The Gustav Mahler-Alfred Rose Collection at the University of Western Ontario

By McClatchie, Stephen | Notes, December 1995 | Go to article overview

The Gustav Mahler-Alfred Rose Collection at the University of Western Ontario


McClatchie, Stephen, Notes


When Alma Mahler-Werfel and her husband, the Austrian writer Franz Werfel, fled Vienna in the spring of 1938 after the Nazi Anschluss, she left the better part of Mahler's papers and correspondence in the library that occupied the top floor of her house. Its destruction by an Allied bomb during the final days of the war has been a matter of endless regret for Mahler scholars ever since. A similar fate might easily have befallen Mahler's sister's collection of letters and- manuscripts, now housed in the Gustav Mahler-Alfred Rose Room of the Music Library at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario, had it not accompanied her husband, Arnold Rose, on his flight to England shortly after her death in August 1938.

The Mahler-Rose Collection consists of Mahler's letters to his parents and siblings, as well as musical manuscripts, letters, cards, photographs, and other memorabilia relating to Gustav Mahler, his sister, Justine, and her husband, Arnold Rose, the leader of the renowned Rose Quartet and longtime concertmaster of the Hofoper orchestra (see fig. 2). That it ended up in London, Ontario is the result of a chain of coincidences set up by the massive dislocation and disruption caused by the Second World War. After Hitler invaded Austria in March of 1938, justine and Arnold's son, Alfred, and his wife Maria fled to the United States. A few months after that, Arnold and Alma Rose, Alfred's sister, found refuge in England, taking the collection with them in steamer trunks. Alma subsequently went to Holland to play and conduct, and became trapped by the Nazi occupation; she perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944 after having conducted a women's orchestra in the camp.(1) In 1946, after learning of his daughter's fate, Arnold passed away in England while preparing to join his son in the United States. The Mahler-Rose Collection was then shipped to Cincinnati, where Alfred and Maria had settled in 1938. There it might have remained, had a former pupil of Arnold Rose not recommended that Alfred be hired to start an opera workshop at the Conservatory in London, Ontario. After running this workshop for the summers of 1946 and 1947, Alfred was offered a permanent job teaching at the Music Teacher's College, newly affiliated with the University. (The College would undergo several metamorphoses eventually to become the Faculty of Music in 1968.) He and his wife moved to London in 1948, bringing the collection with them. For over three decades it remained in a London bank vault, until it was deposited in the Mahler-rose Room in the Music Library at Western by Maria Rose in 1983, eight years after her husband's death.

When the collection was given to the Music Library, most of the material had been stored in twenty-one, large manila envelopes. While the items in each envelope proved to be in no particular order and the relationship among the envelopes revealed no particular pattern, the decision was made not to tamper with the overall organization of the collection, apart from arranging the items in each envelope in a rough chronological order. Each item was then given an individual accession number and a letter code to indicate the nature of the item. For example, "MJ" signifies a letter from Mahler to justine, and "MF" a letter from Mahler to another family member. The complete shelfmark for each item begins with the envelope number, then the letter code, and concludes with the accession number (e.g. E3-MJ-31).

There are four supplements to the main body of the collection: (1) 38 letters sold to the University of Western Ontario by Alfred Rose in 1971; (2) material purchased by the Music Library at Sotheby's sale of Alfred Rose's cousin's, Ernest Rose's, collection; (3) and (4) material - scores, photographs, memorabilia - given to the Library by Mrs. Rose in 1989. The third supplement relates to Mahler, while the fourth relates to the Rose family.

In the spring of 1995, Mrs. Maria Rose dissolved her apartment in London and entered a nursing home. …

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