35 years Gustav Mahler Musikwochen


A little music festival with international ambitions in the heart of the Dolomites, where Gustav Mahler used to spend his summer holidays.
A part of the tradition of Gustav Mahler and his work, a place where Mahler’s music, science, and discography get together.

1981 - 1993

The 1st Gustav Mahler Week took place in 1981 (July 19 – 26) – at that time Mahler was far from being famous. The first 3 years Ugo Duse and Heinz Klaus Metzger were the artistic directors.

Since the beginnings the Festival has been trying to achieve a balance between artistic ambitions and financial potentials. It was a lucky chance that Rainer Riehn completed Mahler’s reduced version of the “Lied von der Erde” begun by Schönberg. The première was in 1983 in Toblach.

There was no concert hall, only few financial means and even the people of Toblach did not accept the Festival. In 1986 – after an intermezzo with Quirino Principe – Prof. Henry-Louis de La Grange took over the artistic direction. Guests of this festival edition were the young baritone Thomas Hampson, the performance of a commissioned work by Luciano Berio, Erwin Ringel and the French chamber music elite. Local parish-pump politics and de La Grange’s artistic claim were in contrast – therefore an important chance was lost.

Hubert Stuppner was the artistic director from 1987 until 1990. He put the focus on Mahler’s early works, the 2nd Viennese school, on works by Expressionist musicians and, of course, on „Das Lied von der Erde“. Unforgettable in 1990 was the lieder-performance by the baritone Thomas Quasthoff who later became an acclaimed singer.

In 1991, for the next 3 years, Rainer Keuschnig took over the artistic direction, Attila Csampai became head of the newly defined Mahler Protocol and the Record Prize „Toblacher Komponierhäuschen“. Keuschnig put the focus on the „Composers in residence“- Franco Donatoni, Wolfgang Rihm and Salvatore Sciarrino met in Toblach - Csampai on Mahler’s works and their interpretation.


1994 - 2009

In 1994 Josef Lanz became artistic director of the Festival. He put the focus on the local music scene with Werner Pirchner as Composer in Residence, he organized exhibitions and premieres with the Südtiroler Künstlerbund, local composers were commissioned to write pieces performed for the first time during the Festival. Lanz also promoted the thematic approach between music programme and the Mahler Protocol. „Mahler and nature“, „Mahler’s popularity“, „Mahler and the Film“ and other unexplored „Mahler issues“. Also new projects were established: 1997 the piece „Traumzeit und Traumdeutung, Sinfonische Aktion für Instrumentalisten im Bergraum“ commissioned by the Mahler Music Weeks to the US-Cuban composer George Lopez and performed for the first time next to the Zsigmondy-Hütte in the Sextner Dolomites. An unforgettable event was the night concert next to Mahler’s composing chalet in Altschluderbach/Toblach with Uri Caine & Friends in 1998, and his concert „Mahler in Toblach“ published on CD (label Winter&Winter).

In 1999 the Gustav Mahler Music Weeks were held for the first time in the renewed building of the ancient Grand Hotel - in the new concert hall dedicated to the famous composer Gustav Mahler who spent his summer holidays (1908-1910) here in Toblach. Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of World War 1 the hotel was the favourite destination of the European aristocracy, famous musicians and poets. In 2000 the Music Weeks were extended to 4 weeks in order to be able to host more orchestras and to have the chance to propose a vaster programme. From 2000 until 2004 the Mahler Chamber Orchestra was the Orchestra in Residence with its famous conductors Daniel Harding, Marc Minkowski and Alan Gilbert and the celebrated violinist Viktoria Mullova. Other prominent guests of the Festival: Orchestra La Fenice (conductor: Eliahu Inbal), Staatskapelle Weimar (conductor: George Alexander Albrecht), Bundesjugendorchester (conductor: Roberto Paternostro) with Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.
Also the Mahler Protocol had prominent guests (2001 – 2006): Constantin Floros, Jonathan Carr, Quirino Principe, Jens Malte Fischer, Iso Camartin and Gilbert Kaplan. In 2004 the Festival began a cooperation with the International Gustav Mahler Society (Vienna) with its vice president Prof. Erich Wolfgang Partsch, who organised the „Toblacher Mahler – Gespräche“ with focus on themes like „Mahler and Hans Roth“, „Mahler and The Soviet music“, „Mahler and Jazz“ or „Mahler as arranger“.
From 2002 the Music Weeks were extended also regionally: Concerts were held in Sillian and Heinfels (Heinfels Castle), in Innichen, Niederdorf, Welsberg (Welsperg Castle) and Cortina d’Ampezzo.  
The Gustav Mahler Music Weeks have always been focusing on contemporary music: top ensembles like Österreichische Ensemble für Neue Musik, Ensemble Ricerca, Ex Novo Ensemble, Windkraft - Kapelle für neue Musik, Minguet Quartett or the world famous Kronos Quartet were guests in Toblach. The partnership with the Gustav Mahler Kompositionspreis in Klagenfurt put focus on works written by young composers.
Since the beginning in 1981 the Gustav Mahler Music Weeks have been a sort of forum for young musicians who performed Mahler’s most important symphonic oeuvres: Symphonic Orchestra of the Music Academy Ljublijana, Junge Philharmonie Wien, Landesjugendorchester Rheinland-Pfalz, Wiener Jeunesse Orchester and the Joven Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid.


2010 – 2014

From 2010 until 2014 concerts with great orchestras and famous conductors were hosted by the Mahler Festival in Toblach: Deutsche Symphonie Orchesters Berlin (conductor: Ingo Metzmacher), Israel Chamber Orchestra (conductor: Roberto Paternostro), Bamberger Symphoniker (Conductor: Jonathan Nott) and in cooperation with the Festspiele Südtirol the concerts with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (conductor: Riccardo Chailly), and with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (Conductor: Daniele Gatti).
The Gustav-Mahler-Music Weeks – an European Festival with regional roots not only from the musical point of view but also a forum for politics, art and human sciences!

Die Musikwochen - Josef Lanz (german)