The MGM logo: a hand-drawn cartoon of Mahler at the podium, glaring at the audience

Main heading: The Music of Gustav Mahler: A Catalogue of Manuscript and Printed Sources [rule] Paul Banks





Instrumental Works


Vocal Works


Unfinished Works


Lost and Spurious Works






Mahler's Publishers


Supplementary Essays




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Index of Works


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It should be noted that the chronological table in ERGA, which lists the Polka on p. 119, is editorial, and does not transcribe Guido Adler's original in GA: Adler makes no reference to the work.

It is also worth noting that Bauer-Lechner's reference to Kronen is anachronistic: the currency in the late 1860s was the Gulden.


Polka mit einem Trauermarsch als Einleitung




Polka mit einem Trauermarsch als Einleitung












Printed Editions






Our knowledge of this work stems entirely from Natalie Bauer-Lechner's records of her conversations with Mahler in the summer of 1896. The passage in question was not included in the original edition of her book (NBL) and was first published only in 1984 (NBL2, 69):¹

In unseren Schwatzstunden erzählte mir Gustav manches aus seiner Kindheit. Das erste, was er mit 6 Jahren komponierte und zu Papier brachte, war eine Polka, wozu er einen Trauermarsch als Einleitung schrieb. Er tat es auf das Versprechen seiner Mutter, 2 Kronen dafür zu bekommen, woran aber noch ganz besonders die Bedingung geknüpft war, es dürfe das Papier nicht verklext sein. (Im Klexen war unser Gustav nämlich groß!) Er betete daher, ehe er an die Arbeit ging, zu Gott, daß er ihn keinen Patzen machen lasse und war nun überzeugt, Gott werde ihn davor bewahren. So tunkte er die Feder höchst herzhaft und ohne jede Vorsicht ein – hatte ohnedies ein Sicherheits-Tintenzeug zur Vermeidung der ärgsten Schäden – aber, o weh, bei den allerersten Noten schon fiel ein Riesenpatzen, daß das schöne Papier und alle Vorbereitungen zum Anfang vertan waren, und der kleine Schmierfink von Neuem beginnen mußte. „Mein Gottesglauben aber erlitt damit einen erheblichen Stoß", schloß Gustav lachend.

In our hours of chat Mahler told me a lot about his childhood. The first [thing] he composed and committed to paper, at the age of six, was a Polka for which he wrote a funeral march as an introduction. He did it to earn 2 Kronen on a promise from his mother – to which the condition was very specifically attached that the paper should not be blotted. (Our Gustav was very good at blotting!) Before he started work he therefore prayed to God that He would not allow him to make any blots, and was convinced God would protect him from that. He thus dipped his pen very boldly and – having moreover [chosen] an indelible ink – without any precaution  for the avoidance of the worst mischief. But, oh dear, at the very last notes a giant blot fell, so the beautiful paper and all the efforts from the start were wasted, and the little blotter had to start all over again. Laughing, Mahler concluded ‘with that my belief in God suffered a considerable blow.’

Select Bibliography

  NBL2, 69; HLG1, 18–19 (this is a summary of Natalie Bauer-Lechner's account); HLG1a, 38
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