Gustav Mahler was born on July 7, 1860 to a
middle-class Jewish family in Kaliste, Bohemia,
then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He
received his principal musical training at the
Vienna Conservatory, beginning in 1875. Mahler's
drive to compose began in his early years, but he
found he could make a good living by conducting,
which in turn allowed him time to compose. Posts at
several opera houses, including Prague, Leipzig,
Budapest, Hamburg, eventually led to the
directorship of the Vienna State Opera in 1897.
As a Jew, Mahler was exposed to anti-Semitism all
his life, including an official "Anti-Semitic"
press in Vienna. Some music commentators treated
Mahler favorably, while others were vitriolically
To obtain the Vienna State Opera directorship, it
was necessary to be a Catholic, so Mahler
converted. During his ten years directing the
Vienna Opera, he expanded repertoire and raised
artistic standards, and his exacting perfectionism
earned him both respect and enmity. His summers
were spent composing in idyllic mountain settings.
The next few years would see him conducting the New
York Philharmonic, the premiere of his Symphony No.
8 in Munich, Alma's infidelity and its toll on
their marriage, and the continuing deterioration of
his health. He died in Vienna on May 18, 1911, at
the age of fifty, from an infection of his faulty
Mahler completed nine symphonies, some of which
included vocal soloists and choruses, leaving a
tenth unfinished, in addition to settings of a
series of Chinese poems translated into German, Das
Lied von der Erde ("The Song of the Earth").
Mahler also wrote some forty songs, including two
song cycles, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
("Songs of a Wayfarer"), and Kindertotenlieder
("Songs on the Death of Children"), and two sets
entitled Des Knaben Wunderhorn ("The Youth's Magic
Horn"), and Lieder nach Ruckert ("Songs after [the
Best known in his lifetime as a leading orchestral
and operatic conductor, Gustav Mahler's
compositions were never fully understood or
accepted by the musical establishment in Vienna.
Mahler himself realized this, and said, "My time
will yet come." Now acknowledged as one of the most
important late-romantic composers, his works
continue to be recorded, his music continues to
draw audiences, and musicologists still study and
edit his scores-- his time is now, and will
continue into the future.
-- Jill Maret Ferguson
Other 2013 Mahler Concerts,
"Songs of a Wayfarer"
March 23, 24
Colorado Symphony, Denver
Symphony No. 6
April 12, 13, 14
Arapahoe Philharmonic, Denver
Symphony No. 1
University of DenverLamont School of Music
Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection"
Aspen Music Festival, Aspen
Aspen Chamber Symphony
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 1
In 1902, he married Alma Schindler (1879-1964), a
musician and composer twenty years his junior. They
had two daughters, Maria Anna, (1902-1907), and
Anna (1904-1988), nicknamed respectively "Putzi"
and "Gucki". Maria's death in 1907, at age four,
was a huge blow, followed that same year by Mahler
being diagnosed with a faulty mitral heart valve, a
condition that could, in those pre-antibiotic days,
lead to a heart infection. As 1907 continued,
Mahler, weary of the administrative burdens of the
Vienna Opera, accepted an attractive offer from the
Metropolitan Opera in New York that included a
larger salary, no administrative duties, and far
more time for composing.