Gustav Mahler
Overview
 
Gustav Mahler (ˈɡʊstaf ˈmaːlɐ; 1860 – 1911) was a late-Romantic
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

 Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, in what was then Austria-Hungary, now Kaliště
Kalište (Pelhrimov District)
Kaliště is a village and municipality of the Pelhřimov District in the Vysočina Region, Czech Republic. It is located at the watershed of the Želivka and Sázava rivers, about northwest of Humpolec. The population is about 330....

 in the Czech Republic. Then his family moved to nearby Iglau (now Jihlava
Jihlava
Jihlava is a city in the Czech Republic. Jihlava is a centre of the Vysočina Region, situated on the Jihlava river on the ancient frontier between Moravia and Bohemia, and is the oldest mining town in the Czech Republic, ca. 50 years older than Kutná Hora.Among the principal buildings are the...

) where Mahler grew up.

As a composer, he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism
Modernism (music)
Modernism in music is characterized by a desire for or belief in progress and science, surrealism, anti-romanticism, political advocacy, general intellectualism, and/or a breaking with the past or common practice.- Defining musical modernism :...

 of the early 20th century.
Encyclopedia
Gustav Mahler (ˈɡʊstaf ˈmaːlɐ; 1860 – 1911) was a late-Romantic
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

 Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, in what was then Austria-Hungary, now Kaliště
Kalište (Pelhrimov District)
Kaliště is a village and municipality of the Pelhřimov District in the Vysočina Region, Czech Republic. It is located at the watershed of the Želivka and Sázava rivers, about northwest of Humpolec. The population is about 330....

 in the Czech Republic. Then his family moved to nearby Iglau (now Jihlava
Jihlava
Jihlava is a city in the Czech Republic. Jihlava is a centre of the Vysočina Region, situated on the Jihlava river on the ancient frontier between Moravia and Bohemia, and is the oldest mining town in the Czech Republic, ca. 50 years older than Kutná Hora.Among the principal buildings are the...

) where Mahler grew up.

As a composer, he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism
Modernism (music)
Modernism in music is characterized by a desire for or belief in progress and science, surrealism, anti-romanticism, political advocacy, general intellectualism, and/or a breaking with the past or common practice.- Defining musical 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
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. After 1945 the music was discovered and championed by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers, 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—who had converted to Catholicism from Judaism to secure the post—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
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

 and Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

. Late in his life he was briefly director of New York's Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company, located in New York City. Originally founded in 1880, the company gave its first performance on October 22, 1883. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager...

 and the New York Philharmonic
New York Philharmonic
The New York Philharmonic is a symphony orchestra based in New York City in the United States. It is one of the American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five"...

.

Mahler's œuvre is relatively small—for much of his life composing was a part-time activity, secondary to conducting—and is confined to the genres of symphony
Symphony
A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle...

 and song, except for one early piano quartet
Piano Quartet (Mahler)
The Piano Quartet in A minor by Gustav Mahler was written around 1876. Only the first movement survives, and it is unlikely that Mahler completed any other movements.-Origin:...

. Most of his ten symphonies are very large-scale works, several of which employ soloists and choirs in addition to augmented orchestral forces. These works were often controversial when first performed, and were slow to receive critical and popular approval; an exception was the triumphant premiere of his Eighth Symphony
Symphony No. 8 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 8 in E-flat major by Gustav Mahler is one of the largest-scale choral works in the classical concert repertoire. Because it requires huge instrumental and vocal forces it is frequently called the "Symphony of a Thousand", although the work is often performed with fewer than a...

 in 1910. Mahler's immediate musical successors were the composers of the Second Viennese School
Second Viennese School
The Second Viennese School is the group of composers that comprised Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils and close associates in early 20th century Vienna, where he lived and taught, sporadically, between 1903 and 1925...

, notably Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

, Alban Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

 and Anton Webern
Anton Webern
Anton Webern was an Austrian composer and conductor. He was a member of the Second Viennese School. As a student and significant follower of Arnold Schoenberg, he became one of the best-known exponents of the twelve-tone technique; in addition, his innovations regarding schematic organization of...

. Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century....

 and Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

 are among later 20th-century composers who admired and were influenced by Mahler. The International Gustav Mahler Institute was established in 1955, to honour the composer's life and work.

Family background

The Mahler family came from eastern Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

 in the Czech Republic and were of humble circumstances; the composer's grandmother had been a street pedlar. Bohemia was then part of the Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

; the Mahler family belonged to a German-speaking minority among Bohemians, and was also Jewish. From this background the future composer developed early on a permanent sense of exile, "always an intruder, never welcomed".

Bernhard Mahler, the pedlar's son and the composer's father, elevated himself to the ranks of the petite bourgeoisie
Petite bourgeoisie
Petit-bourgeois or petty bourgeois is a term that originally referred to the members of the lower middle social classes in the 18th and early 19th centuries...

 by becoming a coachman and later an innkeeper. He bought a modest house in the village of Kalischt (Kaliště
Kalište (Pelhrimov District)
Kaliště is a village and municipality of the Pelhřimov District in the Vysočina Region, Czech Republic. It is located at the watershed of the Želivka and Sázava rivers, about northwest of Humpolec. The population is about 330....

), on a straight line roughly half way between Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

 in Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

 and Brno
Brno
Brno by population and area is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, the largest Moravian city, and the historical capital city of the Margraviate of Moravia. Brno is the administrative centre of the South Moravian Region where it forms a separate district Brno-City District...

 in Moravia
Moravia
Moravia is a historical region in Central Europe in the east of the Czech Republic, and one of the former Czech lands, together with Bohemia and Silesia. It takes its name from the Morava River which rises in the northwest of the region...

, in the geographic center of today's Czech Republic. Bernhard's wife Marie gave birth to the first of the couple's 14 children, a son Isidor, who died in infancy. Two years later, on 1860, their second son, Gustav, was born.

Childhood

In December 1860, Bernhard Mahler moved with his wife and infant son to the town of Iglau (Jihlava
Jihlava
Jihlava is a city in the Czech Republic. Jihlava is a centre of the Vysočina Region, situated on the Jihlava river on the ancient frontier between Moravia and Bohemia, and is the oldest mining town in the Czech Republic, ca. 50 years older than Kutná Hora.Among the principal buildings are the...

), 25 km to the south-east, where he built up a distillery and tavern business. The family grew rapidly, but of the 12 children born to the family in Iglau only six survived infancy. Iglau was then a thriving commercial town of 20,000 people where Gustav was introduced to music through street songs, dance tunes, folk melodies, and the trumpet calls and marches of the local military band. All of these elements would later contribute to his mature musical vocabulary.

When he was four years old, Gustav discovered his grandparents' piano and took to it immediately. He developed his performing skills sufficiently to be considered a local Wunderkind and gave his first public performance at the town theatre when he was ten years old. Although Gustav loved making music, his school reports from the Iglau Gymnasium
Gymnasium (school)
A gymnasium is a type of school providing secondary education in some parts of Europe, comparable to English grammar schools or sixth form colleges and U.S. college preparatory high schools. The word γυμνάσιον was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual...

 portrayed him as absent-minded and unreliable in academic work. In 1871, in the hope of improving the boy's results, his father sent him to the New Town Gymnasium in Prague, but Gustav was unhappy there and soon returned to Iglau. In 1874 he suffered a bitter personal loss when his younger brother Ernst died after a long illness. Mahler sought to express his feelings in music: with the help of a friend, Josef Steiner, he began work on an opera, Herzog Ernst von Schwaben ("Duke Ernest of Swabia") as a memorial to his lost brother. Neither the music nor the libretto
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 of this work has survived.

Student days

Bernhard Mahler was supportive of his son's ambitions for a music career, and agreed that the boy should try for a place at the Vienna Conservatory. The young Mahler was auditioned by the renowned pianist Julius Epstein
Julius Epstein (pianist)
Julius Epstein was an Austro-Hungarian Jewish pianist. He was a pupil at Agram of the choir-director Vatroslav Lichtenegger, and in Vienna of Johann Rufinatscha and Anton Halm...

, and accepted for 1875–76. He made good progress in his piano studies with Epstein and won prizes at the end of each of his first two years. For his final year, 1877–78, he concentrated on composition and harmony under Robert Fuchs
Robert Fuchs
Robert Fuchs was an Austrian composer and music teacher.As Professor of music theory at the Vienna Conservatory, Fuchs taught many notable composers, while he was himself a highly regarded composer in his lifetime....

 and Franz Krenn
Franz Krenn
Franz Krenn was an Austrian composer and composition teacher.Born in Droß, Krenn studied under Ignaz von Seyfried in Vienna. He served as organist in a number of Viennese churches and in 1862 became Kapellmeister of the Vienna Hofkirche...

. Few of Mahler's student compositions have survived; most were abandoned when he became dissatisfied with them. He destroyed a symphonic movement prepared for an end-of-term competition, after its scornful rejection by the autocratic director Joseph Hellmesberger
Joseph Hellmesberger, Sr.
Josef Hellmesberger, Sr. was an Austrian violinist, conductor, and composer.Born in Vienna, he was the son of musician and pedagogue, Georg Hellmesberger, Sr. , was taught violin by his father at the Vienna Conservatoire. Hellmesberger hails from a family of notable musicians including: brother,...

 on the grounds of copying errors. Mahler may have gained his first conducting experience with the Conservatory's student orchestra, in rehearsals and performances, although it appears that his main role in this orchestra was as a percussionist.
Among Mahler's fellow students at the Conservatory was the future song composer Hugo Wolf
Hugo Wolf
Hugo Wolf was an Austrian composer of Slovene origin, particularly noted for his art songs, or lieder. He brought to this form a concentrated expressive intensity which was unique in late Romantic music, somewhat related to that of the Second Viennese School in concision but utterly unrelated in...

