Among those present at the world premiere of «Frublingsbegrabnis» was the twenty-one-year-old Alma Schindler. Her first impression of Zemlinsky was anything but flattering:

The man [...] cuts the most comical figure imaginable. A caricature - chinless, small, with bulging eyes and a downright crazy conducting style. It always makes a comical effect when composers conduct their own music, because they always want to draw too much out of the orchestra, more than necessary.

Two weeks later, at a dinner party, they met for the first time:

An evening at Spitzer's [Friedrich V. Spitzer (1854-1922) was heir to a sugar factory in Moravia...] I went with the greatest disinclination and had a wonderful time, spoke almost all evening with Alexander von Zemlinsky, the twenty-eightyear-old composer of «Es war einmal...» He's dreadfully ugly [...] and yet I found him quite enthralling. [...] At table [he] asked me softly, 'And what do you think of Wagner?' 'The greatest genius who ever lived,' I answered calmly. 'And which work of Wagner's is your favourite?' 'Tristan' - my reply, which so delighted him that he was quite transformed. He became truly handsome. Now we understood each other. I find him quite wonderful - shall ask him round.

She sent him a copy of her latest song, «Stumme Liebe», to a poem by Lenau, and on 10 March they met again, at a party thrown by Hugo and Ida Conrat in honour of the Belgian painter Fernand Khnopff.
Zemlinsky told me that he was extremely impressed by my song, that I have real talent - and other things too. I told him that he and Khnopff were the two major attractions for me. He didn't believe me. 'Fraulein, if I weren't so sensible - you could easily turn one's head.' Suddenly he grew serious. 'Fraulein [...] I would like to dedicate a song to you - no, more than that - a whole volume of lieder that's soon to be published' [«Irmelin Rose und andere Gesange» op. 7]. [...] I was overwhelmed with joy.
On 28 March Alma attended the tenth performance of «Es war einmal...»accompanied by Khnopff and Ida Conrat. 'On the whole I liked the opera,' she wrote, '[but] in the first act there are too many scenic and linguistic fireworks. That leaves me cold.' Later she invited Zemlinsky to call, with the intent of showing him more of her songs. But their next encounter, at a Tonkunstlerverein concert, was less cordial, for Alma became aware of the woman in Zemlinsky's life, Melanie Guttmann. After the concert she made a scene, and Zemlinsky left in a rage. Nevertheless he promised to call the following Monday, as agreed.
I played him a few of my more recent songs, and he found them very talented but poorly crafted. [...] At one turn of phrase he said, 'That's so good, I could almost have written it myself.'He drew my attention to a few minor errors, was kind and jovial. [...] He asked to take three of the songs with him. I shall copy them out and send them. [...]

BEAUMONT - pp. 74-75 - senza note. © Antony Beaumont