Gustav Mahler in Toblach/Dobbiaco

Gustav Mahler’s stay at Carbonin Vecchia

(In this essay Marianna Trenker, an adopted child of the Trenker family, recalled her memories of Mahler, still very vivid in 1938.)

For three years [1908-1910], Gustav Mahler spent his summer holidays at our beautiful estate in Altschluderbach, an idyllic location near the edge of the forest. In the summer of 1907 he had been in Neuschluderbach, now Schluderbach/Carbonin. It seems that during one of his walks Gustav Mahler discovered the appealing, peaceful location of our house and thus in the spring of 1908 he rented the flat where his wife, by then a widow, would stay again in 1911. It is a large and spacious apartment of ten rooms and a beautiful enclosed veranda, built in the style of a castle. The house is one of the ancient mansions of Toblach, dating back to the time of Emperor Maximilian. The coat of arms of the Lords of Leis is still visible on the ceiling of the great hall. Five minutes away, enclosed by a tranquil forest of fir trees, there is a plain summer cabin or Häuschen, where Gustav Mahler actually worked. Every year, in the spring, a piano was delivered and had to be transported to this cabin. He spent most of the day there, and no one – not even his wife – was allowed to disturb him. Early in the morning, everything he needed for his breakfast had to be ready: tea, coffee, butter, honey, eggs, biscuits, fruit, and poultry. Director Mahler always started work early, at six in the morning. In the Häuschen there was a stove, which he lit himself and used to prepare his own breakfast. At a distance of 1 km the Häuschen was surrounded by a fence, one and a half metres high. Nevertheless two young tradesmen once climbed over it and bothered the famous composer, begging for alms; so subsequently barbed wire was added on top. One day a vulture chased a crow, which flew into Mahler’s study for protection. The Herr Direktor, all upset, immediately went to old Trenker, the owner of the estate, complaining bitterly about the cheeky intruder. Mr. Trenker just started laughing at him and soon Gustav Mahler couldn't help but join in the laughter. Another time the resident cockerel upset him, waking him in the morning with his crowing. “How could we teach this cockerel not to crow in the morning?” the Direktor asked. "Oh well", Mr. Trenker answered, "you just wring its neck”; but Gustav Mahler did not want to hear about that. Concerning the people around him he was extremely cordial and pleasant. He often told us that as a student he sometimes lived for days on only a piece so that – as a member of a poor family with many children – he could afford his studies. Sometimes he collected poor young tradesmen from the street, bought them new clothes and gave them some money, to help them find a job; they probably were grateful for his generosity even after his death.
Gustav Mahler used to have many guests, among them Selma Kurz, a famous singer. One day he was among his wife’s guests, whom he obviously did not care for very much. Suddenly he stood up and, with an appropriate gesture, said: “There are many swine [Saukerle] in Vienna, could there be one amongst us?” One of my earliest child memories is a clear image of Gustav Mahler, with his ruffled hair, his plain everyday suit, and his special gait. We have a photo of him with his signature which is very precious to us as a dear remembrance of the great composer.
I dedicate these notes to the memory of the famous composer who stayed in my native land. Marianna TrenkerAltschluderbach, Toblach, August 16, 1938


Exerpts from letters that Mahler wrote during his stay in Toblach

Biography Gustav Mahler

Mahlers Toblacher works (german)