Research Output
Seven fans for Alma Mahler.
  "Seven Fans for Alma Mahler" is based on the tumultuous love affair between Oskar Kokoschka and Gustav Mahler's widow, and on the seven beautiful fans he painted for her throughout their three-year liaison (1912-1915). The work is structured closely and chronologically around the seven fans (each being a triptych) and each fan describes different aspects of their fraught relationship and of his feelings towards Alma. What I have created is a mosaic-style of work in seven principal sections and with each section comprising three smaller ones.
Each fan was painted as a birthday or Christmas present for Alma, and Kokoschka describes them as being "love letters in picture language". My own initial response to seeing six of them - the fourth fan was thrown into the fire by Walter Gropius (Alma's next husband) in a furious rage at the scenes depicted! - was a strong desire to create a work that would allow me to bring together some early and powerful musical influences that largely centre around Mahler's extraordinary music and his beautiful, enchanting wife.
And so my music is a direct response to the images, colours and brushstrokes on each fan as well as being an attempt to protray the psychological/emotional angst of Kokoschka himself, as he moves from emotions of joy and deep contentment in the early stages of the work, to a developing state of pain, frustration and apprehension by the end. The seventh and final fan is set against the backdrop of the "Great War". The images of war and the symbols of death help to emphasise Alma's diminishing love for Kokoschka, and in this barren landscape looms large the premonition of his own premature death in battle

  • Date:

    10 October 2002

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    M1 Music

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    785 Ensembles with one instrument per part


Dempster, K. (2002). Seven fans for Alma Mahler



Scottish Chamber Orchestra; Kenneth Dempster; Seven fans for Alma Mahler; Oskar Kokoschka; Gustav Mahler; Thierry Fischer;

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