, with whom he formed a close friendship. Wolf was unable to submit to the strict disciplines of the Conservatory and was expelled. Mahler, while sometimes rebellious, avoided the same fate only by writing a penitent letter to Hellmesberger. He attended occasional lectures by Anton Bruckner
Anton Bruckner
Anton Bruckner was an Austrian composer known for his symphonies, masses, and motets. The first are considered emblematic of the final stage of Austro-German Romanticism because of their rich harmonic language, complex polyphony, and considerable length...

 and, though never formally his pupil, was influenced by him. On 1877, he attended the disastrous premiere of Bruckner's Third Symphony
Symphony No. 3 (Bruckner)
Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 3 in D minor was dedicated to Richard Wagner and is sometimes known as his "Wagner Symphony". It was written in 1873, revised in 1877 and again in 1891....

, at which the composer was shouted down, and most of the audience walked out. Mahler and other sympathetic students later prepared a piano version of the symphony, which they presented to Bruckner. Along with many music students of his generation, Mahler fell under the spell of Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

, though his chief interest was the sound of the music rather than the staging. It is not known whether he saw any of Wagner's operas during his student years.

Mahler left the Conservatory in 1878 with a diploma but without the prestigious silver medal given for outstanding achievement. He then enrolled at Vienna University (he had, at Bernhard's insistence, sat and with difficulty passed the "matura", or entrance examination) and followed courses which reflected his developing interests in literature and philosophy. After leaving the University in 1879, Mahler made some money as a piano teacher, continued to compose, and in 1880 finished a dramatic cantata
Cantata
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir....

, Das klagende Lied
Das klagende Lied
Das klagende Lied is a cantata by Gustav Mahler, composed between 1878 and 1880 and greatly revised over the next two decades...

("The Song of Lamentation"). This, his first substantial composition, shows traces of Wagnerian and Brucknerian influences, yet includes many musical elements which musicologist Deryck Cooke
Deryck Cooke
Deryck Cooke was a British musician, musicologist and broadcaster.-Life:Cooke was born in Leicester to a poor and working class family; his father died when he was a child, but his mother was able to afford piano lessons. Cooke acquired a brilliant technique and began to compose...

 describes as "pure Mahler". Its first performance was delayed until 1901, when it was presented in a revised, shortened form.

Mahler developed interests in German philosophy, and was introduced by his friend Siegfried Lipiner
Siegfried Lipiner
Siegfried Salomo Lipiner was an Austrian writer and poet whose works made an impression on Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche, but who published nothing after 1880 and lived out his life as Librarian of Parliament in Vienna...

 to the works of Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

, Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

, Gustav Fechner
Gustav Fechner
Gustav Theodor Fechner , was a German experimental psychologist. An early pioneer in experimental psychology and founder of psychophysics, he inspired many 20th century scientists and philosophers...

 and Hermann Lotze. These thinkers continued to influence Mahler and his music long after his student days were over. Biographer Jonathan Carr
Jonathan Carr
Jonathan Carr was a British writer and journalist.Jonathan Carr may also refer to:*Jonathan Dodgson Carr, industrial baker, founder of Carr's*Jonathan Carr , American murderer in the Wichita Massacre...

 says that the composer's head was "not only full of the sound of Bohemian bands, trumpet calls and marches, Bruckner chorales and Schubert
Franz Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer.Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies , liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music...

 sonatas. It was also throbbing with the problems of philosophy and metaphysics he had thrashed out, above all, with Lipiner."

First appointments

In the summer of 1880, Mahler took his first professional conducting job, in a small wooden theatre in the spa town of Bad Hall
Bad Hall
Bad Hall is a market town in the Steyr-Land district in central Upper Austria, Austria. It has 5,200 inhabitants, as of 2006 estimates, in an area of 13.38 km². Its name, Bad Hall, means "Bath salt", a reference to its long history of baths and spas....

, south of Linz
Linz
Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and capital of the state of Upper Austria . It is located in the north centre of Austria, approximately south of the Czech border, on both sides of the river Danube. The population of the city is , and that of the Greater Linz conurbation is about...

. The repertory was exclusively operetta
Operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

; it was, in Carr's words "a dismal little job", which Mahler accepted only after Julius Epstein told him he would soon work his way up. In 1881, he was engaged at the Landestheater in Laibach (now Ljubljana
Ljubljana
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and its largest city. It is the centre of the City Municipality of Ljubljana. It is located in the centre of the country in the Ljubljana Basin, and is a mid-sized city of some 270,000 inhabitants...

, in Slovenia), where the small but resourceful company was prepared to attempt more ambitious works. Here, Mahler conducted his first full-scale opera, Verdi's Il trovatore
Il trovatore
Il trovatore is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play El Trovador by Antonio García Gutiérrez. Cammarano died in mid-1852 before completing the libretto...

, one of more than 50 that he presented during his time in Laibach. After completing his six-month engagement, Mahler returned to Vienna and worked part-time as chorus-master at the Vienna Carltheater
Carltheater
The Carltheater was a theatre in Vienna. It was in the suburbs in Leopoldstadt at Praterstraße 31 .It was the successor to the Leopoldstädter Theater. After a series of financial difficulties, that theater had been sold in 1838 to the director, Carl Carl, who continued to run it in parallel to his...

.

In January 1883, Mahler became conductor at a run-down theatre in Olmütz (now Olomouc
Olomouc
Olomouc is a city in Moravia, in the east of the Czech Republic. The city is located on the Morava river and is the ecclesiastical metropolis and historical capital city of Moravia. Nowadays, it is an administrative centre of the Olomouc Region and sixth largest city in the Czech Republic...

). He later wrote: "From the moment I crossed the threshold of the Olmütz theatre I felt like one awaiting the wrath of God." Despite poor relations with the orchestra, Mahler brought five new operas to the theatre, including Bizet
Georges Bizet
Georges Bizet formally Alexandre César Léopold Bizet, was a French composer, mainly of operas. In a career cut short by his early death, he achieved few successes before his final work, Carmen, became one of the most popular and frequently performed works in the entire opera repertory.During a...

's Carmen
Carmen
Carmen is a French opéra comique by Georges Bizet. The libretto is by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on the novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée, first published in 1845, itself possibly influenced by the narrative poem The Gypsies by Alexander Pushkin...

, and won over the press that had initially been hostile to him. After a week's trial at the Royal Theatre in the Hessian
Hesse
Hesse or Hessia is both a cultural region of Germany and the name of an individual German state.* The cultural region of Hesse includes both the State of Hesse and the area known as Rhenish Hesse in the neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate state...

 town of Kassel
Kassel
Kassel is a town located on the Fulda River in northern Hesse, Germany. It is the administrative seat of the Kassel Regierungsbezirk and the Kreis of the same name and has approximately 195,000 inhabitants.- History :...

, Mahler became the theatre's "Musical and Choral Director" from August 1883. The title concealed the reality that Mahler was subordinate to the theatre's Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister is a German word designating a person in charge of music-making. The word is a compound, consisting of the roots Kapelle and Meister . The words Kapelle and Meister derive from the Latin: capella and magister...

, Wilhelm Treiber, who disliked him and set out to make his life miserable. Despite the unpleasant atmosphere, Mahler had moments of success at Kassel. He directed a performance of his favourite opera, Weber's Der Freischütz
Der Freischütz
Der Freischütz is an opera in three acts by Carl Maria von Weber with a libretto by Friedrich Kind. It premiered on 18 June 1821 at the Schauspielhaus Berlin...

, and, on 1884, conducted his own incidental music to Joseph Victor von Scheffel's play Der Trompeter von Säkkingen ("The Trumpeter of Säkkingen"), the first professional public performance of a Mahler work. An ardent, but ultimately unfulfilled, love affair with soprano Johanna Richter led Mahler to write a series of love poems which became the text of his song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is Gustav Mahler's first song cycle. While he had previously written other lieder, they were grouped by source of text or time of composition as opposed to common theme...

("Songs of a Wayfarer").

In January 1884, the distinguished conductor Hans von Bülow
Hans von Bülow
Hans Guido Freiherr von Bülow was a German conductor, virtuoso pianist, and composer of the Romantic era. He was one of the most famous conductors of the 19th century, and his activity was critical for establishing the successes of several major composers of the time, including Richard...

 brought the Meiningen
Meiningen
Meiningen is a town in Germany - located in the southern part of the state of Thuringia and is the district seat of Schmalkalden-Meiningen. It is situated on the river Werra....

 Court Orchestra to Kassel and gave two concerts. Hoping to escape from his job in the theatre, Mahler unsuccessfully sought a post as Bülow's permanent assistant. However, in the following year his efforts to find new employment resulted in a six-year contract with the prestigious Leipzig Opera, to begin in 1886. Unwilling to remain in Kassel for another year, Mahler resigned in July 1885, and through good fortune was offered a standby appointment as an assistant conductor at the Neues Deutsches Theater (New German Theatre) in Prague.

Prague and Leipzig

In Prague, the emergence of Czech National Revival
Czech National Revival
Czech National Revival was a cultural movement, which took part in the Czech lands during the 18th and 19th century. The purpose of this movement was to revive Czech language, culture and national identity...

 had increased the popularity and importance of the new Czech National Theatre
National Theatre (Prague)
The National Theatre in Prague is known as the Alma Mater of Czech opera, and as the national monument of Czech history and art.The National Theatre belongs to the most important Czech cultural institutions, with a rich artistic tradition which was created and maintained by the most distinguished...

, and had led to a downturn in the Neues Deutsches Theater's fortunes. Mahler's task was to help arrest this decline by offering high-quality productions of German opera. He had early success presenting works by Mozart and Wagner, composers with whom he would be particularly associated for the rest of his career, but his individualistic and increasingly autocratic conducting style led to friction, and a falling out with his more experienced fellow-conductor, Ludwig Slansky. In April 1886, Mahler left Prague to take up his post at the Neues Stadttheater in Leipzig, where rivalry with his senior colleague Arthur Nikisch
Arthur Nikisch
Arthur Nikisch ; 12 October 185523 January 1922) was a Hungarian conductor who performed internationally, holding posts in Boston, London and - most importantly - Berlin. He was considered an outstanding interpreter of the music of Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Liszt...

 began at once. This was primarily over how the two should share conducting duties for the theatre's new production of Wagner's Ring
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner . The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied...

cycle. Nikisch's illness, in January 1887, meant that Mahler took charge of the whole cycle, and scored a resounding public success. This did not win him popularity with the orchestra, who resented his dictatorial manner and heavy rehearsal schedules.

