Ruth Ziesak, soprano Gerold Huber, piano
Wherever she goes and looks in the male world, she is the mistress and ruler’, reports Gustav Klimt, with whom Alma, just 20 years old, fell in love in 1898, much to the chagrin of her mother. The list of admirers that accumulated in the course of Alma’s following life reads like a ‘Who’s who’ of the intellectual life of the time. In Heine’s poem Ich wandele unter Blumen, which Alma set to music at a young age, she saw a mirror of her effect on the strong sex: ‘Ich wandle unter Blumen/ Und blühe selber mit .. (‘I stroll amongst flowers/And blossom myself, too…). One of those that were strolling along was Alexander Zemlinsky. Enraptured by Alma’s lively charm, he spontaneously decided to give a present to the almost stranger: ‘Miss, […] a booklet of songs is being published. May I dedicate it to you?’ The presentee was ‘rigid with joy’ at the Five Songs op. 7 dedicated to her and requested the composer to become her teacher.
When she presented him some of her songs – sadly, only a tiny fraction of her compositions is preserved today – Zemlinsky saw ‘a lot of talent but little skill’.
Caught in the dichotomy between defiant rebellion and yearned-for submission – it was no coincidence that Alma felt attracted to dominant and usually considerably older men – she ultimately opted for Gustav Mahler and against composition.
‘Und unter ihren Zweigen,/ da bin ich ganz allein,/ da bin ich ganz mein eigen,/
ganz nur dein’ (‘And under its branches/ there I am completely alone/ there I am completely myself/ utterly yours’) are the final words of the song Waldseligkeit.