Gustav Mahler

Eyridiki Sellou | Sep 21, 2022

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Gustav Mahler (July 7, 1860, Kaliště, Bohemia - May 18, 1911, Vienna) was an Austrian composer, opera and symphony conductor.

During his lifetime Gustav Mahler was known above all as one of the greatest conductors of his time, a representative of the so-called "post-Wagner Five. Although Mahler never studied orchestral conducting himself or taught others, the influence he had on his younger colleagues allows musicologists to speak of the Mahler school, including such outstanding conductors as Willem Mengelberg, Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer.

Mahler the composer had only a relatively narrow circle of devoted admirers during his lifetime, and it was not until half a century after his death that he received real recognition - as one of the greatest symphonists of the 20th century. Mahler's work, which became a kind of bridge between the late Austro-German romanticism of the 19th century and modernism of the early 20th century, influenced many composers, including such diverse ones as representatives of the New Viennese School on the one hand and Dmitry Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten on the other.

Mahler's legacy as a composer, relatively small and consisting almost entirely of songs and symphonies, has made its way into the concert repertoire over the past half century, and for several decades he has been one of the most performed composers.


Gustav Mahler was born in the Bohemian village of Kaliště (now in the Vysočina region of Bohemia) into a poor Jewish family. His father, Bernhard Mahler (1827-1889), was from Lipnice, an innkeeper and petty trader, and his paternal grandfather was also an innkeeper. The mother, Maria Hermann (1837-1889), originally from Ledeč, was the daughter of a small soap manufacturer. According to Natalie Bauer-Lehner, the Mahler couple approached each other "like fire and water." "He was stubbornness, she was meekness itself." Of their 14 children (Gustav was the second), eight died at an early age.

Nothing in the family was conducive to music, but soon after Gustav was born, the family moved to Jihlava, an old Moravian town, already inhabited mostly by Germans in the second half of the 19th century, a town with its own cultural traditions, with a theater that sometimes staged operas, fairs and a military brass band in addition to dramatic productions. Folk songs and marches were the first music that Mahler heard and played on the harmonica at the age of four - both genres would occupy an important place in his compositional work.

Mahler's early musical abilities did not go unnoticed: from the age of 6 he was taught to play the piano, at the age of 10, in the fall of 1870 he gave his first public concert in Jihlava, the same time his first compositional experiments also belong to this period. Nothing is known about his Jihlava experiences except that in 1874, when his younger brother Ernst died in his 13th year after a serious illness, Mahler and his friend Josef Steiner began composing the opera Herzog Ernst von Schwaben in memory of his brother, but neither the libretto nor the music for the opera have survived.

During his gymnasium years Mahler's interests focused entirely on music and literature, he studied mediocrely, his transfer to another high school in Prague did not help improve his grades, and Bernhard finally reconciled himself to the fact that his eldest son will not become an assistant in his business - in 1875 he took Gustav in Vienna to the famous teacher Julius Epstein.

Youth in Vienna

In the same year, convinced of Mahler's exceptional musical abilities, Professor Epstein sent the young provincial to the Vienna Conservatory, where he became his piano tutor; Mahler studied harmony with Robert Fuchs and composition with Franz Krenn. He listened to lectures by Anton Bruckner, whom he later considered one of his main teachers, although he was not officially listed as one of his students.

Vienna was already one of the musical capitals of Europe for a century; the spirit of L. Beethoven and F. Schubert was here; in the 1970s, in addition to A. Bruckner, Johannes Brahms lived here. In the seventies, apart from A. Bruckner, Brahms lived here; the best conductors, led by Hans Richter, performed in concerts of the Society of Music Lovers; Adelina Patti and Paolina Lucca sang in the Court Opera; and folk songs and dances, in which Mahler drew inspiration both in his youth and in his maturity, were constantly heard in the streets of multicultural Vienna. In autumn 1875 the Austrian capital shuddered the arrival of R. Wagner - for six weeks that he spent in Vienna, directing the staging of his operas, all minds, according to a contemporary, "obsessed" with him. Mahler witnessed the passionate polemic between Wagner's supporters and Brahms' followers, and while in his earliest work from the Viennese period, the Piano Quartet in A Minor (1876), the influence of Wagner and Bruckner can be clearly felt, four years later the cantata Lamentations written on his own text.

While a conservatory student, Mahler also graduated from the Jihlava Gymnasium as an external student; from 1878 to 1880 he attended lectures on history and philosophy at the University of Vienna and earned his living by giving piano lessons. In those years Mahler was seen as a brilliant pianist, he was predicted a great future, his compositional experiments were not understood by his professors; only for the first movement of the piano quintet did he receive the first prize in 1876. At the conservatoire, which he graduated from in 1878, Mahler became close to such unrecognised young composers as Hugo Wolf and Hans Rott; the latter was particularly close to him, and many years later Mahler wrote to N. Bauer-Lehner: "What music has lost in him is impossible to measure: his genius reaches such heights even in his First Symphony, written at age 20, which makes him - without exaggeration - the founder of the new symphony, as I understand it." The obvious influence Rott had on Mahler (especially noticeable in the First Symphony) has given reason for a modern researcher to call him the missing link between Bruckner and Mahler.