In Leipzig, Mahler befriended Carl von Weber, grandson of the composer, and agreed to prepare a performing version of Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school....

's unfinished opera Die drei Pintos
Die drei Pintos
Die drei Pintos is a comic opera of which Carl Maria von Weber began composing the music, working on a libretto by Theodor Hell...

("The Three Pintos"). Mahler transcribed and orchestrated the existing musical sketches, used parts of other Weber works, and added some composition of his own. The premiere at the Stadttheater, in January 1888, was an important occasion at which Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij"...

 was present, as were the heads of various opera houses. The work was well-received; its success did much to raise Mahler's public profile, and brought him financial rewards. His involvement with the Weber family was complicated by a romantic attachment to Carl von Weber's wife Marion which, though intense on both sides, ultimately came to nothing. At around this time Mahler discovered the German folk-poem collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Des Knaben Wunderhorn is a collection of German folk poems edited by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, and published in Heidelberg, in the Grand Duchy of Baden, between 1805 and 1808...

("The Youth's Magic Horn"), which would dominate much of his compositional output for the following 12 years.

In May 1888, Mahler's new-found financial security enabled him to resign his Leipzig position after a dispute with the Stadttheater's chief stage manager. Without a post, Mahler returned to Prague to work on a revival of Die drei Pintos and a production of Peter Cornelius
Peter Cornelius
Carl August Peter Cornelius was a German composer, writer about music, poet and translator. He was born and died in Mainz where his grave in the Hauptfriedhof survives....

's Der Barbier von Bagdad
Der Barbier von Bagdad
Der Barbier von Bagdad is a comic opera in two acts by Peter Cornelius to a German libretto by the composer, based on The Tale of the Tailor and The Barber’s Stories of his Six Brothers in A Thousand and One Nights...

. This short stay ended unhappily, with Mahler's dismissal after an outburst during rehearsals. However, through the efforts of an old Viennese friend, Guido Adler
Guido Adler
Guido Adler was a Bohemian-Austrian musicologist and writer.His father Joachim, a physician, died of typhoid fever in 1857...

, Mahler's name went forward as a potential director of the Royal Hungarian Opera
Hungarian State Opera House
The Hungarian State Opera House is a neo-Renaissance opera house located in central Budapest, on Andrássy út. It is home to the Budapest Opera Ball, a society event dating back to 1886.-History:...

 in Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

. He was interviewed, made a good impression, and was offered the post from October 1888.

Apprentice composer

In the early years of Mahler's conducting career, composing was a spare time activity. Between his Laibach and Olmütz appointments he worked on settings of verses by Richard Leander and Tirso de Molina
Tirso de Molina
Tirso de Molina was a Spanish Baroque dramatist, poet and a Roman Catholic monk.Originally Gabriel Téllez, he was born in Madrid. He studied at Alcalá de Henares, joined the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy on November 4, 1600, and entered the Monastery of San Antolín at Guadalajara,...

, later collected as Volume I of Lieder und Gesänge ("Songs and Airs"). Mahler's first orchestral song cycle, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, composed at Kassel, was based on his own verses, although the first poem, "Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht" ("When my love becomes a bride") closely follows the text of a Wunderhorn poem. The airs for the second and fourth songs of the cycle were incorporated into the First Symphony
Symphony No. 1 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 1 in D major by Gustav Mahler was mainly composed between late 1887 and March 1888, though it incorporates music Mahler had composed for previous works. It was composed while Mahler was second conductor at the Leipzig Opera, Germany...

, which Mahler finished in 1888, at the height of his relationship with Marion von Weber. The intensity of Mahler's feelings are reflected in the music, which originally was written as a five-movement symphonic poem with a descriptive programme. One of these movements, the "Blumine", later discarded, was based on a passage from his earlier work Der Trompeter von Säckingen. After completing the symphonic poem, Mahler composed a 20-minute funeral march, or Totenfeier, which later became the first movement of his Second Symphony
Symphony No. 2 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 2 by Gustav Mahler, known as the Resurrection, was written between 1888 and 1894, and first performed in 1895. Apart from the Eighth Symphony, this symphony was Mahler's most popular and successful work during his lifetime. It is his first major work that would eventually mark his...

.

There has been frequent speculation about lost or destroyed works from Mahler's early years. The Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg
Willem Mengelberg
Joseph Willem Mengelberg was a Dutch conductor, famous for his performances of Mahler and Strauss with the Concertgebouw Orchestra.- Biography :...

 believed that the First Symphony was too mature to be a first symphonic work, and must have had predecessors. In 1938, Mengelberg revealed the existence of the so-called "Dresden archive", a series of manuscripts in the possession of the widowed Marion von Weber. The archive was almost certainly destroyed in the bombing of Dresden
Bombing of Dresden in World War II
The Bombing of Dresden was a military bombing by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force and as part of the Allied forces between 13 February and 15 February 1945 in the Second World War...

 in 1945; according to Mahler historian Donald Mitchell
Donald Mitchell (writer)
Donald Mitchell is a British writer on music, particularly known for his books on Gustav Mahler and Benjamin Britten and for the book The Language of Modern Music, published 1963....

 "the strong possibility remains that some important manuscripts, either early symphonies or parts of early symphonies, were to be found in Dresden."

Royal Opera, Budapest

On arriving in Budapest in October 1888, Mahler encountered a cultural conflict between conservative Hungarian nationalists who favoured a policy of Magyarisation, and progressives who wanted to maintain and develop the country's Austro-German cultural traditions. In the opera house a dominant conservative caucus, led by the music director Sándor Erkel, had maintained a limited repertory of historical and folklore opera. By the time that Mahler began his duties, the progressive camp had gained ascendancy following the appointment of the liberal-minded Ferenc von Beniczky as intendant
Intendant
The title of intendant has been used in several countries through history. Traditionally, it refers to the holder of a public administrative office...

. Aware of the delicate situation, Mahler moved cautiously; he delayed his first appearance on the conductor's stand until January 1889, when he conducted Hungarian language performances of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre to initial public acclaim. However, his early successes faded when plans to stage the remainder of the Ring cycle and other German operas were frustrated by a renascent conservative faction which favoured a more traditional "Hungarian" programme. In search of non-German operas to extend the repertory, Mahler visited Italy where among the works he discovered was Pietro Mascagni
Pietro Mascagni
Pietro Antonio Stefano Mascagni was an Italian composer most noted for his operas. His 1890 masterpiece Cavalleria rusticana caused one of the greatest sensations in opera history and single-handedly ushered in the Verismo movement in Italian dramatic music...

's recent sensation Cavalleria rusticana
Cavalleria rusticana
Cavalleria rusticana is an opera in one act by Pietro Mascagni to an Italian libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, adapted from a play written by Giovanni Verga based on his short story. Considered one of the classic verismo operas, it premiered on May 17, 1890 at the Teatro...

.

In February 1889, Bernhard Mahler died; this was followed later in the year by the deaths both of Mahler's sister Leopoldine and his mother. Mahler himself suffered poor health, with attacks of haemorrhoids and migraine
Migraine
Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by moderate to severe headaches, and nausea...

 and a recurrent septic throat. Shortly after these family and health setbacks the premiere of the First Symphony, in Budapest on 1889, was a disappointment. The critic August Beer's lengthy newspaper review indicates that enthusiasm after the early movements degenerated into "audible opposition" after the Finale. Mahler was particularly distressed by the negative comments from his Vienna Conservatory contemporary, Viktor von Herzfeld, who had remarked that Mahler, like many conductors before him, had proved not to be a composer.

In 1891, Hungary's move to the political right was reflected in the opera house when Beniczky was replaced as intendant by Géza Zichy
Géza Zichy
Géza Zichy was a Hungarian composer and was also renowned as the world's first professional one-armed pianist.-Biography:...

, a conservative aristocrat determined to assume artistic control over Mahler's head. Mahler began negotiating with the director of the Hamburg Stadttheater
Hamburg State Opera
The Hamburg State Opera is one of the leading opera companies in Germany.Opera in Hamburg dates back to 2 January 1678 when the "Opern-Theatrum" was inaugurated with a performance of a biblical Singspiel by Johann Theile...

; in May 1891, having agreed to a contract there, he resigned his Budapest post. His final Budapest triumph was a performance of Don Giovanni which won him praise from Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

 who was present. During his Budapest years Mahler's compositional output had been limited to the Wunderhorn song settings that became Volumes II and III of Lieder und Gesänge, and amendments to the First Symphony.

Hamburg Stadttheater

Mahler's Hamburg post was as chief conductor, subordinate to the director, Bernhard Pohl (known as Pollini) who retained overall artistic control. Pollini was prepared to give Mahler considerable leeway if the conductor could provide commercial as well as artistic success. This Mahler did in his first season, when he conducted Wagner's Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting...

for the first time and gave acclaimed performances of the same composer's Tannhäuser
Tannhäuser (opera)
Tannhäuser is an opera in three acts, music and text by Richard Wagner, based on the two German legends of Tannhäuser and the song contest at Wartburg...

and Siegfried
Siegfried (opera)
Siegfried is the third of the four operas that constitute Der Ring des Nibelungen , by Richard Wagner. It received its premiere at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 16 August 1876, as part of the first complete performance of The Ring...

. Another triumph was the German premiere of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin
Eugene Onegin (opera)
Eugene Onegin, Op. 24, is an opera in 3 acts , by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto was written by Konstantin Shilovsky and the composer and his brother Modest, and is based on the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin....

, in the presence of the composer, who called Mahler's conducting "astounding". Mahler's demanding rehearsal schedules led to predictable resentment from the singers and orchestra with whom, according to music writer Peter Franklin, the conductor "inspired hatred and respect in almost equal measure." He found support, however, from Hans von Bülow, who was in Hamburg as director of the city's subscription concerts. Bülow, who had spurned Mahler's approaches in Kassel, had come to admire the younger man's conducting style, and on Bülow's death in 1894 Mahler took over the direction of the concerts.
In the summer of 1892 Mahler took the Hamburg singers to London to participate in a six-week season of German opera—his only visit to Britain. His conducting of Tristan enthralled the young composer Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...

