CHAPTER III
DIRECTOR OF THE VIENNA OPERA (1897-1907)

UNDER Mahler's immediate predecessor, Wilhelm Jahn, the artistic standard of the Vienna Opera had gradually deteriorated. Director since 1881 and loyally supported by Hans Richter, Jahn, an amiable man, and by no means a negligible musician, but increasingly impeded by ill health, had begun to let things drift. It is to the credit of Intendant von Bezecny to have energetically pursued the idea of appointing the ruthlessly industrious, fanatical and modernistic Mahler to get the Opera out of its rut. Mahler's attainment to a director's office was the less easy because Jahn, Richter and Nepomuk Fuchs, the second conductor, did all in their power to circumvent his appointment, rumour of which began to circulate in early April 1897. Only a few weeks earlier Mahler had conducted concerts in Moscow with sensational success. On 1st May his engagement as Kapellmeister in Vienna was announced. On 11th May he conducted at the Opera for the first time, 'on trial' ( Lohengrin). The success of this improvised performance was phenomenal: by 21st July he had been created a deputy director next to Jahn. Finally, on 8th October 1897, he was definitely appointed artistic director for life, with practically dictatorial powers, at a salary of 24,000 k. plus gratuities and a pension, in succession to Jahn, who was pensioned off as from the end of the current year. For ten years Mahler was to remain in that exalted position, which turned him into one of the most powerful and influential figures in the musical life of the Continent. On 13th October 1903 he received the Order of the Iron Cross of the third class from the Emperor Francis Joseph I, who throughout Mahler's tenure of office did not stint him of generous appreciation of his administrative and artistic achievements. This was sometimes conveyed him by the chamberlain, Prince Montenuovo, who was equally appreciative of Mahler and remained on exceptionally good

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