Vienna became Mahler's second homeland, introduced him to the masterpieces of classical music and contemporary music, defined the range of his spiritual interests, and taught him to endure poverty and loss. In 1881 he submitted his "Song of Complaint" to the Beethoven Competition, a romantic legend about how the bone of a knight killed by his older brother in the hands of the spielman sounded like a flute and exposed the murderer. Fifteen years later, it was the composer who called "Song of Complaint" the first work in which he "found himself as 'Mahler,'" and gave it the first opus. But the prize of 600 guilders was awarded to Robert Fuchs by a jury that included J. Brahms, his chief Viennese admirer Eduard Hanslick, the composer Karl Goldmark, and the conductor Hans Richter. According to N. Bauer-Lehner, Mahler took defeat hard, saying many years later that his whole life would have been different and perhaps he would never have associated himself with the opera house if he had won the competition. The year before, his friend Rott had also been defeated in the same competition - despite the support of Bruckner, whose beloved pupil he had been; the mockery of the jury had devastated him and four years later the 25-year-old composer ended his days in a hospital for the insane.

Mahler survived his failure; having given up composition (in 1881 he worked on the opera-tale Rübetzal, but never finished it), he sought a different field and in the same year accepted his first conducting engagement in Laibach, modern-day Ljubljana.

The Beginning of a Conducting Career

Kurt Blaukopf calls Mahler a "conductor without a teacher": he never studied orchestra management; he first came to the stand, apparently, in the conservatoire, and in the summer season of 1880 he conducted operettas at the resort theater in Bad Halle. He found no conductor's place in Vienna and in the early years he contented himself with temporary engagements in various towns for 30 guilders a month, occasionally finding himself unemployed: in 1881 Mahler was first Kapellmeister in Laibach and in 1883 he worked briefly in Olmütz. A Wagnerian, Mahler tried in his work to defend Wagner's credo as a conductor, at that time still original to many: conducting is an art, not a craft. "From the moment I crossed the threshold of the Olmütz theater," he wrote to his Viennese friend, "I feel like a man awaiting the judgment of heaven. If a noble steed is harnessed to the same cart as an ox, he has no choice but to be dragged along, sweating. The mere feeling that I am suffering for the sake of my great masters, that perhaps I can still cast at least a spark of their fire into the souls of these poor people, hardens my courage. At the best of times, I vow to keep the love alive and endure it all-even in spite of their mockery.

"Poor Men" - typical of the provincial theaters of the time, the orchestra-rutinarians; according to Mahler's testimony, his Olmütz orchestra, if it sometimes took its work seriously, was solely out of compassion for the conductor - "that idealist". He was pleased to report that he conducted almost exclusively operas by G. Meyerbeer and Verdi, but had removed Mozart and Wagner from his repertoire "by means of all intrigue": it would have been unbearable for him to "do a Don Giovanni" or "Lohengrin" with such an orchestra.

After Olmütz, Mahler briefly served as choirmaster of the Italian opera company at Vienna's Karltheater, and in August 1883 he was appointed second conductor and choirmaster at the Royal Theater in Kassel, where he remained for two years. His unhappy love for the singer Johanna Richter led Mahler to return to composition; he wrote no more operas or cantatas - in 1884 Mahler composed Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, his most romantic work, originally for voice and piano, which was later revised into a vocal cycle for voice and orchestra. But this work was not performed in public for the first time until 1896.

In Kassel, in January 1884, Mahler first heard the famous conductor Hans von Bülow, who was touring Germany with the Meiningen Chapel; not being given access to him, he wrote a letter: "...I am a musician who wanders in the desolate night of the modern musical craft without a guiding star and is in danger of doubting or going astray in everything. When I saw in yesterday's concert that all the most beautiful things I had dreamed of and only vaguely guessed were achieved, it immediately became clear to me: here is your fatherland, here is your mentor; your wanderings must end here or nowhere. Mahler asked Bülow to take him with him - in whatever capacity he wished. He received an answer a few days later: Bülow wrote that he would probably give him a recommendation in eighteen months if he had sufficient proof of his abilities - as a pianist and as a conductor; he himself, however, was not in a position to give Mahler the opportunity to demonstrate his abilities. Perhaps in good faith, Bülow passed on Mahler's unflattering letter about the Kassel Theater to the first conductor, who in turn passed it on to the director. As the director of the Meiningen Kapell, Bülow preferred Richard Strauss when looking for a replacement in 1884-1885.

A disagreement with the theater management forced Mahler to leave Kassel in 1885; he offered his services to Angelo Neumann, director of the German Opera in Prague, and was engaged for the 1885 season.

Leipzig and Budapest. First Symphony

Leipzig was desirable for Mahler after Kassel, but not after Prague: "Here," he wrote to a Viennese friend, "my business is going very well, and I am, so to speak, playing first fiddle, while in Leipzig I will have a jealous and powerful rival in the person of Nikisch.

Arthur Nikisch, young but already famous, discovered in his time by the same Neumann, was the first conductor at the New Theater; Mahler had to become the second. Meanwhile, Leipzig, with its famous conservatory and the equally famous Gewandhaus orchestra, was in those days the cradle of musical professionalism, and Prague could hardly compete in this respect.