, who "staggered home in a daze and could not sleep for two nights." However, Mahler refused further such invitations as he was anxious to reserve his summers for composing. In 1893 he acquired a retreat at Steinbach
Steinbach am Attersee
Steinbach am Attersee is a municipality of the Vöcklabruck district in the Austrian state of Upper Austria. It is situated in the Hausruckviertel region on the eastern banks of the Attersee , part of the Salzkammergut area....

, on the banks of Lake Attersee
Attersee (lake)
Attersee is the largest lake of the Salzkammergut area of Austria. It extends for about 20 km from north to south and 4 km from east to west. Its water comes from the Seeache, which flows out of another lake, the Mondsee...

 in Upper Austria, and established a pattern that persisted for the rest of his life; summers would henceforth be dedicated to composition, at Steinbach or its successor retreats. Now firmly under the influence of the Wunderhorn folk-poem collection, Mahler produced a stream of song settings at Steinbach, and composed his Second and Third
Symphony No. 3 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler was written between 1893 and 1896. It is his longest piece and is the longest symphony in the standard repertoire, with a typical performance lasting around ninety to one hundred minutes.- Structure :...

 Symphonies there.

Performances of Mahler works were still comparatively rare. On 1893, at Hamburg's Ludwig Konzerthaus, Mahler conducted a revised version of his First Symphony; still in its original five-movement form, it was presented as a Tondichtung (tone poem) under the descriptive name "Titan". This concert also introduced several recent Wunderhorn settings. Mahler achieved his first relative success as a composer when the Second Symphony was well-received on its premiere in Berlin, under his own baton, on 1895. Mahler's future conducting assistant Bruno Walter
Bruno Walter
Bruno Walter was a German-born conductor. He is considered one of the best known conductors of the 20th century. Walter was born in Berlin, but is known to have lived in several countries between 1933 and 1939, before finally settling in the United States in 1939...

, who was present, said that "one may date [Mahler's] rise to fame as a composer from that day." That same year Mahler's private life was disrupted by the suicide of his younger brother Otto.

At the Stadttheater Mahler introduced numerous new operas: Verdi's Falstaff
Falstaff (opera)
Falstaff is an operatic commedia lirica in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi, adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's plays The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV. It was Verdi's last opera, written in the composer's ninth decade, and only the second of his 26 operas to be a comedy...

, Humperdinck
Engelbert Humperdinck
Engelbert Humperdinck was a German composer, best known for his opera, Hänsel und Gretel. Humperdinck was born at Siegburg in the Rhine Province; at the age of 67 he died in Neustrelitz, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.-Life:After receiving piano lessons, Humperdinck produced his first composition...

's Hänsel und Gretel, and works by Smetana
Bedrich Smetana
Bedřich Smetana was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country's aspirations to independent statehood. He is thus widely regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music...

. However, he was forced to resign his post with the subscription concerts after poor financial returns and an ill-received interpretation of his re-scored Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)
The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, is the final complete symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven. Completed in 1824, the symphony is one of the best known works of the Western classical repertoire, and has been adapted for use as the European Anthem...

. Mahler had made it clear that his ultimate goal was an appointment in Vienna, and from 1895 onward was manoeuvring, with the help of influential friends, to secure the directorship of the Vienna Hofoper. He overcame the bar that existed against the appointment of a Jew to this post by what may have been a pragmatic conversion to Roman Catholicism in February 1897. Two months later Mahler was appointed to the Hofoper, provisionally as a staff conductor with the title of Kapellmeister.

Hofoper director

As he waited for the Emperor
Franz Joseph I of Austria
Franz Joseph I or Francis Joseph I was Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, King of Croatia, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Galicia and Lodomeria and Grand Duke of Cracow from 1848 until his death in 1916.In the December of 1848, Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria abdicated the throne as part of...

's confirmation of his directorship, Mahler shared duties as a resident conductor with Joseph Hellmesberger Jr
Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr.
Josef “Pepi” Hellmesberger, Jr. was an Austrian composer, violinist and conductor.Hellmesberger was son of violinist and conductor Joseph Hellmesberger, Sr. , who was his first teacher. Among his family of notable musicians include: grandfather, Georg, Sr. ; uncle, Georg, Jr...

 (son of the former conservatory director) and Hans Richter
Hans Richter (conductor)
Hans Richter was an Austrian orchestral and operatic conductor.-Biography:Richter was born in Raab , Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire. His mother was opera-singer Jozsefa Csazenszky. He studied at the Vienna Conservatory...

, an internationally renowned interpreter of Wagner and the conductor of the original Ring cycle at Bayreuth in 1876. Director Wilhelm Jahn
Wilhelm Jahn
Wilhelm Jahn was an Austro-Hungarian conductor. He served as director of the Vienna Court Opera from 1880 to 1897 and principal conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra from 1882 to 1883. He gave the partial premiere of Bruckner's Symphony No. 6, performing the middle two movements in 1883....

 had not consulted Richter about Mahler's appointment; Mahler, sensitive to the situation, wrote Richter a complimentary letter expressing unswerving admiration for the older conductor. Subsequently the two were rarely in agreement, but kept their divisions private.

Vienna, the imperial Habsburg capital, had recently elected an anti-Semitic conservative mayor, Karl Lueger
Karl Lueger
Karl Lueger was an Austrian politician and mayor of Vienna. The populist and anti-Semitic politics of his Christian Social Party are sometimes viewed as a model for Hitler's Nazism.- Career :...

, who had once proclaimed: "I myself decide who is a Jew and who isn't." In such a volatile political atmosphere Mahler needed an early demonstration of his German cultural credentials. He made his initial mark in May 1897 with much-praised performances of Wagner's Lohengrin
Lohengrin (opera)
Lohengrin is a romantic opera in three acts composed and written by Richard Wagner, first performed in 1850. The story of the eponymous character is taken from medieval German romance, notably the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and its sequel, Lohengrin, written by a different author, itself...

and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. Shortly after the Zauberflöte triumph, Mahler was forced to take sick leave for several weeks, during which he was nursed by his sister Justine and his long-time companion, the viola player Natalie Bauer-Lechner
Natalie Bauer-Lechner
Natalie Bauer-Lechner was a viola-player who is best known to musicology for having been a close and devoted friend of Gustav Mahler in the period between the break-up of her marriage in 1890 and the start of his to Alma Schindler in 1902...

. Mahler returned to Vienna in early August to prepare for Vienna's first uncut version of the Ring cycle. This performance took place on 24–, attracting critical praise and public enthusiasm. Mahler's friend Hugo Wolf told Bauer-Lechner that "for the first time I have heard the Ring as I have always dreamed of hearing it while reading the score."

On 8 October Mahler was formally appointed to succeed Jahn as the Hofoper's director. His first production in his new office was Smetana's Czech nationalist opera Dalibor, with a reconstituted finale that left the hero Dalibor alive. This production caused anger among the more extreme Viennese German nationalists, who accused Mahler of "fraternising with the anti-dynastic, inferior Czech nation". During Mahler's tenure a total of 33 new operas were introduced to the Hofoper; a further 55 were new or totally revamped productions. However, a proposal to stage Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

's controversial opera Salome
Salome (opera)
Salome is an opera in one act by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by the composer, based on Hedwig Lachmann’s German translation of the French play Salomé by Oscar Wilde. Strauss dedicated the opera to his friend Sir Edgar Speyer....

in 1905 was rejected by the Viennese censors.

Early in 1902 Mahler met Alfred Roller, an artist and designer associated with the Vienna Secession
Vienna Secession
The Vienna Secession was formed in 1897 by a group of Austrian artists who had resigned from the Association of Austrian Artists, housed in the Vienna Künstlerhaus. This movement included painters, sculptors, and architects...

 movement. A year later, Mahler appointed him chief stage designer to the Hofoper, where Roller's debut was a new production of Tristan und Isolde. The collaboration between Mahler and Roller created more than 20 celebrated productions of, among other operas, Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

's Fidelio
Fidelio
Fidelio is a German opera in two acts by Ludwig van Beethoven. It is Beethoven's only opera. The German libretto is by Joseph Sonnleithner from the French of Jean-Nicolas Bouilly which had been used for the 1798 opera Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal by Pierre Gaveaux, and for the 1804 opera Leonora...

, Gluck
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck was an opera composer of the early classical period. After many years at the Habsburg court at Vienna, Gluck brought about the practical reform of opera's dramaturgical practices that many intellectuals had been campaigning for over the years...

's Iphigénie en Aulide
Iphigénie en Aulide
Iphigénie en Aulide is an opera in three acts by Christoph Willibald Gluck, the first work he wrote for the Paris stage. The libretto was written by Leblanc du Roullet and was based on Jean Racine's tragedy Iphigénie...

and Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. In the Figaro production, Mahler offended some purists by adding and composing a short recitative scene to Act III.

In spite of numerous theatrical triumphs, Mahler's Vienna years were rarely smooth; his battles with singers and the house administration continued on and off for the whole of his tenure. While Mahler's methods improved standards, his histrionic and dictatorial conducting style was resented by orchestra members and singers alike. In December 1903 Mahler faced a revolt by stagehands, whose demands for better conditions he rejected in the belief that extremists were manipulating his staff. The anti-Semitic elements in Viennese society, long opposed to Mahler's appointment, continued to attack him relentlessly, and in 1907 instituted a press campaign designed to drive him out. By that time he was at odds with the opera house's administration over the amount of time he was spending on his own music, and was preparing to leave. Early in 1907 he began discussions with Heinrich Conried
Heinrich Conried
Heinrich Conried was a theatrical manager and director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.-Biography:...

, director of the New York Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company, located in New York City. Originally founded in 1880, the company gave its first performance on October 22, 1883. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager...

