Tom Lehrer (born April 9, 1928) is an American singer-songwriter,
satirist, pianist, and mathematician. Lehrer's song "Alma"
was played as a Valentine tribute during the "Rose pattern
three-lobe waltz" at the Skokie Valley Skating Club's
biennial Ice Dance Weekend in Wilmette, Illinois.
Lehrer introduced the song as follows:
Last December 13th, there appeared in the newspapers the juiciest,
spiciest, raciest obituary that has ever been my pleasure
to read. It was that of a lady name Alma Mahler-Gropius-Werfel
who had, in her lifetime, managed to acquire as lovers practically
all of the top creative men in central Europe, and, among
these lovers, who were listed in the obituary, by the way,
which was what made it so interesting, there were three whom
she went so far as to marry.
One of the leading composers of the day: Gustav Mahler, composer
of "Das Lied von der Erde" and other light classics.
One of the leading architects: Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus
school of design. And one of the leading writers: Franz Werfel,
author of "The Song of Bernadette" and other masterpieces.
It's people like that who make you realize how little you've
accomplished. It is a sobering thought, for example, that
when Mozart was my age - he had been dead for two years.
It seemed to me, I'm reading this obituary, that the story
of Alma was the stuff of which ballads should be made so here
Obituary to Alma
The New York Times, Sunday, December 13, 1964
Alma M. Werfel: Widow of writer Franz Werfel
She was also married to Mahler and Gropius
Mrs. Alma Mahler Werfel, widow of the writer Franz Werfel
and earlier of the composer Gustav Mahler, died Friday in
her apartment at 120 East 73d Street. Her age was 85. She
had also been married to Walter Gropius, the architect. Mrs.
Werfel, who was once described as "The most beautiful
girl in Vienna," recalled in her autobiography that she
had always been attracted to genius. She noted that she had
once confided to her first husband, Mahler, that what she
really loved in a man were his achievements. "The greater
the achievements," she told the great German composer,
"the more I love him." And genius also seemed to
have been attracted to Mrs. Werfel.
The former Alma Schindler, the daughter of Emil J. Schindler,
a landscape painter in Austria, she grew up in Vienna surrounded
by art and artists. Her intellect, which was nurtured by her
brilliant father, complimented her beauty.
She was a 21-year-old music student in 1902 when she met
Mahler, who was 41 years old and director of the Court Opera
House. He had already made his mark in the music world.
After a short courtship they were married. Alma travelled
with her husband on conducting tours in Europe and the United
States. They had two daughters, but only one, Anna, survived.
She became a sculptor.
While still married to the composer, she met Walter Gropius,
then a little known architect. She described him in her diary
as an "extraordinarily handsome German," and added
that the night of their first meeting wore into sunrise. "There
remained no doubt," she wrote, "that Walter Gropius
was in love with me and expected me to love him."
Mahler found out about their affair, brought the architect
to their home and asked Alma to make a choice. She chose to
remain with the compooser, but Gropius continued to write
love letters to her. She said in her book "And the Bridge
is Love," published in 1958, that Mahler read Gropius's
correspondence and "wrote beautiful poems about it."
Mahler died in 1911 and his widow returned to Vienna to live
with her parents. One day her father told her of "a poor
starving genius" who painted. Later he brought Oskar
Kokoschka home to paint her picture. She wrote that after
he had finished sketching her he stood up, embraced her and
walked out. He then started sending love letters and they
became lovers. The affair lasted three years until Kokoschka
joined the German Army. Shortly afterward Alma began corresponding
with Gropius, who had become successful, and they were married
in August 1915. They had a daughter, Manon, who died in her
While still married to Gropius she met Franz Werfel and had
a son by him. The child died in infancy. Gropius and Alma
finally agreed to divorce in 1918. She then moved in with
Werfel, and they were married in July, 1929. She also wrote
in her diary that she was pursued by other geniuses. The following
was dated 1926 and referred to a conversation she had with
Gerhart Hauptmann, the German drammatist and poet: "
'It's a pity,'he said to me, 'that the two of us don't have
a child together. That would have been something You, you
my great love....' " 'In another life,' he once told
me, 'we two must be lovers. I make my reservation now.' "His
wife heard it. 'I'm sure Alma will be booked up there too.'
she said flippantly. "He and I only smiled...."
She also wrote that other great men who were in love with
her were Dr. Paul Kammerer, the biologist, and Ossip Gabrilowitsch,
the Russian pianist and conductor who later married Mark Twain's
Werfel and Alma fled Nazi Germany in the late nineteen-thirties.
Their experiences prompting Franz to write "The Song
of Bernadette" and "Jacobowsky and the Colonel."
They came to the United States in 1940 and settled in California,
where Werfel died in 1945. She moved to New York in 1952.
Besides "And the Bridge is Love," Mrs. Werfel wrote
"Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters."