Happy Birthday Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler, one of the giants as a conductor and composer, in the Romantic Era, was born to a Jewish family on July 7, 1860, in Kaliste, Bohemia [now part of the Czech Republic]. He died on May 18, 1911 in Vienna, Austria.

From Biography.com-Gustav Mahler: “Austrian composer and conductor Gustav Mahler became popular in the late 19th century for his emotionally charged and subtly orchestrated symphonies.”

Mahler’s compositions were solely symphonic rather than operatic. He eventually composed 10 [great masterpiece] symphonies, each very emotional and large in scale. He also wrote several song cycles with folk influences. His work is characterized as part of the Romanticism movement and is often focused on death and afterlife. He is known for his choral work Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) and the song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer).

On January 1, 1908, Mahler debuted as director of New York City’s Metropolitan Opera. One year later he was conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He returned to Vienna to die of heart disease on May 18, 1911. He passed away before he fully completed his tenth and final symphony. 

After his death, Mahler’s work went largely unacknowledged. It took decades for his community to recognize his influence; he is now regarded as a pioneer of 20-century composition techniques, particularly progressive tonality. Mahler has been named as an influence by composers like Arnold Schoenberg, Benjamin Britten and Alban Berg.”

From Britannica-Mahler biography:Since Mahler’s conducting life centred [sic] in the traditional manner on the opera house, it is at first surprising that his whole mature output was entirely symphonic (his 40 songs are not true lieder but embryonic symphonic movements, some of which, in fact, provided a partial basis for the symphonies). But Mahler’s unique aim, partially influenced by the school of Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt, was essentially autobiographical—the musical expression of a personal view of the world.

Each of Mahler’s three creative periods produced a symphonic trilogy. The three symphonies of his first period were conceived on a programmatic basis” … “Most of the works of this middle period reflect the fierce dynamism of Mahler’s full maturity. An exception is Symphony No. 4 (1900; popularly called Ode to Heavenly Joy), which is more of a pendant to the first period: conceived in six movements (two of which were eventually discarded)” … “Thus began Mahler’s last period at age 47… This last-period trilogy marked an even more decisive break with the past than had the middle-period trilogy. It represents a threefold attempt to come to terms with the modern individual’s fundamental problem—the reality of death.

Just as it took decades for the genius and greatness of Mahler [represented by his large scale symphonies] to be recognized and beloved by the public, it took me [shame on me] way to long to discover and love Mahler, who I now consider one of my favorite composers.

To celebrate Gustav Mahler’s 162nd birthday, please turn up the volume, play in full screen, and enjoy just a tiny sample of this genius’ symphonic compositions.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony #1 in D Major, “The Titan”, movement 3, solemnly and measured/”funeral march” based on Frere Jacques in d minor:

Gustav Mahler: Symphony #2, in C minor, “Resurrection”, movement 5, Scherzo/Choral:

Gustav Mahler: Symphony #8 in E Flat Major, “Symphony of a Thousand”:

Happy Birthday #162 Gustav Mahler!

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