With Nikisch, who met the ambitious colleague warily, the relationship eventually developed, and by January 1887 they were, as Mahler reported to Vienna, "good comrades. Of Nikisch the conductor, Mahler wrote that he watched performances under him as calmly as if he were conducting himself. The real problem for him was the poor health of the principal conductor: Nikisch's illness, which dragged on for four months, forced Mahler to work for two. He had to conduct almost every evening: "You can imagine," he wrote to a friend, "how grueling it is for a man who takes the art seriously, and what strain it takes to perform such great tasks with as little preparation as possible. But this grueling work greatly strengthened his position in the theater.

Karl von Weber, grandson of K. M. Weber, asked Mahler to complete his grandfather's unfinished opera "The Three Pintos" from the surviving sketches (in her time, the composer's widow had asked J. Meyerbeer and son Max had asked W. Lachner, both to no avail. The January 20, 1888 premiere of the opera, which went on to a large number of stages in Germany, was Mahler's first triumph as a composer.

The work on the opera had other consequences for him: Weber's grandson wife, Marion, mother of four children, became Mahler's new forlorn love. And again, as it had already happened in Kassel, love awakened his creative energy - "as if ... all the floodgates had opened", according to the composer himself, in March 1888 "uncontrollably, like a mountain stream" the First Symphony, which many decades later was destined to become his most performed work, spurted out. But the first performance of the symphony (in its original version) took place in Budapest.

After working in Leipzig for two seasons, Mahler left it in May 1888 due to disagreements with the theater's management. The immediate cause was a sharp conflict with the assistant director, who in those days was higher than the second conductor in the theatrical table of ranks; German researcher J. M. Fischer believes that Mahler was looking for an excuse to leave. M. Fischer thinks that Mahler was looking for a reason, but the real reason for his departure could have been his unhappy love for Marion von Weber, as well as the fact that in the presence of Nikisch he could not become the first conductor in Leipzig. At the Royal Opera in Budapest, Mahler was offered the post of director and a salary of ten thousand guilders a year.

The theater, established only a few years earlier, was in crisis - suffering losses due to low attendance, losing artists. Its first director, Ferenc Erkel, tried to compensate for the losses with numerous guest performers, all of whom brought their native languages to Budapest, and sometimes one could enjoy Italian and French in addition to Hungarian in a single performance. Mahler, who headed the company in the autumn of 1888, was to turn the Budapest Opera into a truly national theater: by drastically reducing the number of guest singers, he ensured that the theater sang only in Hungarian, although the director himself never managed to master the language; he sought and found talents among Hungarian singers and within a year he had broken the situation by creating a capable ensemble that could even perform Wagnerian operas with it. As for touring singers, Mahler managed to attract to Budapest the best dramatic soprano of the end of the century - Lilly Lehmann, who performed a number of roles in his productions, including Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, which delighted J. Brahms.

Mahler's father, who suffered from severe heart disease, had been slowly dying for several years and died in 1889; a few months later, in October, his mother died, at the end of that year - the eldest of the sisters, 26-year-old Leopoldina; Mahler took care of his younger brother, 16-year-old Otto (he had assigned this musically gifted young man to the Vienna Conservatory) and two sisters - the adult, but still unmarried Justina and 14-year-old Emma. In 1891 he wrote to a friend in Vienna: "I sincerely wish that Otto soon got rid of their exams and military service: then for me it would be easier this endlessly difficult process of making money. I'm quite wilted, and I only dream of a time when I don't have to earn so much. Besides, it's a big question how long I'll be able to do it.

On 20 November 1889, the First Symphony, at the time still the Symphonisches Gedicht in zwei Theilen (Symphonic Poem in Two Parts), was premiered under the baton of the composer in Budapest. This came about after unsuccessful attempts to organise performances of the symphony in Prague, Munich, Dresden and Leipzig, and Mahler only managed to premiere it in Budapest itself because he had already won acclaim as Director of the Opera. J. M. Fischer writes that no symphonist in the history of music had ever started so boldly; naively convinced that his work could not be disliked, Mahler immediately paid for his courage: not only the Budapest public and critics, but even his closest friends were perplexed by the symphony, and, rather fortunately for the composer, this first performance did not have any kind of wide resonance.

Meanwhile Mahler's fame as a conductor grew: after three successful seasons, under pressure from the theater's new Intendant, Count Zichy (a nationalist who, according to German newspapers, was not happy with the German director), he left the theater in March 1891 and immediately received a much more flattering invitation - to Hamburg. His admirers saw him off with dignity: when Sándor Erkel (Ferenc's son) conducted Lohengrin, the former director's last production, on the day he announced his retirement, he was interrupted repeatedly by demands that Mahler return, and only the police managed to pacify the gallery.


The Hamburg City Theater was in those years one of the main opera stages in Germany, second only to the court operas of Berlin and Munich; Mahler was appointed 1st Kapellmeister with a very high for that time salary of fourteen thousand marks a year. salary of fourteen thousand marks a year. Here fate again brought him together with Bülow, who was in charge of subscription concerts in the free city. Only now Bülow appreciated Mahler, ostentatiously bowed to him, even from the concert stage, willingly gave him a place at the console - in Hamburg Mahler conducted and symphony concerts, - in the end presented him with a laurel wreath with the inscription: "Pygmalion of the Hamburg Opera - Hans von Bülow" - as the conductor who managed to breathe new life into the Municipal Theatre. But Mahler the conductor had already found his own way and Bülow was no longer a god to him; now Mahler the composer needed recognition much more, but this was exactly what Bülow refused him: he did not perform the works of his younger colleague. The first movement of the Second Symphony (by comparison with this work, Wagner's Tristan Wagner's Tristan seemed to him to be a Heidean symphony.

