to whom I am most grateful.)) In Tsingtau Wille had occasionally given first performances of new works by German composers, so it is no surprise that he did so in Teplitz-Schönau. In 1930 he conducted the premiere of a Symphony in E flat by Alfred Domansky, which at the time appears to have elicited no particular comment or hint of wider issues.((The première was announced in the Prager Tagblatt (59 (9 March 1929), 8) which later published a brief report of the event (38 (1 February 1930), 7).)) But when in 1931 the Prager Tagblatt previewed a concert of local composers to be given in Teplitz-Schönau on 15 February, it was headed “Erstaufführungen sudetendeutsche Komponisten in Teplitz-Schönau”.((Prager Tagblatt 39 (14 February 1931), 7; the works were by Rudolf Engel (Brüx), Herbert Zitterbart (Teplitz) and Alfred Domansky (Aussig). Zitterbart (1905–1948) joined the music staff of the Neues Stadtheater in Teplitz-Schönau in 1927 and may have been a member of the Sudetendeutsche Partei (SdP) after 1935. Wille conducted a similar concert in 1935, at which works by Paul Engler,  R.A. Mayer-Rensperg, and Josef Dienel were heard: see [Neue] Zeitschrift für Musik, 102/8 (August 1935), 918–919.)) At this time the proto-fascist Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei (DNSAP, founded 1919), which advocated cultural and territorial autonomy, attracted significant numbers of votes from within the German minority in Czechoslovakia. It was dissolved by the Czechoslovak government in October 1933 and was replaced by the Sudetendeutsche Heimatfront, which was in turn renamed the Sudetendeutsche Partei (SdP) in 1935.

Wille was the conductor of one of the best local orchestras which makes it probable that he would have been involved in planning for major regional events, such as the Sudetendeutsche Kulturewoche to be held on 17–23 May 1936 in the towns of Aussig (theater and the visual arts), and Teplitz-Schönau (music).((See [Neue] Zeitschrift für Musik, 103/3 (March 1936), 374, Pilsner Tagblatt/Westböhmische Tageszeitung 37/76 (29 March 1936), 2. and Heidelberger neueste Nachrichten/Heidelberger Anzeiger, 1936/111, (13 May 1936), 11.)) The intention was for this festival to coincide with a conference of the SdP to be held in Aussig on 17–24 May, but on 8 April the local police authorities refused permission for both events on the grounds of  concerns over disruption of public order.((Prager Tagblatt, 1936/85, (9 April 1936), 5.)) Whether Wille had been scheduled to conduct at any of the associated concerts is not known, but he was certainly involved the following year in what was a barely disguised replacement, the Sudetendeutsches Musikfest, held at Teplitz-Schönau on 25–28 September 1937. This was originally scheduled for May 1937 but for ‘technical reasons’ had had to be postponed.((See Musikblätter der Sudetendeutschen, I/6 (15 April 1937,) 198. and ‘Sudetendeutsche Musikfesttage in Teplitz’, Musikblätter der Sudetendeutschen, 1/9 (15 July 1937), 163–66.))  It was prepared under the leadership of Professor Gustav Becking (1894–1945) of the Musikwissenschaftlichen Institut of the German University in Prague, and was attended by Konrad Heinlein, the leader of the SdP.((See Gustav Becking  ‘Von der Notwendigkeit eines sudetendeutschen Musikfestes’, Musikblätter der Sudetendeutschen, 1/11 (22 September 1937), 327–332; Alfred Pellegrini, ‘Sudetendeutsche Musikfesttage in Teplitz’, [Neue] Zeitschrift für Musik, 104/11 (November 1937), 1272–73. Becking’s essay  ‘Die Lage der sudetendeutschen Musik’ was published in NZfM 105/6 (June 1938), 574–76); he joined the NSPAD on 1 April 1939 (see Fred K. Prieberg, Handbuch Deutsche Musiker 1933–1945 (CD-ROM: 2004), pp. 328, 9458.)) On the final day Wille was to have conducted a performance of the original version of Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony but it seems that the Fourth Symphony (possibly in the original version) was substituted.((See the extended report on the festival in Musikblätter der Sudetendeutschen, 1/11 (22 September 1937), 384–389; Alfred Pellegrini, ‘Sudetendeutsche Musikfesttage in Teplitz’, [Neue] Zeitschrift für Musik, 104/11 (November 1937), 1272–73, and Signale für das musikalische Welt, 95/42 (13 October 1937), 549–50.))

