Natalie [Natalia Anna Juliana] Bauer-Lechner (Penzing, Vienna, 9 May 1858 – Vienna, 8 June 1921) was an Austrian violist who is best known to musicology for having been a close and devoted friend of Gustav Mahler in the period between 1890 and the start of Mahler’s engagement to Alma Schindler in December 1901. During this period, she kept a private journal which provides a unique picture of Mahler's personal, professional and creative life during and just after his thirties, including an exclusive preview of the structure, form, and content of his third symphony.
Bauer-Lechner was the eldest child of five children (four girls and a boy) born to the Viennese bookshop owner and publisher Rudolf Lechner (1822-1895) and his wife Julie, née von Winiwarter (1831-1905). She was educated privately, and from 1866 to 1872 she and her sister Ellen studied at the Vienna Conservatory. Both sisters graduated on 25 July 1872 with a second prize (cf. Neue Freie Presse, Vienna, 28.7.1872, p. 7). Natalie was only 14 years old. In light of what happened three years later (her sudden marriage and becoming the stepmother of three children) it is difficult to see how she would find time to take part in the orchestral rehearsals at the Conservatoire during Mahler's student years from 1875-1878, as Bauer-Lechner later claims in her memoirs on Mahler. However, from various press notices in the Viennese dailies it was clearly her sister Ellen (or Helene) who frequently appeared on such occasions, and also in chamber music concerts with director Joseph Hellmesberger Sr. In 1910 Ellen Schlenk-Lechner formed her own short-lived string quartet with three males. Already in 1883 she had published a Polonaise in D Major Op. 1, for violin and piano.
Marriage and divorce
Most surprisingly and inexplicably, Natalie, only 16½ years old, married in Vienna on 27 December 1875 the 39-year-old widower, Professor, Dr. ph. Alexander Bauer (1836-1921), whose first wife (Emilie, born Russell) had died from pneumonia on 22 March 1874, only one day after she had given birth to her third daughter (cf. Wiener Zeitung, 26.3.1874, p. 8). The two other children were eleven and eight years old, respectively. It has therefore been speculated by Danish Mahler-scholar, Knud Martner, that the last-born daughter, christened Wilhelmina or Minnie, was in fact the illegitimate child of young Natalie. (By comparing photographs of Bauer-Lechner and the young Minnie Bauer, their features look strikingly similar, and she looks quite different from her two older sisters.)
Her marriage, however, childless as it appears to have been, was dissolved ten years later, on 19 June 1885. Nothing is known about Bauer-Lechner's life between 1885 and 1890. She did not take an active part in the Viennese musical life during this period, at least not according to the daily newspapers. Not even her whereabouts is known.
The Soldat-Roeger String Quartet
In March 1895 Bauer-Lechner became the violist of the newly formed all-female Soldat-Roeger String Quartet, whose leader was the Joachim-pupil Maria Soldat-Roeger. The Quartet gave each year three concerts in Vienna (in all 51 concerts between 1895 and 1913), and it also toured in Austria-Hungary, Germany, France, England and other European countries. After eighteen years the Quartet was finally dissolved in March 1913. Between 1909 and 1912 Natalie Bauer-Lechner arranged four solo concerts in Vienna and appeared from time to time as soloist in various German cities. As a trained professional musician, Bauer-Lechner grasped the technical and aesthetic content of Mahler's conversation. She noted many of his statements about music, literature, philosophy and life at some length and apparently verbatim.
In her later years, Bauer-Lechner became an outspoken feminist, and in 1918 she allegedly published an article on the war and the need for female suffrage, which led to her arrest and imprisonment. The article in question has never been traced. Her health subsequently collapsed, and she died in Vienna in poverty, only a few months after her former husband.
Erinnerungen an Gustav Mahler
The publication history of her principal work is complicated. The source is a bulky collection of notes entitled Mahleriana, apparently deriving from some thirty diaries which no longer exist. During her life, brief extracts were published in two Viennese journals: anonymously in Der Merker (April 1913), and under her own name in Musikblätter des Anbruch (April 1920). Erinnerungen an Gustav Mahler was published in 1923, and represents an edited selection from the available materials — as does the later English volume Recollections of Gustav Mahler (1980). The first German edition was republished in Hamburg 1984 (slightly altered and with additional materials, edited by Herbert Killian (Vienna), and with footnotes and commentaries by Knud Martner (Copenhagen).
Recently owned by the late Mahler-scholar Henry-Louis de La Grange, the Mahleriana manuscript is not intact: numerous pages have been torn out by unknown hands, and there is no indication of what they might have contained. During her life, Natalie Bauer-Lechner was in the habit of lending her manuscript to friends and acquaintances (E.H. Gombrich reports that his parents had it in their possession for some time), and it is presumably this practice that allowed material to be removed.
A collection of notes recording conversations with Mahler's long-standing friend Siegfried Lipiner is understood to have once existed among her papers. Its current whereabouts are unknown.
- Bauer-Lechner, Natalie: Fragmente: Gelerntes und Gelebtes (Vienna, 1907).
- Bauer-Lechner, Natalie: Erinnerungen an Gustav Mahler (Vienna-Leipzig, 1923)
- Bauer-Lechner, Natalie: Recollections of Gustav Mahler (tr. Dika Newlin, ed. Peter Franklin; London, 1980)
- Bauer-Lechner, Natalie: Erinnerungen an Gustav Mahler (ed. Herbert Killian und Knud Martner; Hamburg, 1984)
- Allan Kozinn (2013-07-27). "Chaste Ascetic? A Letter Details Mahler's Love Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-12-11.