In January 1892 Mahler, a one-man bandmaster and director, according to local critics, was staging Eugene Onegin at his theater; Tchaikovsky arrived in Hamburg, determined to personally conduct the premiere, but quickly abandoned this intention: "...the bandmaster here," he wrote to Moscow, "is not some kind of average hand, but simply a genius... I heard under his direction a most surprising performance of Tannhäuser yesterday". In the same year, at the head of the opera company, with Wagner's tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen and Beethoven's Fidelio, Mahler conducted a more than successful tour in London, accompanied, among other things, by the praise of Bernard Shaw. When Bülow died in February 1894, Mahler was left in charge of the subscription concerts.

Mahler the conductor no longer needed recognition, but during his years of wandering through the opera houses he was haunted by the image of Antony of Padua preaching to the fish; and in Hamburg this sad image, first mentioned in one of the letters of the Leipzig period, found its embodiment both in the vocal cycle The Magic Horn Boy and in the Second Symphony. In early 1895 Mahler wrote that he dreamed now of only one thing - "working in a small town where there are no 'traditions' or guardians of the 'eternal laws of beauty,' among naive ordinary people..." People who worked with him were reminded of E. T. A. Hoffmann's The Musical Sufferings of Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler. All his painful work in the opera houses, the fruitless, as it seemed to him himself, struggle against philistinism, seemed to be a new edition of Hoffmann's work and put an imprint on his character, according to contemporary descriptions - rigid and uneven, with sharp mood swings, with an unwillingness to restrain his emotions and an inability to spare others' self-esteem. Bruno Walter, a novice conductor who met Mahler in Hamburg in 1894, described him as "pale, thin, short, with an elongated face, riddled with wrinkles that spoke of his suffering and his humor," a man whose face changed expression with astonishing rapidity. "And all of him," Bruno Walter wrote, "is the exact embodiment of Kapellmeister Kreisler, as attractive, demonic, and frightening as a young reader of Hoffmannian fantasies can imagine him. And it was not only Mahler's "musical suffering" that brought to mind the German romantic - Bruno Walter, among other things, noted the strange unevenness of his gait, with sudden stops and equally sudden jerks forward: "...I probably would not be surprised if, after saying goodbye to me and walking away ever faster, he suddenly flew away from me, turning into a kite like Lindgorst the archivist in front of the student Anselm in Hoffmann's The Golden Pot.

In October 1893 Mahler performed his First Symphony in Hamburg in another concert, along with Beethoven's Egmont and Mendelssohn's Hebrides, now as a programme work under the title Titanium: A Poem in Symphonic Form. It received a somewhat warmer reception than in Budapest, although there was no shortage of criticism and ridicule, and nine months later in Weimar Mahler made a new attempt to give concert life to his work, this time achieving at least a real resonance: "In June 1894," Bruno Walter recalled, "a cry of indignation swept through the entire musical press - the echo of the First Symphony being performed in Weimar at the festival of the General German Music Union..." As it turned out, however, the ill-fated symphony not only had the power to provoke and irritate, it also recruited sincere followers for the young composer, one of whom - for the rest of his life - became Bruno Walter: "Judging by the critical reviews, the work provoked justifiable indignation with its emptiness, banality and piling up of disproportions; especially angry and derisive were the comments about the 'Funeral March in the manner of Callot'. I remember with what excitement I swallowed the newspaper reports of this concert; I admired the bold author of such a strange mourning march, unknown to me, and longed to meet this extraordinary man and his extraordinary composition.

The creative crisis that had lasted four years (after the First Symphony, Mahler wrote only a cycle of songs for voice and piano) was finally resolved in Hamburg. First came the vocal cycle The Magic Horn of the Boy, for voice and orchestra, and in 1894 the Second Symphony was completed, in the first movement of which (the Trizna) the composer, by his own admission, "buried" the hero of the First, a naïve idealist and dreamer. It was a farewell to the illusions of youth. "At the same time," Mahler wrote to music critic Max Marschalk, "this piece is the great question: Why did you live? why did you suffer? is it all just a huge, terrible joke?

As Johannes Brahms said in one of his letters to Mahler, "the Bremenians are unmusical and the Hamburgers are anti-musical," Mahler chose Berlin to present his Second Symphony: in March 1895 he performed its first three movements in a concert that was generally conducted by Richard Strauss. Although the reception as a whole looked more like a failure than a triumph, Mahler found understanding even among his critics for the first time. Inspired by their support, in December of that year he performed the symphony in its entirety - with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Tickets for the concert sold so poorly that the hall was eventually filled with conservatory students; but for this audience Mahler's work was a success; the "staggering", according to Bruno Walter, final movement of the symphony even surprised the composer himself. Although he still considered himself and indeed remained "very unknown and very unperformed" (German: sehr unberühmt und sehr unaufgeführt), the gradual conquest of the public began on that Berlin evening, despite the rejection and ridicule of much of the critics.

