Online Exhibits@Yale

The Twilight of Romanticism

Gustav Mahler, letter to unidentified recipient

Paul Bekker Papers

Gustav Mahler

Letter to unidentified recipient

Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) was one of the titans of late Romanticism. Yale is a major center for Mahler scholars, because the Beinecke Library holds several important manuscripts. Mahler also appears in the Music Library’s holdings. In this letter, not all of which can be readily deciphered, Mahler states that Fuchs will be unable to substitute for him as a conductor. This may refer either of the brothers Johann Nepomuk Fuchs (1842–1899) or Robert Fuchs (1847–1927), both of whom were conductors. Robert was one of Mahler’s teachers.

Our letter belonged to the German music critic Paul Bekker (1882–1937). Bekker’s papers, which are held at Yale, consist chiefly of his own voluminous correspondence, but he was also a collector who owned letters by a number of renowned figures in music history, including Berlioz, Brahms, and Mahler.

We are grateful to Oliver Schowalter-Hay for his assistance with this letter.

Sergei Rachmaninoff, photograph by E. Mishkin

Portrait File

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Photograph by E. Mishkin

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) was universally admired as one of the greatest pianists of his age, but his compositions have been more controversial. For many listeners, his soaring melodies and grand passions made him a beloved composer, a rightful heir to the legacy of Tchaikovsky. But more than a few critics regarded those very qualities as vices rather than virtues; instead of beauty, passion, and well-deserved popularity, they perceived nothing but stubbornly regressive sentimentality and pandering. These views did little to deter the concert audiences and record buyers who loved Rachmaninoff, but it rendered him persona non grata in more intellectual circles. But as modernism has itself passed into history, the modernist critique has faded, and Rachmaninoff is now widely appreciated for what he was, rather than condemned for his failure to be something he was not.

Sergei Rachmaninoff, letter to Dagmar de Corval Rybner-Barclay, August 30, 1926

Opochinsky Collection

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Letter to
Dagmar de Corval Rybner-Barclay
August 30, 1926

This letter is striking because Rachmaninoff states that he hasn’t touched the piano for eight months, and at the same time he also reports that he finished composing a new piano concerto (his fourth) a few days ago. If true, it is an interesting commentary on his method of composition. To be sure, many composers work without the assistance of a keyboard, but it is perhaps surprising that a famous pianist, writing a piano concerto, would do so.
The recipient, Dagmar de Corval Rybner-Barclay (1890-1965), was a Swiss-born pianist and composer of Danish heritage. She taught at Curtis Institute and Columbia University.
For more information on the Opochinsky Collection, see the caption for the Weber letter in this exhibit.

Vladimir Horowitz, compact disc of music from the film, Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic (Deutsche Grammophon, 1985)

Horowitz Papers

Vladimir Horowitz

CD of music from the film
Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic
(Deutsche Grammophon, 1985)

A 1985 documentary film about Vladimir Horowitz was entitled Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic. (One of the producers was Horowitz’s manager, Peter Gelb, who is now the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera.) This CD features music performed in the film.
Thanks to the popularity of the film and CD, the phrase “the Last Romantic” became firmly attached to Horowitz. It appeared in countless articles, including many of the obituary notices that appeared after his death in 1989.

The Twilight of Romanticism