Gustav Mahler

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Mahler, Gustav

(go͝os`täf mä`lər), 1860–1911, composer and conductor, born in Austrian Bohemia of Jewish parentage. Mahler studied at the Univ. of Vienna and the Vienna Conservatory. He was conductor of the Budapest Imperial Opera (1888–90), the Hamburg Municipal Theater (1891–97), the Vienna State Opera (1897–1907), and the New York Philharmonic (1909–11). He also conducted the Metropolitan Opera orchestra (1908–10). As a conductor Mahler was extraordinarily exacting and precise, achieving high standards of performance that have become legendary. His refusal to compromise artistic integrity aroused intense personal opposition in Vienna and New York.

Composing mainly during summers, he completed nine symphonies (the unfinished tenth has been completed by Deryck Cooke) and several songs and song cycles, mostly with orchestral accompaniment. Of the cycles, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen [songs of a wayfarer] (1883–85), Kindertotenlieder [songs on the death of children] (1901–4), and Das Lied von der Erde [song of the earth] (1907–10) are most notable. Mahler followed BrucknerBruckner, Anton
, 1824–96, Austrian composer. He was appointed organist at the Linz cathedral in 1856 before becoming court organist in Vienna in 1868, where he later taught at the conservatory and university.
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 in the Viennese symphonic tradition. He added folk elements to the symphony and expanded it in terms of length, emotional contrast, and orchestral size. He used choral or solo voices in four symphonies: the Second, Third, Fourth, and Eighth; the Eighth is known as the Symphony of a Thousand because of the enormous performing forces required. The thinner texture, wide-ranging melodies, and taut, intense emotionalism of Mahler's late works strongly influenced the next generation of Austrian composers, especially Arnold SchoenbergSchoenberg, Arnold
, 1874–1951, Austrian composer, b. Vienna. Before he became a U.S. citizen in 1941 he spelled his name Schönberg. He revolutionized modern music by abandoning tonality and developing a twelve-tone, "serial" technique of composition (see serial
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 and Alban BergBerg, Alban
, 1885–1935, Austrian composer. In his youth he taught himself music but in 1904 he became the pupil and close friend of Arnold Schoenberg. Later Berg himself taught privately in Vienna.
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See his letters ed. by A. Mahler and D. Mitchell (3d ed., tr. 1973); H.-L. de La Grange and G. Weiss, ed., Gustav Mahler: Letters to His Wife (tr. 2004); N. Lebrecht, Mahler Remembered (1987); biographies by B. Walter (tr. 1941, repr. 1970), K. Blaukopf (tr. 1972), H.-L. de La Grange (tr., 4. vol., 1995–2008), J. Carr (1997), and J. M. Fischer (tr. 2011); C. Floros, Gustav Mahler: The Symphonies (tr. 1994, repr. 2003); T. W. Adorno, Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy (tr. 1996).

Mahler, Gustav


Born July 7, 1860, in Kalischt, presentday Kaliště, Bohemia; died May 18, 1911, in Vienna. Austrian composer and conductor.

Mahler spent his childhood in Jihlava (Iglau). From 1875 to 1878 he studied at the Vienna Conservatory. In 1880 he began his conducting career in small theaters of Austria-Hungary. In 1885-86 he conducted at the German Theater in Prague and from 1886 to 1888 in Leipzig. From 1888 to 1891, Mahler was director and conductor of the Budapest Opera House; from 1891 to 1897 he served as first conductor of the Hamburg Opera. From 1897 to 1907 he was artistic director and conductor at the Imperial Opera in Vienna, which flourished under his leadership. Mahler’s career as a conductor is an epoch in the history of musical theater. He was an outstanding interpreter of operas by Wagner, Mozart, and Beethoven (Fidelio) and the first to stage operas by Tchaikovsky and Smetana in Vienna. Mahler was also a symphony conductor; he was a guest conductor in Holland and Russia in 1897, 1902, and 1907. In 1907, pressured in Vienna by aristocratic opposition, Mahler left the theater. He settled in America, returning to Vienna only in the summer. In 1908-09 he was conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and from 1909 to 1911 he conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mahler was an outstanding symphonist; his impressive compositions clearly reflect his desire to create a “symphonic conception” that would express philosophical questions. However, Mahler’s work is characterized by a contradiction between the programmatic ideas, which to a large extent bear the imprint of his idealistic outlook, and their musical embodiment. His works combine a humanist tendency and a striving for broad philosophical generalizations with reliance on folk music and music from everyday life (song, Ländler, march).