A year later under the terms of the Munich Agreement the Sudetenland was handed over to Germany at the insistence of France and Great Britain, and in the same year O.K. Wille’s appointment at Teplitz-Schönau came to an end. However, in the current absence of any explanation((Roman Dietz, Lenka Přibylová: Severočeskčá Filharmonie Teplice | North Czech Philharmonic | Nordböhmische Philharmonie Teplice / Historie a současnost | History and Present | Geschichte und Gegenwart / … 1838–2018 (Teplice: Severočeskčá Filharmonie Teplice, 2018) offers no precise date or explanation for his departure.)) it is possible that factors other than the geo-political situation may have played a role in his departure. Some evidence for this is provided by two contemporary sources. The earliest is an anonymous review of a concert given on 5 March 1937 that was devoted entirely to first performances of works by indigenous composers (Erstaufführungen von Werken heimischer Komponisten),((See Appendix IIIc, 11.)) which opens:

Das Teplitzer Stadtorchester widmete im Rahmen seines dritten philharmonischen Konzertes einen Abend heimischen Komponisten. Es gab durchwegs Uraufführungen. O.K. Wille, der Teplitzer Musikdirektor, ist seit Jahren bemüht mit seinem ausgezeichneten Orchester wirkliche Kulturarbeit zu leisten, nur stößt er gerade dort auf Widerstand, wo man eine Kunstförderung erwarten sollte: Bei jenem Schichten, die stets von Kunst reden oder Heimisches verlangen, aber solche Veranstaltungen, wenn Neues oder Bodenständiges geboten wird, nicht besuchen. So war es leider auch diesmal. Die teueren Plätze blieben leer und die auch sonst so lauten Streiter fehlten. Zu Unrecht, wie es sich zeigen sollte, denn der Abend hatte Niveau und vermittelte die Bekanntschaft mit einigen wertvollen Werken, von denen es einige verdienen würden, ihren Weg auch nach anderen Städten zu nehmen. The Teplitz Municipal Orchestra dedicated an evening to local composers as part of its third philharmonic concert. These were all world premieres. OK. Wille, the music director in Teplitz, has been trying for years to do real cultural work with his excellent orchestra, but he meets with resistance precisely where one should expect art funding: with those classes who always talk about art or demand something local, but do not attend such events if something new or indigenous is on offer. Unfortunately it was the same this time. The expensive seats remained empty and the otherwise vocal campaigners were missing. Wrongly, as it turned out, because the evening was distinguished and provided acquaintanceship with some valuable works, some of which would deserve to make their way to other cities.((Der Auftakt XVII/3‒4 (3 April 1937), 57))

This mirrors reports that Wille’s symphony concerts in Tsingtau were not always well attended (see above), and the additional evidence from that period that he was not always astute in his choice of new works for performance. Persuading a general audience to listen to unfamiliar repertoire requires a gift in selecting worthwhile new works and a talent for placing them within attractive programmes that include well-established favourites. Such abilities enabled conductors like August Manns at the Crystal Palace and Henry Wood at St James’s Hall in London to develop large and loyal audiences that were not put off by unfamiliar works per se. Comparisons with Manns (1825–1907) are particularly apt, since he too had wide experience of playing in and conducting German military bands before accepting the conductorship of the Saturday Concerts at the Crystal Palace in 1855.((See Michael Musgrave, The Musical Life of the Crystal Palace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 67–116.)) An observation by the teacher and pianist Ernest Walker is specific and illuminating: ‘Manns’s training had been that of a military band; he nearly won his freedom, but not, I think, completely so; he was a disciplinarian first and foremost.'((Musgrave, op. cit., 77.)) It seems that Wille, for all his energy and determination, may have failed to achieve a similar rapport with a crucial segment of his potential audience in Teplitz: even though the works he offered were all by sudetendeutsch composers, his audience perhaps found the prospect of a concert consisting entirely of music they had never heard before rather unattractive. Even the relatively sophisticated metropolitan audiences in London might have found such a programme daunting. Again the comparison with Manns is pertinent: he limited the number of ‘novelties’ but ‘[i]t is ironical that the little-known works which Manns was first encouraged to avoid should so soon have become the mark of his concerts … the audience increasingly looked for the novelty’.((Musgrave, op. cit., 84.))  Moreover, for all the approbrium s/he directed towards the sections of the audience who failed to attend, the reviewer’s detailed comments on the 1937 concert made it clear that s/he did not consider the quality of the works to be uniformly high.