, and in June signed a contract, on very favourable terms, for four seasons' conducting in New York. At the end of the summer he submitted his resignation to the Hofoper, and on 1907 conducted Fidelio, his 648th and final performance there. In ten years, Mahler had brought new life to the opera house and cleared its debts, but had won few friends—it was said that he treated his musicians in the way a lion tamer treated his animals. His departing message to the company, which he pinned to a notice board, was later torn down and scattered over the floor. After conducting the Hofoper orchestra in a farewell concert performance of his Second Symphony on , Mahler left Vienna for New York in early December.

Philharmonic concerts

When Richter resigned as head of the Vienna Philharmonic subscription concerts in September 1898, the concerts committee had unanimously chosen Mahler as his successor. The appointment was not universally welcomed; the anti-Semitic press wondered if, as a non-German, Mahler would be capable of defending German music. Attendances rose sharply in Mahler's first season, but members of the orchestra were particularly resentful of his habit of re-scoring acknowledged masterpieces, and of his scheduling of extra rehearsals for works with which they were thoroughly familiar. An attempt by the orchestra to have Richter reinstated for the 1899 season failed, because Richter was not interested. Mahler's position was weakened when, in 1900, he took the orchestra to Paris to play at the Exposition Universelle
Exposition Universelle (1900)
The Exposition Universelle of 1900 was a world's fair held in Paris, France, from April 15 to November 12, 1900, to celebrate the achievements of the past century and to accelerate development into the next...

. The Paris concerts were poorly attended and lost money – Mahler had to borrow the orchestra's fare home from the Rothschilds
Rothschild banking family of France
The Rothschild banking family of France was founded in 1812 in Paris by James Mayer Rothschild . James was sent there from his home in Frankfurt, Germany by his father, Mayer Amschel Rothschild...

. In April 1901, dogged by a recurrence of ill-health and wearied by more complaints from the orchestra, Mahler relinquished the Philharmonic concerts conductorship. In his three seasons he had performed around 80 different works, which included pieces by relatively unknown composers such as Hermann Goetz
Hermann Goetz
Hermann Gustav Goetz was a German composer.After studying in Berlin, he moved to Switzerland in 1863. After ten years spent as a critic, pianist and conductor as well, he spent the last three years of his life composing...

, Wilhelm Kienzl
Wilhelm Kienzl
Wilhelm Kienzl was an Austrian composer.-Biography:Kienzl was born in the small, picturesque Upper Austrian town of Waizenkirchen. His family moved to the Styrian capital of Graz in 1860, where he studied the violin under Ignaz Uhl, piano under Johann Buwa, and composition from 1872 under the...

 and the Italian Lorenzo Perosi.

Mature composer

The demands of his twin appointments in Vienna initially absorbed all Mahler's time and energy, but by 1899 he had resumed composing. The remaining Vienna years were to prove particularly fruitful. While working on the last of his Des Knaben Wunderhorn settings he started his Fourth Symphony
Symphony No. 4 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 4 by Gustav Mahler was written between 1899 and 1901, though it incorporates a song originally written in 1892. The song, "Das himmlische Leben", presents a child's vision of Heaven. It is sung by a soprano in the work's fourth and last movement...

, which he completed in 1900. By this time he had abandoned the composing hut at Steinbach and had acquired another, at Maiernigg on the shores of the Wörthersee
Wörthersee
The Wörthersee is an alpine lake in the southern Austrian state of Carinthia.-General facts:The lake is elongated, about 20 km long and 1–2 km wide. It stretches from the Carinthian capital Klagenfurt in the east to Velden in the west...

 in Carinthia
Carinthia (state)
Carinthia is the southernmost Austrian state or Land. Situated within the Eastern Alps it is chiefly noted for its mountains and lakes.The main language is German. Its regional dialects belong to the Southern Austro-Bavarian group...

, where he later built a villa. In this new venue Mahler embarked upon what is generally considered as his "middle" or post-Wunderhorn compositional period. Between 1901 and 1904 he wrote ten settings of poems by Friedrich Rückert
Friedrich Rückert
Friedrich Rückert was a German poet, translator, and professor of Oriental languages.-Biography:Rückert was born at Schweinfurt and was the eldest son of a lawyer. He was educated at the local Gymnasium and at the universities of Würzburg and Heidelberg. From 1816-1817, he worked on the editorial...

, five of which were collected as Rückert-Lieder
Rückert-Lieder
Rückert-Lieder is a song cycle of five Lieder for voice and orchestra or piano by Gustav Mahler, based on poems written by Friedrich Rückert...

. The other five formed the song cycle Kindertotenlieder
Kindertotenlieder
Kindertotenlieder is a song cycle for voice and orchestra by Gustav Mahler...

("Songs on the Death of Children"). The trilogy of orchestral symphonies, the Fifth
Symphony No. 5 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor by Gustav Mahler was composed in 1901 and 1902, mostly during the summer months at Mahler's cottage at Maiernigg. Among its most distinctive features are the funereal trumpet solo that opens the work and the frequently performed Adagietto.The musical canvas and...

, the Sixth
Symphony No. 6 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 6 in A minor by Gustav Mahler, sometimes referred to as the Tragische , was composed between 1903 and 1904 . The work's first performance was in Essen, on May 27, 1906, conducted by the composer.The tragic, even nihilistic ending of No...

 and the Seventh
Symphony No. 7 (Mahler)
Gustav Mahler's Seventh Symphony was written in 1904-05, with repeated revisions to the scoring. It is sometimes referred to by the title Song of the Night , though this title was not Mahler's own and he disapproved of it. Although the symphony is often described as being in the key of 'E minor,'...

 were composed at Maiernigg between 1901 and 1905, and the Eighth Symphony
Symphony No. 8 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 8 in E-flat major by Gustav Mahler is one of the largest-scale choral works in the classical concert repertoire. Because it requires huge instrumental and vocal forces it is frequently called the "Symphony of a Thousand", although the work is often performed with fewer than a...

 written there in 1906, in eight weeks of furious activity.

Within this same period Mahler's works began to be performed with increasing frequency. In April 1899 he conducted the Viennese premiere of his Second Symphony; 1901 saw the first public performance of his early work Das klagende Lied, in a revised two-part form. Later that year, in November, Mahler conducted the premiere of his Fourth Symphony, in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

, and was on the rostrum for the first complete performance of the Third Symphony
Symphony No. 3 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler was written between 1893 and 1896. It is his longest piece and is the longest symphony in the standard repertoire, with a typical performance lasting around ninety to one hundred minutes.- Structure :...

, at the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein festival at Krefeld
Krefeld
Krefeld , also known as Crefeld until 1929, is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located northwest of Düsseldorf, its centre lying just a few kilometres to the west of the River Rhine; the borough of Uerdingen is situated directly on the Rhine...

 on 1902. Mahler "first nights" now became increasingly frequent musical events; he conducted the first performances of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies at Cologne
Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

 and Essen
Essen
- Origin of the name :In German-speaking countries, the name of the city Essen often causes confusion as to its origins, because it is commonly known as the German infinitive of the verb for the act of eating, and/or the German noun for food. Although scholars still dispute the interpretation of...

 respectively, in 1904 and 1906. Four of the Rückert Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder, were introduced in Vienna on 1905.

Marriage, family, tragedy

During his second season in Vienna, Mahler acquired a spacious modern apartment on the Auenbruggerstrasse and built a summer villa on land he had acquired next to his new composing studio at Maiernigg. In November 1901 he met Alma Schindler
Alma Mahler
Alma Maria Mahler Gropius Werfel was a Viennese-born socialite well known in her youth for her beauty and vivacity. She became the wife, successively, of composer Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, and novelist Franz Werfel, as well as the consort of several other prominent men...

, the stepdaughter of painter Carl Moll
Carl Moll
Carl Julius Rudolf Moll was a prominent art nouveau painter active in Vienna at the start of the 20th century. He was also the stepfather of Alma Mahler-Werfel .- Biography :...

, at a social gathering that included the theatre director Max Burckhard
Max Burckhard
Max Burckhard was director of the Burgtheater, Vienna, 1890-1898.Max Burckhard, a lawyer, became director of the theatre on May 12, 1890. He remained director of the theatre for eight years. He brought a fresh perspective to the theatre and introduced Sunday matinees at a reduced cost in order to...

. Alma was not initially keen to meet Mahler, on account of "the scandals about him and every young woman who aspired to sing in opera". The two engaged in a lively disagreement about a ballet by Alexander von Zemlinsky
Alexander von Zemlinsky
Alexander Zemlinsky or Alexander von Zemlinsky was an Austrian composer, conductor, and teacher.-Early life:...

 (Alma was one of Zemlinsky's pupils), but agreed to meet at the Hofoper the following day. This meeting led to a rapid courtship; Mahler and Alma were married at a private ceremony on 1902. Alma was by then pregnant with her first child, a daughter Maria Anna, who was born on 1902. A second daughter, Anna, was born in 1904.

Friends of the couple were surprised by the marriage and dubious of its wisdom. Burckhard called Mahler "that rachitic degenerate Jew", unworthy for such a good-looking girl of good family. On the other hand, Mahler's family considered Alma to be flirtatious, unreliable, and too fond of seeing young men fall for her charms. Mahler was by nature moody and authoritarian—Natalie Bauer-Lechner, his earlier partner, said that living with him was "like being on a boat that is ceaselessly rocked to and fro by the waves". Alma soon became resentful that, on Mahler's insistence that there could only be one composer in the family, she had given up her music studies. She wrote in her diary: "How hard it is to be so mercilessly deprived of ... things closest to one's heart". Mahler's requirement that their married life be organised around his creative activities imposed strains, and precipitated rebellion on Alma's part; the marriage was nevertheless marked at times by expressions of considerable passion, particularly from Mahler.

In the summer of 1907 Mahler, exhausted from the effects of the campaign against him in Vienna, took his family to Maiernigg. Soon after their arrival both daughters fell ill with scarlet fever
Scarlet fever
Scarlet fever is a disease caused by exotoxin released by Streptococcus pyogenes. Once a major cause of death, it is now effectively treated with antibiotics...

 and diphtheria
Diphtheria
Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, a facultative anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium. It is characterized by sore throat, low fever, and an adherent membrane on the tonsils, pharynx, and/or nasal cavity...