In the early symphonies (1888, 1894, 1896, 1901), which are thematically connected with his vocal cycles Lieder einesfahrenden Gesellen (1884) and Des Knaben Wunderhorn (1895), the human voice is introduced (except in Symphony No. 1; a chorus is employed in Symphonies No. 2 and 3). The symphonies of his middle period (Symphonies No. 5, 6, and 7) are entirely instrumental, related in mood to his songs with words by F. Rückert (Kindertotenlieder, 1904). In these symphonies, Mahler expressed a heroic world view; hence the increase in dramatic expressiveness (especially in Symphony No. 6; his “tragic” symphony, 1904).

In Symphony No. 8 (1906), Mahler again turned to philosophical and moral problems and the use of poetic texts (from the Catholic hymn Veni, creator spiritus and the second part of Goethe’s Faust). This symphony, the “Symphony of a Thousand,” was composed as a large-scale musical production, calling for soloists, three choruses, and large orchestra. In his late compositions, the symphony-cantata Das Lied von der Erde, based on texts by Chinese poets (1908), Symphony No. 9 (1909), and Symphony No. 10 (unfinished), Mahler reached a crisis in his optimistic viewpoint. In his later work, the composer employed an innovative musical language—linear polyphony, expanded tonality, and the treatment of the orchestra as a chamber-music unit—features of which were later adopted by composers of various trends. Mahler exerted a noticeable influence on the composition of dramatic symphonies of a grand scale (D. D. Shostakovich and A. Honegger). Also, some aspects of Mahler’s musical language prepared the way for the stylistic upheaval that took place in the music of the expressionists A. Schonberg, A. Berg, and A. Webern.


Sollertinskii, I. I. G. Maler. Leningrad, 1932.
Gustav Maler: Pis’ma, Vospominaniia, 2nd ed. (Translated from German.) Moscow, 1968.
Bekker, P. G. Mahlers Sinfonien. Berlin, 1921.
Adorno, T. W. G. Mahler. Frankfurt am Main, 1960.
Blaukopf, K. G. Mahler, oder Der Zeitgenosse der Zukunft. Vienna, Munich, and Zurich, 1969.


References in periodicals archive ?
It does not take everything said about Gustav Mahler by, for instance, Alma Mahler or Bruno Walter, for the truth; in fact, one of the strengths of the book is that it shows how complex tiller's relationship to those two individuals was.
In spite of this sentiment, Gustav Mahler, born a Jew, was baptized on February 23, 1897, at age 36.
Nikolaj Znaider plays Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester conducted by Colin Davis.
Solo un genial artista del humor como Woody Allen podria concebir una obra musical ambientada en la Viena de fin de siglo, donde Kafka ejecuta un numero de Claque, y Alma Mahler es infiel a Gustav Mahler, a Gropius a Kokoschka, a Klimt, a Schiele, a Wittgenstein y a Popper.
Neumann's ambitious Prague opera programme now rested on the shoulders of the soon to be departing Ludwig Slansky, who had worked at the Prague Theatre for more than twenty years, and Gustav Mahler.
The title of Stuart Feder's psychological biography of the composer Gustav Mahler describes the essentials of the text: Mahler's life and work as a series of crises.
Under the leadership of Emil Hertzka, UE began publishing the music of such early twentieth-century composers as Bela Bartok, Frederick Delius, Leos Janacek, Ernst Krenek, Gustav Mahler, Karol Szymanowski and Kurt Weill.
In the earlier part of the 20th century, music lovers curious about the symphonies of Gustav Mahler did not have the luxury of choosing amongst dozens of recordings of his symphonies.
And while essentially a silent drama, beneath the swirling Gustav Mahler soundtrack there's the gentle sound of fangs piercing a virgin's neck and the sickening thwack of a wooden stake being driven through Dracula's heart.
Other artists found on Glocer's Compaq PA-1 player are John Coltrane, Gustav Mahler and the Grateful Dead.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas will present new episodes of their acclaimed Keeping Score television series on PBS exploring the life and music of enigmatic composer Gustav Mahler.
I am reliably informed that the conductor was using the NEW Critical edition score, published in 2010 by 'Peters' on the authorisation of the International Gustav Mahler Society (IGMS) and in the order that was performed at this concert.