Mark Bostridge

The loveliest girl in Vienna

Cate Haste’s Passionate Spirit attempts to portray a more sympathetic character than the monster of previous biographies

It must be rare for a popular song to have such a lasting influence on a posthumous reputation. However, this is the case with Tom Lehrer’s deliciously satirical tribute, ‘Alma’. Reading Alma Mahler’s obituary in 1964 — the ‘juiciest, spiciest, raciest’ he’d ever come across — Lehrer was amazed by her matrimonial CV and proceeded to immortalise it in a catchy lyric.

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