A year later Wille published an extended “Teplitz-Schönauer Musikbrief” in the Musikblätter der Sudetendeutschen((Vol. 2/6 (15 April 1938), 187ff.)) that suggests that the problem of less than satisfactory audience figures persisted. Having reported on the concerts given by the Kur-Orchester during the winter season of 1937–38 (see also Appendix IIIc for details), Wille continued:

Grundsätzlich ist zu sagen, daß von einem Boycott der Teplitzer Konzerte nicht gesprochen werden kann. Wer des tut, verkennt nicht nur die Situation, sondern auch die Zeitverhähltnisse, wie sie seit nach dem Kriege im Flusse sind.
Es gibt leider überall Menschen, die es nicht fassen können, daß die Nachkriegszeit etwas anders ist als die Vorkriegszeit. Wenn vor dem Kriege die Teplitzer Philharmonischen gute Häuser hatten, so will das nicht heißen, daß die Besucher musikalischer waren oder das Gebotene künstlerischer war. Nein! Nur die Verhältnisse waren stabiler und die Konzerte waren „gesellschaftliche Ereignisse“, wobei man anwesend gewesen sein mußte, wenn man sich nicht freiwillig aus den Reihen der „Musikalischen“ oder „Gebildeten“ ausschließen – also degradieren wollte. Diese Bindungten oder Hemmungen sind nach dem Kriege fortgefallen. Das Publikum ist sozusagen ehrlicher geworden, und die Kunst hat aufgehört, das Privilegium einzelner Schichten zu sein. Heute gibt es keinen gesellschaftlichen Zwang mehr in Besuch von Kunstdarbietungen, heute ist die Kunst auf dem Weg, Allgemeingut zu werden. Daß dieser Umbruch, dieser Neubau der Kunst, Fundamente haben muß, die nicht gleich allgemein sichtbar sind, kann nur dem verborgen blieben, der nicht sehen kann oder nicht sehen will. Und damit sind wir zum kerne des Teplitzer Musiklebens gekommen. Wir sind nicht im Abstieg, sondern im Aufstieg begriffen. Wenn finstre Reaktion oder Schlimmeres das nicht sehen will und das Gegenteil behauptet, weil ihm die nötige Druckerschwärze zu Gebote steht, oder wenn brutale Profitgier am Werke ist, mit Hilfe schamloser Reklame aus der Kunst, die uns eine hehre Göttin ist, eine Melkkuh zu machen, so soll uns das nicht beirren. Auf zwei festgefügten Straßen bewegt sich unser Aufbau: erstens dadurch, daß unsere Kurkonzerte zur Hälfte solche Kost bringen, womit anderswo Sinfoniekonzerte bestritten werden, zweitens: durch nunmehr fast achtjährige Erziehungsarbeit in der Arbeiter-Sinfonie-konzerten. Wir haben uns damit den Nachwuchs geschaffen, der nicht aus konventionellen Gründen – wie früher – Konzerte besucht, sondern aus inneren wahren Bedürfnis. Das erste herrliche Morgenrot von diesem neuen Aufstieg hat das große Konzert der Vereinigten Orchester von Aussig und Teplitz-Schönau aufgezeigt. Es dämmert uns also hier nicht die Nacht herauf, sondern – wie auf vielen anderen Gebieten unseres deutschen Lebens und Strebens – ein heller, klarer und sonniger Tag zum Heile der deutschen Kunst.
It should be said that in principle one cannot talk of a boycott of the Teplitz concerts. Anyone who does this misunderstands not only the situation but also contemporary attitudes that have been in flux since after the war.
Unfortunately there are people everywhere who cannot believe that the post-war period is somewhat different from the pre-war period. If the Teplitz Philharmonic had good houses before the war, that does not mean that the visitors were more musical or that what was offered was more artistic. No! Only the conditions were more stable and the concerts were “social events”, whereby you had to be present if you didn’t want to voluntarily exclude yourself from the ranks of the “musical” or “educated” – that is, to demote yourself. These ties or inhibitions disappeared after the war. The public has become more honest, so to speak, and art has ceased to be the privilege of individual classes. Today there is no longer any social compulsion to attend art events, today art is on the way to becoming common property. The fact that this upheaval, this rebuilding of art, must have foundations that are not immediately visible, can only remain hidden from those who cannot or do not want to see. And with that we at the heart of  the musical life of Teplitz. We are not on the decline, but on the rise. If grim reaction or something worse does not want to see that and because it has the necessary printing ink at its disposal, claims the opposite, or if sheer greed for profit is at work, with the help of shameless advertising, to make from the art which is to us a noble goddess a milk-cow, we shouldn’t be put off by that. Our project moves along two firmly established paths: firstly, that half of our spa concerts bring the same nourishment as symphony concerts given elsewhere provide; and secondly, through almost eight years of educational work in the workers’ symphony concerts. We have thus created the next generation who do not attend concerts for conventional reasons – as in the past – but out of true inner needs. The first glorious dawn of this new awakening was signalled by the big concert by the combined orchestra of Aussig and Teplitz-Schönau. So night is not falling on us here, but – as in many other areas of our German life and endeavours – a bright, clear and sunny day [dawns] for the resuscitation of German art.