. Anna recovered, but after a fortnight's struggle Maria died on . Immediately following this devastating loss, Mahler learned that his heart was defective, a diagnosis subsequently confirmed by a Vienna specialist, who ordered a curtailment of all forms of vigorous exercise. The extent to which Mahler's condition disabled him is unclear; Alma wrote of it as a virtual death sentence, though Mahler himself, in a letter written to her on 1907, said that he would be able to live a normal life, apart from avoiding over-fatigue. The illness was, however, a further depressing factor; at the end of the summer the villa at Maiernigg was closed, and never revisited.

New York

Mahler made his New York debut at the Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company, located in New York City. Originally founded in 1880, the company gave its first performance on October 22, 1883. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager...

 on 1908, when he conducted Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in the cut version still standard in New York, though long since superseded in Vienna. In a busy first season Mahler's performances were widely praised, especially his Fidelio on 1908, in which he insisted on using replicas being made of Roller's Vienna sets. On his return to Austria for the summer of 1908, Mahler established himself in the third and last of his composing studios, in the pine forests close to Toblach
Toblach
Toblach is a comune/Gemeinde in South Tyrol in the Italian region Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, located in the Puster Valley about 110 km northeast of the city of Trento and about 70 km northeast of the city of Bolzano, on the border with Austria.As of November 30, 2010, it had a...

 in Tyrol
County of Tyrol
The County of Tyrol, Princely County from 1504, was a State of the Holy Roman Empire, from 1814 a province of the Austrian Empire and from 1867 a Cisleithanian crown land of Austria-Hungary...

. Here, using a text by Hans Bethge
Hans Bethge
Hans Bethge was a German poet whose reputation abroad rests above all on the versions of Tang dynasty poetry set in Gustav Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde"...

 based on ancient Chinese poems, he composed Das Lied von der Erde
Das Lied von der Erde
Das Lied von der Erde is a large-scale work for two vocal soloists and orchestra by the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler...

("The Song of the Earth"). Despite the symphonic nature of the work, Mahler refused to number it, hoping thereby to escape the "curse of the Ninth Symphony"
Curse of the ninth
The curse of the ninth is a superstition connected with the history of classical music. In essence, it is the belief that a "ninth symphony" is destined to be a composer's last; i.e. that he or she will be "fated" to die after writing it, or before completing a "tenth"...

 that he believed had affected fellow-composers Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner. On 1908 the premiere of the Seventh Symphony
Symphony No. 7 (Mahler)
Gustav Mahler's Seventh Symphony was written in 1904-05, with repeated revisions to the scoring. It is sometimes referred to by the title Song of the Night , though this title was not Mahler's own and he disapproved of it. Although the symphony is often described as being in the key of 'E minor,'...

, in Prague, was deemed by Alma Mahler a critical rather than a popular success.

For its 1908–09 season the Metropolitan management brought in the Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini
Arturo Toscanini
Arturo Toscanini was an Italian conductor. One of the most acclaimed musicians of the late 19th and 20th century, he was renowned for his intensity, his perfectionism, his ear for orchestral detail and sonority, and his photographic memory...

 to share duties with Mahler, who made only 19 appearances in the entire season. One of these was a much-praised performance of Smetana's The Bartered Bride
The Bartered Bride
The Bartered Bride is a comic opera in three acts by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, to a libretto by Karel Sabina. The opera is considered to have made a major contribution towards the development of Czech music. It was composed during the period 1863–66, and first performed at the...

on 1909. In the early part of the season Mahler conducted three concerts with the New York Symphony Orchestra
New York Symphony Orchestra
The New York Symphony Orchestra was founded as the New York Symphony Society in New York City by Leopold Damrosch in 1878. For many years it was a fierce rival to the older Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York. It was supported by Andrew Carnegie who built Carnegie Hall expressly for the...

. This renewed experience of orchestral conducting inspired him to resign his position with the opera house and accept the conductorship of the re-formed New York Philharmonic
New York Philharmonic
The New York Philharmonic is a symphony orchestra based in New York City in the United States. It is one of the American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five"...

. He continued to make occasional guest appearances at the Met, his last performance being Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades
The Queen of Spades (opera)
The Queen of Spades, Op. 68 is an opera in 3 acts by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to a Russian libretto by the composer's brother Modest Tchaikovsky, based on a short story of the same name by Alexander Pushkin. The premiere took place in 1890 in St...

on 1910.

Back in Europe for the summer of 1909, Mahler worked on his Ninth Symphony
Symphony No. 9 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 9 by Gustav Mahler was written between 1909 and 1910, and was the last symphony that he completed.Though the work is often described as being in the key of D major, the tonal scheme of the symphony as whole is progressive...

 and made a conducting tour of the Netherlands. The 1909–10 New York Philharmonic season was long and taxing; Mahler rehearsed and conducted 46 concerts, but his programmes were often too demanding for popular tastes. His own First Symphony, given its American debut on 1909, was one of the pieces that failed with critics and public, and the season ended with heavy financial losses. The highlight of Mahler's 1910 summer was the first performance of the Eighth Symphony at Munich on , the last of his works to be premiered in his lifetime. The occasion was a triumph—"easily Mahler's biggest lifetime success", according to biographer Robert Carr— but was overshadowed by the composer's discovery, before the event, that Alma had begun an affair with the young architect Walter Gropius
Walter Gropius
Walter Adolph Georg Gropius was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School who, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture....

. Greatly distressed, Mahler sought advice from Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

, and appeared to gain some comfort from his meeting with the psychoanalyst. Alma agreed to remain with Mahler, although the relationship with Gropius continued surreptitiously. In a gesture of love, Mahler dedicated his Eighth Symphony to her.

Illness and death

In spite of the emotional distractions, during the summer of 1910 Mahler worked on his Tenth Symphony
Symphony No. 10 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 10 by Gustav Mahler was written in the summer of 1910, and was his final composition. At the time of Mahler's death the composition was substantially complete in the form of a continuous draft; but not being fully elaborated at every point, and mostly not orchestrated, it was not...

, completing the Adagio and drafting four more movements. He and Alma returned to New York in November 1910, where Mahler threw himself into a busy Philharmonic season of concerts and tours. Around Christmas 1910 he began suffering from a sore throat, which persisted. On 1911, with a temperature of 40 °C (104 °F), Mahler insisted on fulfilling an engagement at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

, with a relatively nondescript programme. This was Mahler's last concert. After weeks confined to bed he was diagnosed with bacterial endocarditis
Infective endocarditis
Infective endocarditis is a form of endocarditis, or inflammation, of the inner tissue of the heart, such as its valves, caused by infectious agents. The agents are usually bacterial, but other organisms can also be responsible....

, a disease to which sufferers from defective heart valves were particularly prone, and for which the survival rate in pre-antibiotic days was almost zero. Mahler did not give up hope; he talked of resuming the concert season, and took a keen interest when one of Alma's compositions was sung at a public recital by the soprano Frances Alda
Frances Alda
Frances Alda was a New Zealand-born, Australian-raised operatic soprano. She achieved fame during the first three decades of the 20th century due to her outstanding singing voice, fine technique and colourful personality—and frequent onstage partnerships at the New York Metropolitan Opera with the...

, on . On the Mahler family and a permanent nurse left New York on board SS Amerika
USS America (ID-3006)
USS America was a troop transport for the United States Navy during World War I. She was launched in 1905 as SS Amerika by Harland and Wolff in Belfast for the Hamburg America Line of Germany. As a passenger liner, she sailed primarily between Hamburg and New York...

 bound for Europe. They reached Paris ten days later, where Mahler entered a clinic at Neuilly
Neuilly-sur-Seine
Neuilly-sur-Seine is a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, France. It is located from the center of Paris.Although Neuilly is technically a suburb of Paris, it is immediately adjacent to the city and directly extends it. The area is composed of mostly wealthy, select residential...

, but there was no improvement; on he was taken by train to the Lŏw sanatorium in Vienna, where he died on .

On 22 May 1911 Mahler was buried in the Grinzing
Grinzing
Grinzing was an independent municipality until 1892 and is today a part of Döbling, the 19th district of Vienna.- Geography :- Location :...

 cemetery, as he had requested. Alma, on doctors' orders, was absent, but among the mourners at a relatively pomp-free funeral were Arnold Schoenberg (whose wreath described Mahler as "the holy Gustav Mahler"), Bruno Walter, Alfred Roller, the Secessionist painter Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian Symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. His major works include paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects...

, and representatives from many of the great European opera houses. The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, reporting Mahler's death, called him "one of the towering musical figures of his day", but discussed his symphonies mainly in terms of their duration, incidentally exaggerating the length of the Second Symphony to "two hours and forty minutes". In London, The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

obituary said his conducting was "more accomplished than that of any man save Richter", and that his symphonies were "undoubtedly interesting in their union of modern orchestral richness with a melodic simplicity that often approached banality", though it was too early to judge their ultimate worth.

Alma Mahler survived her husband by more than 50 years, dying in 1964. She married Walter Gropius in 1915, divorced him five years later, and married the writer Franz Werfel
Franz Werfel
Franz Werfel was an Austrian-Bohemian novelist, playwright, and poet.- Biography :Born in Prague , Werfel was the first of three children of a wealthy manufacturer of gloves and leather goods. His mother, Albine Kussi, was the daughter of a mill owner...

 in 1929. In 1940 she published a memoir of her years with Mahler, entitled Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters. This account was criticised by later biographers as incomplete, selective and self-serving, and for providing a distorted picture of Mahler's life. The composer's daughter Anna Mahler
Anna Mahler
Anna Justine Mahler was an Austrian sculptor.-Early Life:Born in Vienna, she was the daughter of the composer Gustav Mahler and his wife Alma Schindler. They nicknamed her 'Gucki' on account of her big blue eyes...

 became a well-known sculptor; she died in 1988. The International Gustav Mahler Society was founded in 1955 in Vienna, with Bruno Walter as its first president and Alma Mahler as an honorary member. The Society aims to create a complete critical edition of Mahler's works, and to commemorate all aspects of the composer's life.

Three creative periods

Deryck Cooke and other analysts have divided Mahler's composing life into three distinct phases: a long "first period", extending from Das klagende Lied in 1880 to the end of the Wunderhorn phase in 1901; a "middle period" of more concentrated composition ending with Mahler's departure for New York in 1907; and a brief "late period" of elegiac works before his death in 1911.

The main works of the first period are the first four symphonies, the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen song cycle and various song collections in which the Wunderhorn songs predominate. In this period songs and symphonies are closely related and the symphonic works are programmatic. Mahler initially gave the first three symphonies full descriptive programmes, all of which he later repudiated. He devised, but did not publish, titles for each of the movements for the Fourth Symphony; from these titles the German music critic Paul Bekker
Paul Bekker
Paul Bekker was one of the most articulate and influential German music critics of the 20th century....

 conjectured a programme in which Death appears in the Scherzo "in the friendly, legendary guise of the fiddler tempting his flock to follow him out of this world".

The middle period comprises a triptych of purely instrumental symphonies (the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh), the Rückert songs and the Kindertotenlieder, two final Wunderhorn settings and, in some reckonings, Mahler's last great affirmative statement, the choral Eighth Symphony. Cooke believes that the Eighth stands on its own, between the middle and final periods. Mahler had by now abandoned all explicit programmes and descriptive titles; he wanted to write "absolute" music that spoke for itself. Cooke refers to "a new granite-like hardness of orchestration" in the middle-period symphonies, while the songs have lost most of their folk character, and cease to fertilise the symphonies as explicitly as before.

The works of the brief final period—Das Lied von der Erde, the Ninth and (incomplete) Tenth Symphonies—are expressions of personal experience, as Mahler faced death. Each of the pieces ends quietly, signifying that aspiration has now given way to resignation. Cooke considers these works to be a loving (rather than a bitter) farewell to life; the composer Alban Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

 called the Ninth "the most marvellous thing that Mahler ever wrote". None of these final works was performed in Mahler's lifetime.

Antecedents and influences

Mahler was a "late Romantic"
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

, part of an ideal that placed Austro-German classical music on a higher plane than other types, through its supposed possession of particular spiritual and philosophical significance. He was one of the last major composers of a line which includes, among others, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Wagner, Bruckner and Brahms. From these antecedents Mahler drew many of the features that were to characterise his music. Thus, from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)
The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, is the final complete symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven. Completed in 1824, the symphony is one of the best known works of the Western classical repertoire, and has been adapted for use as the European Anthem...

 came the idea of using soloists and a choir within the symphonic genre. From Beethoven, Liszt and (from a different musical tradition) Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

 came the concept of writing music with an inherent narrative or "programme", and of breaking away from the traditional four-movement symphony format. The examples of Wagner and Bruckner encouraged Mahler to extend the scale of his symphonic works well beyond the previously accepted standards, to embrace an entire world of feeling.

Early critics maintained that Mahler's adoption of many different styles to suit different expressions of feeling meant that he lacked a style of his own; Cooke on the other hand asserts that Mahler "redeemed any borrowings by imprinting his [own] personality on practically every note" to produce music of "outstanding originality." Music critic Harold Schonberg sees the essence of Mahler's music in the theme of struggle, in the tradition of Beethoven. However, according to Schonberg, Beethoven's struggles were those of "an indomitable and triumphant hero", whereas Mahler's are those of "a psychic weakling, a complaining adolescent who ... enjoyed his misery, wanting the whole world to see how he was suffering." Yet, Schonberg concedes, most of the symphonies contain sections in which Mahler the "deep thinker" is transcended by the splendour of Mahler the musician.

Genre

Except for his juvenilia, few of which have survived, Mahler composed only in the media of song and symphony, with a close and complex interrelationship between the two. Donald Mitchell writes that this interaction is the backcloth against which all Mahler's music can be considered. The initial connection between song and symphony occurs with the song-cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and the First Symphony. Although this early evidence of cross-fertilisation is important, it is during Mahler's extended Wunderhorn phase, in which his Second, Third and Fourth Symphonies were written, that the song and symphony genres are consistently intermingled. Themes from the Wunderhorn song Das himmlische Leben ("The Heavenly Life"), composed in 1892, became a key element in the Third Symphony completed in 1896; the song itself forms the finale to the Fourth (1900) and its melody is central to the whole composition. For the Second Symphony, written between 1888 and 1894, Mahler worked simultaneously on the Wunderhorn song, Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt ("The Sermon of St Anthony of Padua to the Fishes"), and on the Scherzo based on it which became the symphony's third movement. Another Wunderhorn setting from 1892, Urlicht ("Primal Light"), is used as the Second Symphony's fourth (penultimate) movement.

In Mahler's middle and late periods, the song-symphony relationship is less direct. However, musicologist Donald Mitchell
Donald Mitchell (writer)
Donald Mitchell is a British writer on music, particularly known for his books on Gustav Mahler and Benjamin Britten and for the book The Language of Modern Music, published 1963....

 notes specific relationships between the middle period songs and their contemporaneous symphonies—the second Kindertotenlieder song and the Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony
Symphony No. 5 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor by Gustav Mahler was composed in 1901 and 1902, mostly during the summer months at Mahler's cottage at Maiernigg. Among its most distinctive features are the funereal trumpet solo that opens the work and the frequently performed Adagietto.The musical canvas and...

, the last Kindertotenlieder song and the Sixth Symphony
Symphony No. 6 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 6 in A minor by Gustav Mahler, sometimes referred to as the Tragische , was composed between 1903 and 1904 . The work's first performance was in Essen, on May 27, 1906, conducted by the composer.The tragic, even nihilistic ending of No...

 finale. Mahler's last work employing vocal and orchestral forces, Das Lied von der Erde, is subtitled "A Symphony..."—Mitchell categorises it as a "song and symphony".

Style

The union of song and symphonic form in Mahler's music is, in Cooke's view, organic; "his songs flower naturally into symphonic movements, being already symphonic in cast." To Sibelius, Mahler expressed the belief that "The symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything." True to this belief, Mahler drew material from many sources into his songs and symphonic works: bird calls and cow-bells to evoke nature and the countryside, bugle fanfares, street melodies and country dances to summon the lost world of his childhood. Life's struggles are represented in contrasting moods: the yearning for fulfilment by soaring melodies and chromatic harmony, suffering and despair by discord, distortion and grotesquerie. Amid all this is Mahler's particular hallmark—the constant intrusion of banality and absurdity into moments of deep seriousness, typified in the second movement of the Fifth Symphony when a trivial popular tune suddenly cuts into a solemn funeral march. The trite melody soon changes its character, and in due course re-emerges as one of the majestic Brucknerian chorales which Mahler uses to signify hope and the resolution of conflict. Mahler himself recognised the idiosyncrasies in his work, calling the Scherzo in the Third Symphony "the most farcical and at the same time the most tragic piece that ever existed ... It is as though all nature is making faces and sticking out its tongue."

The range of musical moods, Cooke maintains, comes from Mahler's "amazing orchestration" which, in the writer's view, defies analysis—"it speaks for itself". Franklin lists specific features which are basic to Mahler's style: extremes of volume, the use of off-stage ensembles, unconventional arrangement of orchestral forces, and frequent recourse to popular music and dance forms such as the ländler
Ländler
The ländler is a folk dance in 3/4 time which was popular in Austria, south Germany and German Switzerland at the end of the 18th century.It is a dance for couples which strongly features hopping and stamping...

 and the waltz. Musicologist Vladimír Karbusický maintains that the composer's Jewish roots had lasting effects on his creative output; he pinpoints the central part of the third movement of the First Symphony as the most characteristically "Yiddish" music in Mahler's work. The Czech composer-journalist Max Brod
Max Brod
Max Brod was a German-speaking Czech Jewish, later Israeli, author, composer, and journalist. Although he was a prolific writer in his own right, he is most famous as the friend and biographer of Franz Kafka...

 has also identified Jewish tunes and rhythms in Mahler's music.

A technical device much used by Mahler is that of "progressive tonality", which Deryck Cooke describes as "the procedure of resolving a symphonic conflict in a different key from that in which it was stated", and which is often used "to symbolise the gradual ascendancy of a certain value by progress from one key to another over the whole course of a symphony". This technique was also used by Mahler's Danish contemporary Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen
Carl August Nielsen , , widely recognised as Denmark's greatest composer, was also a conductor and a violinist. Brought up by poor but musically talented parents on the island of Funen, he demonstrated his musical abilities at an early age...

. Mahler first employed the device in an early song, Erinnerung ("Memory"), and thereafter used it freely in his symphonies. For example, the predominant key of the First Symphony is D major; at the beginning of the Finale, the "conflict" movement, the key switches to F minor, and only after a lengthy battle gets back to D, near the end. The Second Symphony begins in C minor and ends in E flat. The movements of the Fifth Symphony progress successively from C-sharp minor to A minor, then D major, F major and finally to D major. The Sixth Symphony, unusually for Mahler, begins and ends in the same key, A minor, signifying that in this case the conflict is unresolved.

Early responses, 1889–1911

Mahler's friend Guido Adler calculated that at the time of the composer's death in 1911 there had been more than 260 performances of the symphonies in Europe, Russia and America, the Fourth Symphony with 61 performances given most frequently (Adler did not enumerate performances of the songs). In his lifetime, Mahler's works and their performances attracted wide interest, but rarely unqualified approval; for years after its 1889 premiere critics and public struggled to understand the First Symphony, described by one critic after an 1898 Dresden performance as "the dullest [symphonic] work the new epoch has produced." The Second Symphony was received more positively, one critic calling it "the most masterly work of its kind since Mendelssohn". Such generous praise was rare, particularly after Mahler's accession to the Vienna Hofoper directorship. His many enemies in the city used the anti-Semitic and conservative press to denigrate almost every performance of a Mahler work; thus the Third Symphony, a success in Krefeld in 1902, was treated in Vienna with critical scorn: "Anyone who has committed such a deed deserves a couple of years in prison."