Mahler's success as a conductor in Hamburg was not unnoticed in Vienna: from the end of 1894 he was visited by agents - envoys from the Court Opera for preliminary talks, to which, however, he was sceptical: "In the present state of affairs," he wrote to a friend, "my Jewish origins prevent me from entering any court theater. And Vienna, and Berlin, and Dresden, and Munich are closed to me. The same wind blows everywhere." At first, it didn't seem to upset him too much: "What would have awaited me in Vienna with my usual manner of taking on work? If I tried just once to impress my understanding of some Beethoven symphony on the famous Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, educated by the good Hans, I would immediately encounter the fiercest resistance. All this Mahler was already experiencing, even in Hamburg, where his position was stronger than ever and nowhere else; and at the same time he constantly complained of a longing for "home," which for him had long been Vienna.

On February 23, 1897, Mahler was baptized, and few of his biographers have doubted that this decision was directly linked to his expectation of an invitation to the Court Opera: Vienna was worth a meal for him. Yet Mahler's conversion to Catholicism did not contradict his cultural background - Peter Franklin shows in his book that even in Jihlava (not to mention Vienna) he was more closely connected to Catholic culture than to Jewish culture, although he did attend synagogue with his parents - nor his spiritual quest of the Hamburg period: after the pantheistic First Symphony, in the Second, with its idea of the universal resurrection and the image of the Last Judgment, the Christian worldview prevailed; hardly, writes Georg Borchardt, was the desire to become the first court Kapellmeister in Vienna the only reason for his baptism.

In March 1897 Mahler made a short tour as a symphony conductor - he gave concerts in Moscow, Munich and Budapest; in April he signed a contract with the Court Opera. However, "anti-music" Hamburgers understood who they were losing - the Austrian music critic Ludwig Karpat recalled in his memoirs a newspaper report of Mahler's "farewell benefit" on 16 April: "At his appearance in the orchestra there was a threefold touch. First Mahler conducted the "Heroic Symphony" brilliantly and magnificently. The unending ovation, the endless stream of flowers, wreaths and laurels... After that - "Fidelio". Again an unending ovation, wreaths from the management, from the orchestra, from the audience. Lumps of flowers. After the finale the audience did not want to leave and summoned Mahler no less than sixty times. Mahler was invited to the Court Opera as the third conductor, but, as his friend J. B. Förster of Hamburg claimed.  B. Förster, he went to Vienna with the firm intention of becoming the first.

Vienna. Court Opera

Vienna in the late nineties was no longer the Vienna that Mahler had known in his youth: the capital of the Habsburg Empire had become less liberal, more conservative and just in these years was becoming, in the words of J. M. Fischer, a spawning ground for anti-Semitism in the German-speaking world. On April 14, 1897, the Reichspost reported to its readers the results of its investigation: the Jewishness of the new conductor was proven, and whatever eulogies the Jewish press composed for his idol, reality would refute them "as soon as Herr Mahler began to spew his Yiddish interpretations from the podium. Mahler's long-standing friendship with Victor Adler, one of the leaders of Austrian Social Democracy, was not to his advantage either.

The cultural atmosphere itself had also changed, and much of it was deeply alien to Mahler, like the fascination with mysticism and "occultism" characteristic of the fin de siècle. Neither Bruckner nor Brahms, with whom he had befriended during his Hamburg period, were still alive; in the "new music", especially for Vienna, Richard Strauss, in many respects Mahler's antipode, became the main figure.

Whether it was due to newspaper reports or not, the staff at the Court Opera met the new conductor coldly. On 11 May 1897 Mahler made his first public appearance in Vienna - his performance of Wagner's Lohengrin was, according to Bruno Walter, "like a storm and an earthquake. In August Mahler literally had to work for three people: one of the conductors, Johann Nepomuk Fuchs, was on vacation, the other, Hans Richter, because of the floods did not return from vacation in time - as in Leipzig, nearly every evening and not nearly from sheet music. At the same time, Mahler still found the strength to prepare a new production of A. Lortzing's comic opera The King and the Carpenter.

His impetuous activity could not fail to impress both the audience and the theater staff. When, in September of that year, despite the active opposition of the influential Cosima Wagner (motivated not only by her proverbial anti-Semitism, but also by a desire to see Felix Mottl in the post), Mahler replaced the now middle-aged Wilhelm Jahn as director of the Court Opera House, this appointment came as no surprise to anyone. For Austrian and German opera conductors at the time, this was the crowning moment of their careers, not least because the Austrian capital spared no expense for opera, and nowhere else had Mahler had such ample opportunities to realize his ideal of a true "musical drama" on the opera stage.

In the second half of the 19th century, like in opera, it was still dominated by premiers and prima donnas - the demonstration of their skills became an end in itself, the repertoire was formed for them, the performance was built around them, and different plays (operas) could be performed in the same conditional scenery: the entourage did not matter. The Meiningens, led by Ludwig Kroneck, were the first to put forward the principles of ensemble, the subjection of all the components of the performance to a single plan, and proved the need for the stage director's organising and directing hand, which in opera theater meant primarily the conductor. From Kronec's follower Otto Bram, Mahler even borrowed some external techniques: dimmed light, pauses and immobile mise-en-scenes. He found a true like-minded person, sensitive to his ideas, in the person of Alfred Roller. Having never worked in the theater before, appointed by Mahler in 1903 chief designer of the Court Opera, Roller, who had a keen sense of color, was a born theater artist - together they created a number of masterpieces that amounted to an entire era in the history of Austrian theater.

