Musical Royalty: The Background
We never felt any different from anyone else. -- Alfred Rosé, on childhood in Vienna
Alma Rosé was born in Vienna, the bustling capital of the thousand-year-old Habsburg empire. She arrived on Saturday, 3 November 1906, a cloudy day in the imperial city. Her parents, Arnold and Justine Rosé, celebrated with music.
Justine's pregnancy had been troubled. She was often sick and exhausted by the demands of running the commodious household and looking after rambunctious "Alfi," the Rosés' precocious, almost-four-year-old son Alfred. With her usual sense of decorum, Justine carried on with a curtailed social schedule. In 1906, invitations to her musical teas and Sunday dinners were rare and highly prized.
From concern for his wife, Arnold spent the year close to home, canceling an appearance with the Philharmonic in Salzburg as principal soloist in the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D. When Justine delivered a healthy baby girl, he immediately sent word to the Vienna Opera.
Justine's brother, Gustav Mahler, was at the opera the night the baby was born, conducting a new production of Hermann Götz's Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung (The Taming of the Shrew). He and his wife Alma Mahler were the devoted parents of two little daughters. Maria Anna, their dear "Putzi," was four years old to the day when little Alma arrived -- the cousins would share their November birthday. Anna Justine, named for her maternal grandmother and her Aunt Justine but called "Gucki" for her blue eyes, was a year old. In honor of Gustav's beautiful young wife, the Rosés named their baby Alma Maria.
Bruno Walter was also at the opera when Arnold's happy announcement arrived. Like the Mahlers, he and his wife Elsa, the Rosés' closest musical friends, had two young daughters. They made haste to visit the proud parents