A mix of enthusiasm, consternation and critical contempt became the normal response to new Mahler symphonies, although the songs were better received. After his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies failed to gain general public approval, Mahler was convinced that his Sixth would finally succeed. However, its reception was dominated by satirical comments on Mahler's unconventional percussion effects—the use of a wooden mallet, birch rods and a huge square bass drum. Viennese critic Heinrich Reinhardt dismissed the symphony as "Brass, lots of brass, incredibly much brass! Even more brass, nothing but brass!" The one unalloyed performance triumph within Mahler's lifetime was the premiere of the Eighth Symphony in Munich, on 1910, advertised by its promoters as the "Symphony of a Thousand". At its conclusion, applause and celebrations reportedly lasted for half an hour.

Relative neglect, 1911–50

Performances of Mahler's works became less frequent after his death. In the Netherlands the advocacy of Willem Mengelberg ensured that Mahler remained popular there, and Mengelberg's engagement with the New York Philharmonic from 1922 to 1928 brought Mahler regularly to American audiences. However, much American critical reaction in the 1920s was negative, despite a spirited effort by the young composer Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later in his career a conductor of his own and other American music. He was instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition, and is often referred to as "the Dean of American Composers"...

 to present Mahler as a progressive, 30 years ahead of his time and infinitely more inventive than Richard Strauss. Earlier, in 1916, Leopold Stokowski
Leopold Stokowski
Leopold Anthony Stokowski was a British-born, naturalised American orchestral conductor, well known for his free-hand performing style that spurned the traditional baton and for obtaining a characteristically sumptuous sound from many of the great orchestras he conducted.In America, Stokowski...

 had given the American premieres of the Eighth Symphony and Das Lied von der Erde in Philadelphia. The Eighth was a sensationally successful performance that was immediately taken to New York where it scored a further triumph. In Britain the Hallé Orchestra brought Das Lied and the Ninth Symphony to Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

 in 1931; Sir Henry Wood
Henry Wood
Henry Wood was a British conductor.Henry Wood may also refer to:* Henry C. Wood , American Civil War Medal of Honor recipient* Henry Wood , English cricketer...

 staged the Eighth in London in 1930, and again in 1938 when the young Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

 found the performance "execrable" but was nevertheless impressed by the music. In the main, during this period British critics treated Mahler with condescension and faint praise. Thus Dyneley Hussey
Dyneley Hussey
Dyneley Hussey was an English war poet, journalist, art critic and music critic.-Life:Hussey was the son of Colonel Charles Edward Hussey and was born in India. He was educated at St Cyprian's School Eastbourne, The King's School Canterbury and Corpus Christi College, Oxford...

, writing in 1934, thought the "children's songs" were delightful, but that the symphonies should be let go. Composer-conductor Julius Harrison
Julius Harrison
Julius Allan Greenway Harrison was an English composer who was best known as a conductor of operatic works.-Life and career:...

 described Mahler's symphonies as "interesting at times, but laboriously put together" and as lacking creative spark. George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

, in his role as music critic, thought that the musical audiences of the 1930s would find Mahler (and Bruckner) "expensively second-rate".

Before Mahler's music was banned as "degenerate
Degenerate music
Degenerate music was a label applied in the 1930s by the Nazi government in Germany to certain forms of music that it considered to be harmful or decadent. The Nazi government's concern for degenerate music was a part of its larger and more well-known campaign against degenerate art...

" during the Nazi era
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, the symphonies and songs were played in the concert halls of Germany and Austria, often conducted by Bruno Walter and Mahler's younger assistant Otto Klemperer
Otto Klemperer
Otto Klemperer was a German conductor and composer. He is widely regarded as one of the leading conductors of the 20th century.-Biography:Otto Klemperer was born in Breslau, Silesia Province, then in Germany...

 and Willem Mengelberg. In Austria, Mahler's work experienced a brief renaissance between 1934 and 1938, a period known today as 'Austrofascism', when the authoritarian regime with the help of Alma Mahler and Bruno Walter, who were both on friendly terms with the new chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg, sought to make Mahler into a national icon (with a status comparable to that of Wagner in Germany). Mahler's music was performed during the Nazi era in Berlin in early 1941 and in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands by Jewish orchestras and for Jewish audiences alone; works performed included the Second Symphony (Berlin), the First and Fourth Symphonies, and the Songs of a Wayfarer (Amsterdam).

Modern revival

According to American composer David Schiff, his compatriot Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim...

 used to imply that he had single-handedly rescued Mahler from oblivion in 1960, after 50 years of neglect. Schiff points out that such neglect was only relative—far less than the disregard of Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

 in the years after his death. Although Bernstein gave the Mahler revival further impetus, it was well under way before 1960, sustained by conductors such as Stokowski, Dimitri Mitropoulos and John Barbirolli
John Barbirolli
Sir John Barbirolli, CH was an English conductor and cellist. Born in London, of Italian and French parentage, he grew up in a family of professional musicians. His father and grandfather were violinists...

, and by long-time Mahler advocate Aaron Copland.

Deryck Cooke argues that Mahler's popularity escalated when a new, postwar generation of music-lovers arose, untainted by "the dated polemics of anti-romanticism" which had affected Mahler's reputation in the inter-war years. In this more liberated age, enthusiasm for Mahler expanded even into places—Spain, France, Italy—which had long been resistant to him. Robert Carr's simpler explanation for the 1950s Mahler revival is that "it was the long-playing record [in the early 1950s] rather than the Zeitgeist which made a comprehensive breakthrough possible. Mahler's work became accessible and repeatable in the home." In the years following his centenary in 1960, Mahler rapidly became one of the most performed and most recorded of all composers, and has largely remained thus. In Britain and elsewhere, Carr notes, the extent of Mahler performances and recordings has replaced a relative famine with a glut, bringing problems of over-familiarity. Harold Schonberg comments that "it is hard to think of a composer who arouses equal loyalty", adding that "a response of anything short of rapture to the Mahler symphonies will bring [to the critic] long letters of furious denunciation".

In a letter to Alma dated 16 February 1902, Mahler wrote, with reference to Richard Strauss: "My day will come when his is ended. If only I might live to see it, with you at my side!" Carr observes that Mahler could conceivably have lived to see "his day"; his near-contemporary Richard Strauss survived until 1949, while Sibelius, just five years younger than Mahler, died only in 1957.

Later influence

Donald Mitchell writes that Mahler's influence on succeeding generations of composers is "a complete subject in itself". Mahler's first disciples included Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

 and his pupils Alban Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

 and Anton Webern
Anton Webern
Anton Webern was an Austrian composer and conductor. He was a member of the Second Viennese School. As a student and significant follower of Arnold Schoenberg, he became one of the best-known exponents of the twelve-tone technique; in addition, his innovations regarding schematic organization of...

, who together founded the Second Viennese School
Second Viennese School
The Second Viennese School is the group of composers that comprised Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils and close associates in early 20th century Vienna, where he lived and taught, sporadically, between 1903 and 1925...

. Mahler's music influenced the trio's move from progressive tonalism to atonalism (music without a key); although Mahler rejected atonalism, he became a fierce defender of the bold originality of Schoenberg's work. At the premiere of the latter's First String Quartet
String quartets (Schoenberg)
The Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg published four string quartets, distributed over his lifetime. These were the String Quartet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 7 , String Quartet No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op. 10 , String Quartet No. 3, Op. 30 , and the String Quartet No. 4, Op...

 in February 1907, Mahler reportedly was held back from physically attacking the hecklers. Schoenberg's Serenade, Op. 24 (1923), Berg's Three Pieces for Orchestra
Three Pieces for Orchestra (Berg)
Alban Berg composed his Three Pieces for Orchestra , Op. 6 between 1913 and 1915. It is dedicated "to my teacher and friend Arnold Schoenberg in immeasurable gratitude and love"...

 (1915) and Webern's Six Pieces (1928) all carry echoes of Mahler's Seventh Symphony.

Among other composers whose work carries the influence of Mahler, Mitchell lists America's Aaron Copland, the German song and stage composer Kurt Weill
Kurt Weill
Kurt Julian Weill was a German-Jewish composer, active from the 1920s, and in his later years in the United States. He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht...

, Italy's Luciano Berio
Luciano Berio
Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian composer. He is noted for his experimental work and also for his pioneering work in electronic music.-Biography:Berio was born at Oneglia Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI (October 24, 1925 – May 27, 2003) was an Italian...

, Russia's Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century....

 and England's Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

. In a 1989 interview the pianist-conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy
Vladimir Ashkenazy
Vladimir Davidovich Ashkenazy is a Russian-Icelandic conductor and pianist. Since 1972 he has been a citizen of Iceland, his wife Þórunn's country of birth. Since 1978, because of his many obligations in Europe, he and his family have resided in Meggen, near Lucerne in Switzerland...

 said that the connection between Mahler and Shostakovich was "very strong and obvious"; their music represented "the individual versus the vices of the world." Mitchell highlights Britten's "marvellously keen, spare and independent writing for the wind in ... the first movement of the Cello Symphony of 1963 [which] clearly belongs to that order of dazzling transparency and instrumental emancipation which Mahler did so much to establish". Mitchell concludes with the statement: "Even were his own music not to survive, Mahler would still enjoy a substantial immortality in the music of these pre-eminent successors who have embraced his art and assimilated his techniques."

List of compositions

Sources

  • Anon. (1908). PDF format
  • Anon. (1909). PDF format
  • Anon. (1911). PDF format. 1964)|publisher=Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society |year= 1964}} 2010}} 2007}} 2010}} 2010|url= http://www.spectator.co.uk/arts-and-culture/all/5704108/mahlers-mass-following.thtml|accessdate= 2010}} 1989|url= http://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/03/arts/ashkenazy-mining-a-mahler-vein.html?pagewanted=1|accessdate= 2010 | date=3 February 1989}} 2001|accessdate= 2010}}


External links

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