About Gustav Mahler
(1860-1911) Romantic Period – Austria
Gustav Mahler was a late Romantic Period composer who focused his compositional efforts on large symphonic works. He was born in Bohemia, but spent the majority of his life working in Vienna. He was more famously known as a conductor, holding the coveted position as the conductor of the Vienna Court Opera for nearly ten years. As a Jew, he had to convert to Catholicism to secure the position in the predominantly Catholic country. However, he still regularly experienced open hostility from the anti-Semitic press. He is famous for saying, “I am three times homeless – as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew throughout the world.” He also served a brief tenure as director of the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera.
Mahler focused on conducting during the opera season and composed only during the summer. His compositional output is relatively small. He wrote nine symphonies and had begun a tenth before he died. He also wrote several large-scale song cycles employing orchestral forces, including Kindertotenlieder and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (“Songs of a Wayfarer”). His works were initially received with skepticism. It was not until the ban on his music was lifted after the Nazi era that he became one of the most frequently performed and recorded composers and has remained so into the 21st Century.
Learn more about Gustav Mahler on our blog, Take Note.