He was the most trusted of Mahler’s conductor assistants, closer to the composer at first than the young Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer and Alexander Zemlinsky.
What attracted Mahler to Oscar Fried was, aside from his personal devotion, his aspiration to be a great composer.
Fried went on to pursue a successful career as a conductor, making the first recording of Mahler’s second symphony in 1924 and conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in the second performance of Mahler’s ninth.
The first western conductor to work in Soviet Russia, he sought asylum there after Hitler came to power and died in Moscow, of uncertain causes, in 1941.
Fried’s greatest success as a composer came in 1903 with Das trunkene Lied (The Drunken Song) for chorus and orchestra, based on texts by Friedrich Nietzsche with which Mahler was closely familiar. After 1914, the work sank into oblivion.
It was revived earlier this year by a German youth orchestra and will be broadcast by Deutschland Radio on Wednesday at 8 pm. Details here.
Fried (standing left, in 1928) with Ravel at the piano