Despite this robust self-defence Wille was replaced by a conductor, composer and violinist, Bruno C. Schestak (1903–1950) who, unlike Wille, had been an active and loyal member 0f the NSPAD since 30 June 1925.((See Fred K. Prieberg, Handbuch Deutsche Musiker 1933–1945 (CD-ROM: 2004), pp. 6089, 9417.)) At this point O.K. Wille again slips from public view, and at present it is not known whether he was able to continue his professional career in any way before his death on 17 July 1962, at Dachau, Bavaria.




Appendix I: Reviews and reports on music in Tsingtau and performances by the Kapelle des III Seebataillons published in Die Musik, 1903–1914

Vol./issue Date/page Author
II/14 Zweites Aprilheft, 1903, 166 Dr Georg Crusen
V/22 Zweites Augustheft, 1906, 271 Dr Georg Crusen
VI/5 Erstes Dezemberheft 1906,  327 Cl. Engelmann-Gerecke (Shanghai)
VI/6 Zweites Dezemberheft 1906, 398 Dr Georg Crusen
VII/1 Zweites Oktoberheft, 1907, 127 Rosenberger
VII/10 Zweites Februarheft 1908,  255 Dr Georg Crusen
VII/22 Zweites Augustheft 1908,  258 Dr Georg Crusen
Erstes Märzheft 1909, 302 Dr Georg Crusen
VIII/19 Erstes Juliheft 1909, 59 Dr Georg Crusen
VIII/20 Zweites Juliheft 1909, 125‒6 Dr Georg Crusen
IX/9 Erstes Februarheft, 1910, unpag. unsigned report
IX/12 Zweites Marzheft, 1910, unpag. unsigned report
IX/15 Erstes Maiheft, 1910, 173:  Dr Georg Crusen
IX/19 Erstes Juliheft, 1910, 61‒2 Dr Georg Crusen
X/9 Erstes Februarheft, 1911, 189 Dr Georg Crusen
XI/22 Zweites Augustheft, 1912, 255 Dr Georg Crusen
XII/11 Erstes Augustheft, 1913, 190 unsigned report
XIII/9 Erstes Februarheft, 1914,  190–1 Dr Georg Crusen







Appendix II: Partial list of members of the Kapelle der III Seebataillon, 1902‒1917
Appendix:_Kapelle der III Seebataillon

Appendix IIIa: Partial repertoire list of the Kapelle der III Seebataillon, 1905‒1915
Appendix: Repertoire, 1905–1915

Appendix IIIb: Partial Calendars of Concerts given by the Kapelle der III Seebataillon, 1905‒1919
Appendix: Concert Calendars, 1905–1919

Appendix IIIc: Kur-Orchester Teplitz-Schönau
Contemporary Repertoire 1925‒1932 (pp. 1–8)
Partial Calendar of Concerts, 1922‒1938 (pp. 9–13)

Appendix IV: Conductors Conducting Mahler, 1900/01–1909/10
Appendix: Conductors and the number of  their concerts including works by Mahler

Appendix V: Mahler’s Repertoire of new Orchestral and Choral Works, 1885–1911
Appendix: New Orchestral and Choral Works conducted by Mahler

Appendix VI: Recordings of the Kapelle des III. Seebataillons: New York, 1916
Appendix: Recordings of the Kapelle des III. Seebataillons


This page was last edited on 4th March 2024