Composer full Name: Gustav Mahler
Date of Birth: 07 July 1860
Date of Death: 18 May 1911
Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic/20th Century
Biography: Born in Bohemia (then part of the Austrian Empire) as a German-speaking Jew of 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 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, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. Late in his life he was briefly director of New York’s Metropolitan Operaand the New York Philharmonic.
Mahler’s œuvre is relatively limited; for much of his life composing was necessarily a part-time activity while he earned his living as a conductor. Aside from early works such as a movement from a piano quartet composed when he was a student in Vienna, Mahler’s works are generally designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists. These works were frequently controversial when first performed, and several were slow to receive critical and popular approval; exceptions included his Second Symphony, Third Symphony, and the triumphant premiere of his Eighth Symphony in 1910. Some of Mahler’s immediate musical successors included the composers of the Second Viennese School, notably Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten 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.
Early life: Family background | Childhood | Student days
Early conducting career 1880–88: First appointments | Prague and Leipzig | Apprentice composer
Budapest and Hamburg, 1888–97: Royal Opera, Budapest | Stadttheater Hamburg
Vienna, 1897–1907: Hofoper director | Philharmonic concerts | Mature composer | Marriage, family, tragedy
Last years, 1908–11: New York | Illness and death