Historical figure Gustav Mahler

Born in: 1860  - Died in: 1911
Gustav Mahler was an Austrian composer and conductor. Born in 1860 in Kalischt, in the Austrian region of Bohemia, by Bernhard and Marie Hermann. His family was of Hebrew-Ashkenazi and German-speaking origins. A few months after his birth, he moved to Iglau. His childhood was very sad, marred by the death of several brothers. Helped by his father, who was strumming the violin in his youth, and by pianist Julius Epstein, in 1875 he managed to enter the Vienna Conservatory, which he attended for three years, obtaining support and arousing jealousy, probably because of his ugly character. In this climate he made a good friendship with Hugo Wolf, Hans Rott, the Rosé brothers, and Rudolf and Heinrich Krzyzanowski. The intellectual and artistic association with the composer Anton Bruckner proved useful also in the working field.

The earliest known composition of Gustav Mahler, dating back to 1876, is a Klavierquartett in A minor, born as an essay for the conservatory, of which we have the first time and 27 bars of the second. Apart from the destroyed or incomplete compositions of the youth period, Lieder for tenor and piano arrived on texts composed by the same Mahler, dedicated to the young Josephine Poisl. Of the 1880 is Das klagende Lied (Song of lament), still on its own text. He then composed the five Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit (Songs of Youth, 1880-1883 and 1887-1890) and the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of One on the Road or Songs of a Wanderer, 1884).

After completing his studies at the conservatory, Mahler had his first experiences in conducting the orchestra at Bad Hall in the summer of 1880, where the repertoire was operetta. In the following years he continued his career as a director in other important opera houses of Central Europe: in 1881 Ljubljana where he also directed Il trovatore, Olomouc in 1883 where he also directed Carmen, Vienna and Kassel in August 1883 where he directed Der Freischütz, Prague in 1885, Leipzig Opera from 1886 and Budapest in 1888. In 1887 Mahler was called to replace the famous director Arthur Nikisch for the cycle the Ring of the Nibelungen by Richard Wagner in Leipzig; the great success obtained contributed to increase his fame and his prestige as a director both among music critics and the public.

A similar fortune did not get his compositions: the completion of the play Die Drei Pintos by Carl Maria von Weber dates back to this period, and in January 1888 he received criticism and did not manage to permanently enter the operatic repertoire, and the Symphony n . 1 in D major The Titan, inspired by the homonymous novel by Jean Paul, which was repeatedly revised by the author also due to the cold reception received. In 1888 he returned to Prague to direct Die Drei Pintos and Der Barbier von Bagdad by Peter Cornelius and thanks to his friend Guido Adler, he worked at the Budapest Opera House in October, which at that time was involved in cultural magiarization by directing Das Rheingold. and Die Walküre in Hungarian in January 1889. The following summer, after a brief visit to Iglau, he went to Munich where he underwent surgery for the aggravation of the hemorrhoids he suffered.

After successfully conducting Don Giovanni in Budapest from May 1891, he worked at the Hamburg Opera where in the first season he directed Tristan und Isolde for the first time, then Tannhäuser and Sigfrido, and in 1892 the first German of Evgenij Onegin in the presence of Tchaikovsky and October 21 Djamileh.

From 1893 to 1896 Mahler spent his summer vacation periods in Steinbach am Attersee in Upper Austria, where he continued the revision of the Symphony no. 1 (the first performance was November 21, 1889 in Budapest and the second one on October 27, 1893 in Hamburg), composed the second symphony that successfully debuted in Berlin on December 13, 1895, sketched the third symphony, and wrote most of the Lieder of the cycle Des Knaben Wunderhorn (in Italian The magic horn of the child), based on a famous cycle of poems edited by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano.

In 1897 Mahler, who was then thirty-seven years old, received the post of director of the K. u. Hofoper (Imperial Royal Chamber Opera today Wiener Staatsoper), that is to say the most prestigious musical position of the Austrian Empire; since it was an "imperial office" according to the Austro-Hungarian law in force the person in charge could not be of Jewish religion. Mahler, who had never been a devout and practicing Jew, was converted, for pragmatic reasons, to Catholicism, a religion that was not foreign to him: as a boy he had been a chorister in a Catholic church, where the chorus master had also taught him playing the piano. Nevertheless, that of Mahler was not a sincere conversion and had reluctantly consented to baptism, after which he never went to church, except for his marriage, and never confessed, and was often described as an agnostic, but the his musical production shows elements close to a naturalistic pantheism with Nietzschean ancestry, represented, for example, by the I movement of the Symphony n. 3 (a sort of march for the awakening of the god Pan or of Nature) and the use, in the fourth movement, of a text taken from the Zarathustra; or again in one of his last masterpieces, Das Lied von der Erde; also the use of the Catholic hymn Veni creator spiritus in the first part of his eighth symphony, together with the Faustian scenes of the second part, are more in a pantheistic sense than in a confessional one. In any case, the Jewish spirit and style remain widely present throughout his music, for example the use of Klezmer-style themes in the third movement of the first symphony.