In a city obsessed with music and theater, Mahler quickly became one of the most popular figures; Emperor Franz Joseph had already granted him a personal audience in his first season, Prince Rudolf von Lichtenstein, the Oberhofmeister, warmly congratulated him on his conquest of the capital. He did not become, Bruno Walter writes, "Vienna's favorite", for that he had too little good-naturedness in him, but he was of keen interest to everyone: "As he walked down the street with his hat in his hand... even the cabbies, turning after him, whispered excitedly and fearfully: "Mahler...!" The director, who destroyed the theater clause, who forbade latecomers to enter during the overture or the first act - which was for those times a feat of Hercules, who treated opera "stars", the audience's favorite, was considered an exceptional man by the Viennese; he was discussed everywhere, biting wit of Mahler immediately went around town. By word of mouth, Mahler's response to a rebuke of tradition was transmitted: "What your theatre-going public calls 'tradition' is nothing but its comfort and laxity.

During his years at the Court Opera, Mahler mastered an unusually diverse repertoire - from C. W. Gluck and W. A. Mozart to H. Charpentier and H. Pfitzner; he also rediscovered works that had never before enjoyed success, including Gustav Galevi's The Jewess and F.-A. Boaldié's The White Lady. L. Karpat writes that Mahler was more interested in clearing old operas of routine strata, while "novelties", among which was Verdi's Aida, attracted him considerably less overall. Although there were exceptions here as well, including Eugene Onegin, which Mahler also staged with success in Vienna. He also attracted new conductors to the Court Opera: Franz Schalk, Bruno Walter, and later Alexander von Zemlinsky.

From November 1898 Mahler performed regularly with the Vienna Philharmonic as well: the Philharmonic chose him as their principal (so-called "subscription") conductor. In February 1899 he conducted the belated premiere of Bruckner's Sixth Symphony, now deceased, and in 1900 the famous orchestra performed with him for the first time abroad at the World Exhibition in Paris. However, many of his interpretations and especially the retouchings he made in the instrumentation of Beethoven's Fifth and Ninth Symphonies displeased a significant part of the public and in the autumn of 1901 the Vienna Philharmonic refused to elect him chief conductor for a new three-year term.

In the mid-1990s Mahler became close to the young singer Anna von Mildenburg, who had already achieved considerable success under his tutelage during the Hamburg period, including in the Wagnerian repertoire, which was difficult for vocalists. Many years later she recalled how her colleagues at the theater introduced her to the tyrant Mahler: "You still think that a quarter note is a quarter note! No, with any man a quarter is one thing, but with Mahler it's something else!" Like Lilli Lehmann, writes J. M. Fischer, Mildenburg was one of those dramatic actresses on the opera stage (only truly in demand in the second half of the twentieth century) for whom singing is only one of many expressive means, yet she had the rare gift of a tragic actress.

For some time Mildenburg was Mahler's bride; the crisis in this highly emotional relationship came, apparently, in the spring of 1897 - in any case, in the summer Mahler no longer wanted Anna to follow him to Vienna and urged her to continue her career in Berlin. Nevertheless, in 1898 she signed a contract with the Vienna Court Opera, played an important role in Mahler′s undertaken reforms, sang the main female roles in his productions of Tristan and Isolde, Fidelio, Don Giovanni, Iphigenia in Aulide by Gluck, but the previous relationship had not been revived. This did not prevent Anna to remember her former fiancé with gratitude: "Mahler influenced me with all the power of his nature, which seems to have no limits, nothing is impossible, he makes the highest demands everywhere and does not allow vulgar accommodation, which makes it easy to obey the custom, the routine ... Seeing his intransigence to everything banal, I gained courage in his art ...

At the beginning of November 1901, Mahler met Alma Schindler. As we know from her posthumously published diary, the first meeting, which did not result in acquaintance, took place in the summer of 1899; then she wrote in her diary: "I love and honor him as an artist, but as a man he does not interest me at all. The daughter of the artist Emil Jacob Schindler, the stepdaughter of his pupil Karl Moll, Alma grew up surrounded by artists and was considered by her friends to be a gifted artist, while also seeking a musical career: she studied the piano and took composition lessons, including with Alexander von Zemlinsky, who considered her hobby to be insufficiently thorough and did not take her compositional experiments (songs to the poetry of German poets) seriously and advised her to abandon the practice. She had almost married Gustav Klimt, and she sought a meeting with the director of the Court Opera in November 1901 to intercede for her new lover, Zemlinsky, whose ballet had not been accepted for production.

Alma, "a beautiful, sophisticated woman, the embodiment of poetry," according to Förster, was the opposite of Anna in everything; she was prettier and more feminine, and her height suited Mahler more than Mildenburg, according to contemporaries very tall. But at the same time Anna was definitely smarter and understood Mahler much better, and knew his worth better, as writes J. M. Fischer, eloquently testifies at least the memories of him, left by each of the women. The relatively recent publication of Alma's diaries and letters have given researchers new grounds for unflattering assessments of her intellect and way of thinking. And if Mildenburg realized her artistic ambitions by following Mahler, Alma's ambitions must sooner or later have come into conflict with Mahler's needs, with his preoccupation with his own work.

