Gustav Mahler

Today, July 7th, is the birthday anniversary of the great Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.

Gustav Mahler is one of the greatest composers of musical history and he was also an excellent conductor.

Gustav Mahler was born in July 7th of 1860 and died in May 18th of 1911.



As a composer, Mahler acted as a bridge between the 19th-century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century.

While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect which included a ban on its performance in much of Europe during the Nazi era.

After 1945 the music was discovered and championed by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became a frequently performed and recorded composer, a position he has sustained into the 21st century.

Born in humble circumstances, Mahler displayed his musical gifts at an early age.

After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper).

During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press.

Nevertheless, his innovative productions and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner and Mozart.

Late in his life he was briefly director of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.

Some of Mahler’s immediate musical successors included the composers of the Second Viennese School, notably Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern.

Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten are among later 20th-century composers who admired and were influenced by Mahler.

Among other composers whose work carries the influence of Mahler were:  Aaron Copland from the United States, the German song and stage composer Kurt Weill,  Italy’s Luciano Berio, Russia’s Dmitri Shostakovich and England’s Benjamin Britten.

The American composers Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber were also influenced by Mahler’s work.

In a 1989 interview the pianist-conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy said that the connection between Mahler and Shostakovich was “very strong and obvious”; their music represented “the individual versus the vices of the world.”

The International Gustav Mahler Institute was established in 1955, to honour the composer’s life and work.




Of Mahler’s  compositions my favorites are:

The settings of poems by Friedrich Rückert including the “Kindertotenlieder” cycle and the Friedrich Rückert-Lieder.

Das Lied von Erde, (The song of the Earth, song cycle; words from ancient Chinese poems in translation by Hans Bethge)

Des Knaben Wunderhorn

The First (Titan), the Fifth, The Eight (“Sinfonie der Tausend”, “”Symphony of a Thousand”) , The Second,  Third, Fourth, Seventh, Sixth, Ninth and Tenth symphonies.




Celebrating the music and life of Gustav Mahler!


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