In his ten years as director of the Vienna Opera, Mahler profoundly renewed the repertoire of that musical institution and improved its artistic quality, managing to bend both the performers and the listeners to his vision of music and art. When he received the assignment, the most popular works were the Lohengrin, the Manon of Massenet and Cavalleria rusticana; the new director decided on a new course more concentrated towards the repertoire of the classical period, starting from the works of Christoph Willibald Gluck and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, also taking advantage of the collaboration of the painter Alfred Roller for the staging of original productions of Fidelio, Tristan und Isolde, and of the cycle The Ring of the Nibelungen. In Vienna in 1897 he directed L'Africaine, La sposa sold, Le prophète, Die Walküre, Siegfried, The Twilight of the Gods, Dalibor, Evgenij Onegin and Der Fliegende Holländer, in 1898 Djamileh, Aida and Donna Diana by Emil von Reznicek, in 1899 The speziale, Die Opernprobe by Albert Lortzing, Der Bärenhäuter by Siegfried Wagner, Mignon and Il demone, in 1900 the first of Es war einmal by Alexander von Zemlinsky, Iolanta and Così fan tutte, in 1901 Rienzi and The Merry Wives of Windsor, in 1902 Feuersnot by Richard Strauss, Der dot mon by Josef Forster, The Huguenots and The Queen of Spades, in 1903 Euryanthe and Louise, in 1904 Der Corregidor by Hugo Wolf and Fidelio, in 1905 Das war ich by Leo Blech, Die Abreise by Eugen d'Albert and The Curious Women, in 1906 Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung by Hermann Goetz, in 1907 Iphigenia in Aulide and in 1908 Tiefland by d'Albert conducting in 346 Viennese performances.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Vienna was one of the largest and most important cities in the world, the capital of a large multinational empire in central Europe and a very lively center from an artistic and cultural point of view; Mahler knew many of the intellectuals and artists who lived at the time in Vienna, among others the painters Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.

Mahler worked for nine months a year at the State Opera, so he only had the summer time to devote himself to composition [14]; he used to spend summers at Maiernigg on Lake Wörthersee and in this idyllic location he composed four symphonies (from the fifth to the eighth), the Rückert Lieder, the Kindertotenlieder (Songs for the dead children) [15], both based on Friedrich's poems Rückert, and Der Tamboursg'sell, the last of his lieder for Des Knaben Wunderhorn.
Alma Mahler Schindler in 1899.

In June 1901 Mahler moved to a new lake villa in Maiernigg in Carinthia [16]. On March 9, 1902 Mahler married Alma Schindler, twenty years younger and stepdaughter of the famous Viennese painter Carl Moll. Alma was a musician and composer, but her husband forbade her to continue to try her hand at composition. Mahler interacted creatively [unclear] with other women, including the two-year-old Violinist Natalie Bauer-Lechner, whom she met during her studies in Vienna. Alma and Gustav had two daughters: Maria Anna (called Putzi, 1902-1907), who died at four years of diphtheria during the summer vacation in Maiernigg, and Anna (known as Gucki, 1904-1988), who also fell ill with the same he was able to heal and became a sculptor as an adult.

In 1908 and for three years Mahler changed the place of the summer holidays and of the compositional activity, and chose a farm near Dobbiaco, in Alta Val Pusteria, in the historical region of Tirolo. He essentially composed his ninth symphony, Das Lied von der Erde and the unfinished Symphony no. 10.

At the Metropolitan Opera House in New York he debuted on 1 January 1908, conducting Tristan und Isolde with Louise Homer then Don Giovanni with Antonio Scotti and Alessandro Bonci, Fyodor Chaliapin and Marcella Sembrich, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Fidelio, in 1909 Le nozze di Figaro with Geraldine Farrar and The Bride Sold and, finally, in 1910 The Queen of Spades with Alma Gluck directing in fifty-four performances.

From 1909 to 1911 he was the musical director of the New York Philharmonic.

In 1910 Mahler, struck by the discovery of his wife's betrayal, was advised to turn to Sigmund Freud, who met him only once and then gave him only some advice. Biographers (Quirino Principe and others) report a long talk of three, four hours; Freud, during the meeting, a long walk, he learned from Mahler that he sometimes called his wife Alma with the name of his mother Marie, and then formulated the hypothesis (not the diagnosis) that Mahler was suffering from the so-called "Virgo complex" Maria ". Alma Schindler refuted this fact, fortifying her thesis by proof that Mahler had difficulty pronouncing the "r", and therefore it would have been inconvenient for him to call her Marie. Freud, some time later, recalling the episode, declared: "I had the opportunity to admire the man's capacity for psychological penetration. No light illuminated at a certain point the symptoms of its obsessional neurosis. It was like digging with a stick in a mysterious building. "

A seriously ill patient from about 1907, Mahler was repeatedly forced to undergo delicate medical treatment, and he turned in vain to famous specialists who, however, could not help but notice the seriousness of his illness, a malignant and incurable endocarditis. .

Returning to Vienna from America (where he resided for about a year and where he obtained amazing concert performances), Mahler died in the Löw sanatorium of Vienna in 1911. The contributions to his biography are given to him by his wife Alma and his friend Natalie Bauer-Lechner.

Gustav Mahler Visited places

Gustav Mahler Stube

 Carbonin Vecchia, 3 - 39034 Dobbiaco - Bolzano

The former noble residence in Dobbiaco, the Gustav Mahler Stube takes its name from its most famous guest, the Bohemian composer who spent three summers here from 1908 to 1910. On the farm there... see

Offered services

Apartments / Rooms for rent / Bed&Breakfast, Park / Labyrinth / Pond / Garden, Restaurant

Time period

Italy, Bolzano