Mahler was 19 years older than Alma, but she had been infatuated with men who were quite or nearly her father before. Like Zemlinsky, Mahler did not see her as a composer and, long before the wedding, wrote to Alma - a letter that has long been resented by feminists - that she would have to curb her ambitions if they were to marry. They were engaged in December 1901 and married on March 9 of the following year - despite the protests of Alma's mother and stepfather and the warnings of family friends: although she shared their anti-Semitism, Alma, by her own admission, could never resist a genius. And at first their life together, at least outwardly, was quite idyllic, especially during the summer months in Meiernig, where increased financial wealth allowed Mahler to build a villa. Their eldest daughter, Maria Anna, was born in early November 1902 and their youngest, Anna Justina, in June 1904.

Work at the Court Opera left no time for his own compositions. Already during his Hamburg period Mahler composed mostly in the summer, leaving only the orchestration and completion for the winter. In his permanent resting places - from 1893 Steinbach am Attersee and from 1901 Meiernig on the Wörther See - he built little workhouses (Komponierhäuschen) in a secluded spot in the countryside.

While still in Hamburg, Mahler wrote the Third Symphony, in which, as he told Bruno Walter, having read the criticisms of the first two, the "emptiness and rudeness" of his nature, as well as his "penchant for empty noise", were to be displayed in all their unsightly nakedness once again. He was still lenient towards himself compared to the critic who wrote: "Sometimes you might think that you are in a tavern or a stable. Mahler still found some support from fellow conductors and, moreover, from some of the best: the first movement of the symphony was performed several times in late 1896 by Arthur Nikisch in Berlin and other cities; in March 1897 Felix Weingartner performed three of the six movements in Berlin. Some of the audience applauded, some whistled - Mahler himself, at any rate, regarded the performance as a "failure" - and critics competed in wit: some wrote of the composer's "tragicomedy" without imagination or talent, some called him a joker and a comedian, while one judge compared the symphony to a "shapeless tapeworm". Mahler postponed the release of all six movements for a long time.

The Fourth Symphony, like the Third, was born at the same time as the vocal cycle The Magic Boy's Horn and was thematically linked to it. According to Nathalie Bauer-Lehner, Mahler called the first four symphonies a "tetralogy" and, just as an ancient tetralogy concluded with a satire drama, the conflict of his symphonic cycle found its resolution in "humor of a special kind. Young Mahler's ruler Jean Paul viewed humor as the only salvation from despair, from contradictions that man could not resolve and from tragedy, which he could not prevent. On the other hand, A. Schopenhauer, whom Mahler, according to Bruno Walter, read in Hamburg, saw the source of humor in the conflict between the sublime state of mind and the vulgar external world; from this discrepancy comes the impression of the deliberately funny, behind which hides the deepest seriousness.

Mahler completed the Fourth Symphony in January 1901 and at the end of November he performed it carelessly in Munich. The audience did not appreciate the humour; the deliberate simplicity and "old-fashionedness" of this symphony, the final part to the lyrics of the children's song Wir geniessen die himmlischen Freuden (We Taste Heavenly Joys), which depicted children's ideas of Paradise, led many to believe that he was not mocking. Both the Munich premiere and the first performances in Frankfurt, conducted by Weingartner, and in Berlin were accompanied by whistles; critics described the symphony's music as flat, without style, without melody, artificial and even hysterical.

The impression made by the Fourth Symphony was unexpectedly tempered by the Third, which was first performed in its entirety in June 1902 at the Krefeld Music Festival and won a victory. After the festival, Bruno Walter wrote, other conductors became seriously interested in Mahler's works and he finally became a performing composer. Among these conductors were Julius Boots and Walter Damrosch, who conducted Mahler's music for the first time in the United States; one of the best young conductors, Willem Mengelberg, dedicated a series of concerts to his music in Amsterdam in 1904. The most frequently performed work, however, was "the persecuted stepchild", as Mahler called his Fourth Symphony.

This relative success did not protect the Fifth Symphony from criticism, which even Romain Rolland honored with his attention: "In the entire work there is a mixture of pedantic rigor and incoherence, fragmentation, discontinuity, sudden stops that interrupt development, parasitic musical thoughts that cut the vital thread without sufficient basis. This symphony, which half a century later would become one of Mahler's most performed works, following its premiere in Cologne in 1904, was, as always, accompanied by accusations of vulgarity, banality, tastelessness, shapelessness and looseness, of eclecticism - piling up of music of all kinds, attempts to combine the two extremes: rudeness and refinement, scholarship and barbarism. After the first performance in Vienna a year later, the critic Robert Hirschfeld, noting that the audience applauded, deplored the poor taste of the Viennese, who supplemented their interest in "anomalies of nature" with an equally unhealthy interest in "anomalies of the mind.

But this time the composer himself was not satisfied with his composition either, mainly the orchestration. During the Vienna period Mahler wrote the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, but after the failure of the Fifth he was in no hurry to publish them and before leaving for America he managed to perform only the tragic Sixth, in Essen in 1906, which, like Songs about Dead Children to poetry by Rückert, seemed to bring about the misfortunes that befell him the following year.

