CHAPTER IV
LAST YEARS (1908-11)

MAHLER'S decision to continue for a while in the burdensome profession of operatic conducting was, in a roundabout way, a concession to his creative genius. He was determined to retire as a conductor after his fiftieth birthday and to dedicate the rest of his life to composition alone. From the proceeds of his American engagements he purchased a plot of land on the Semmering, south of Vienna, and he eventually started to build a house there which he was destined never to inhabit. Four years of intermittent drudgery as a guest conductor in the United States seemed but a small sacrifice for security to be enjoyed ever after. But the sands were swiftly running out. Undermined in health, with a badly damaged heart, deeply affected by the tragic events of the past months and smarting under the callous indifference of the Viennese public to his departure, he started for the new world with his wife and surviving daughter on 9th December 1907. At the Metropolitan Opera he conducted mainly German works until May 1908 with spectacular success and repeated that felt in the reason of 1908-9.1 In 1909 a newly founded Philharmonic Society in New York enabled Mahler to give up opera conducting at the Metropolitan, which had become irksome to him despite isolated moments of artistic satisfaction, as in the case of Smetana Bartered Bride in 1910. He confined himself mainly to concerts, of which he conducted no less than forty-six in the season of 1909-10. In his last American winter ( 1910-11) he managed to conduct forty- eight out of a total of sixty-five concerts contracted for, some of them in far-off cities. Friction with the orchestra as well as with the

____________________
1
About Mahler's difficulties with Conried, his vain attempt to secure an appointment for Roller to the 'Met' and about his unstable position in America in general, see his letters to Alfred Roller, written from America in 1908-10. BR (see Bibliography, p. 288), Nos. 391-400.

-137-

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