Hermann Weiss, Jihlava: View of Mahler’s house on Znojemská Street in Jihlava, 1936, gelatin silver print, 393 x 280 mm
Provenance: the collection of the Central Jewish Museum for Moravia and Silesia in Mikulov, (1936–1938)
This year, the entire music world is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Mahler’s (July 7, 1960, Kalischt [Kaliště] – May 18, 1911, Vienna), perhaps the greatest Austrian symphonist and conductor. Mahler grew up in Jihlava, a town that lies right on the border between Bohemia and Moravia, and his music began to take shape during the formative years he spent there. The family home was on today’s Znojemská Street (formerly Brtnická), to which the Mahlers moved a few months after Gustav was born. His father, Bernard, was industrious and quick-tempered, his mother, Marie, the eldest of seven daughters of the soap manufacturer Herrmann from Ledeč nad Sázavou, was mild-mannered. Jihlava had the status of a Royal Town, and the Jewish Mahlers were able to relocate there only thanks to the relaxation of restrictions brought in by the October Diploma of 1860. Issued by Emperor Franz Josef I, it ushered in a process of political reform that culminated in the December Constitution of 1867, whereby Jews were gradually granted full civil rights throughout the entire monarchy.
From 1860 to 1872 the Mahlers occupied the first floor of No. 265 (on the right in the photograph with the designation I Iglau, Znaimergasse 4/265). On the ground floor was a pub and in back a distillery. Bernard Mahler was so successful at both businesses, in addition to other commercial enterprises, that after twelve years he was able to purchase the adjacent house, No. 264 (designated in the photographas II Iglau, Znaimergasse 6/264). This is where Gustav Mahler lived during his gymnasium years, save for a short interval spent in Prague, and to where he later would return when visiting his parents once he began to study in Vienna, first at the conservatory and then two years at the university (studying philosophy, history, and the history of music). Mahler stopped visiting Jihlava once his parents died in 1889, but even though he sold the family home, he retained his right of domicile in the town to the end of his life.
The photograph was taken in 1936 for the collection of the newly established Central Jewish Museum of Moravia and Silesia in Mikulov, part of whose mission was to document the lives of prominent Jews from Moravia. House No. 4/265, which has recently been renovated, is the property of the town since 2008, and it serves as the home for the Czech-German Gustav Mahler House Society. An exhibition on the composer’s life and work is located on its first floor. Information on the Gustav Mahler House’s activities can be found at http://www.mahler.cz/. The website also gives a comprehensive overview of the house’s history and Mahler’s relationship to Jihlava, the place of his first encounters with music where his first public concerts were held.