The ten years of Mahler's directorship went down in the history of Vienna's opera as one of its finest periods; but every revolution has its price. Like C. W. Gluck with his reformist operas, Mahler tried to destroy the still prevailing view of the opera as an opulent entertainment. When it came to order, he was supported by the emperor, but without a shadow of understanding - Franz Joseph once said to Prince Lichtenstein: "My God, but after all the theater is made for pleasure! I don't understand all these strictures!" Nevertheless, even the Archdukes were forbidden by him to interfere with the new director's orders; as a result, by forbidding him to enter the hall whenever he wanted, Mahler had turned the entire court and a large part of Vienna's aristocracy against him.

Never before," recalled Bruno Walter, "have I seen such a strong, strong-willed man, never did I think that an apt word, a commanding gesture, a determined will could so much put other people in fear and trembling, force them into blind obedience. Powerful, tough, Mahler knew how to achieve obedience, but could not and did not make enemies; the ban to keep the clique, he turned against him many singers. He could not get rid of the cluckers except by taking written promises from all the artists not to use their services; but the singers, used to a standing ovation, felt more and more uncomfortable as the applause waned - not six months later, the cluckers returned to the theater, to the great annoyance of the now powerless director.

The conservative part of the public had many complaints against Mahler: he was reproached for his "eccentric" selection of singers - for favoring dramatic skill over vocal skill - and for touring Europe too much to promote his own compositions; they complained that there were too few notable premieres; not everyone liked Roller's scenography either. Dissatisfaction with his behavior, dissatisfaction with his "experiments" at the Opera, and growing anti-Semitism all merged, Paul Stefan wrote, "into a general stream of anti-Mahler sentiment. Mahler apparently made the decision to leave the Court Opera in early May 1907 and, having informed his immediate supervisor, Prince Montenuovo of his decision, left for a summer holiday in Meiernig.

In May Mahler's youngest daughter, Anna, fell ill with scarlet fever, recovered slowly and was left in the care of Mollay to avoid infection; but in early July the eldest daughter, four-year-old Maria, fell ill. Mahler, in one of his letters, called her illness "scarlet fever - diphtheria": in those days, many people still considered diphtheria a possible complication of scarlet fever by the similarity of the symptoms. Mahler blamed his father-in-law and mother-in-law for bringing Anna to Meiernig too early, but contemporary scholars believe that her scarlatina had nothing to do with it. Anna recovered, but Maria died on 12 July.

It remains unclear what prompted Mahler to undergo a medical examination shortly thereafter - three doctors discovered he had heart problems, but differed in their assessment of the seriousness of these problems. In any case, the most severe of the diagnoses, which implied a ban on any physical activity, was not confirmed: Mahler continued to work, and until the autumn of 1910 any noticeable deterioration in his condition. And yet from the autumn of 1907 he felt condemned.

On his return to Vienna, Mahler was still conducting Wagner's Die Walküre and C. W. Gluck's Iphigenie in Aulide; since the successor he had found, Felix Weingartner, could not arrive in Vienna until January 1, 1907, the order for his resignation was finally signed only in early October.

Although Mahler resigned on his own, the atmosphere around him in Vienna left no one in doubt that he had been driven out of the Court Opera House. Many believed and still believe that his resignation was due to the intrigues and constant attacks of the anti-Semitic press, who invariably attributed everything they disliked about the conductor and director of the Opera, especially Mahler's works, to his Jewishness. According to A.-L. de La Grange, anti-Semitism played more of a supporting role in this hostility that increased over the years. After all, the researcher recalls, before Mahler, Hans Richter, with his impeccable origins, survived the Court Opera, and after Mahler the same fate befell Felix Weingartner, Richard Strauss, and so on up to Herbert von Karajan. We should rather be surprised that Mahler lasted ten years as director - for the Vienna State Opera, that's an eternity.

On 15 October Mahler stood at the console of the Court Opera for the last time; in Vienna, as in Hamburg, his last performance was Beethoven's Fidelio. According to Förster, no one in the auditorium or on stage knew that the director was leaving the company; neither in the concert programs nor in the press was a word about it: he was still formally acting director. Only on December 7, the theater staff received a farewell letter from him.

He thanked the staff of the theater for their many years of support, for helping him and fighting with him, and wished the Court Opera further prosperity. On the same day he wrote a separate letter to Anna von Mildenburg: "I shall follow your every move with the same concern and sympathy; I hope calmer times will bring us together again. In any case, know that even far away I remain your friend...".

The young people of Vienna, especially young musicians and music critics, were impressed by Mahler's quest, and in the early years a group of passionate supporters formed around him: "...We young people," Paul Stefan recalled, "knew that Gustav Mahler was our hope and at the same time its fulfillment; we were happy that we could live with him and understand him. When Mahler left Vienna on December 9, hundreds of people came to the train station to bid him farewell.

New York. Metropolitan Opera

The Court Opera House appointed Mahler a pension on the condition that he would not work in any capacity in Vienna's opera houses, so as not to create competition; he would have to live very modestly on that pension, and in the early summer of 1907 Mahler was already negotiating with potential employers. The choice was not rich: Mahler could no longer accept the post of conductor, even if it was his first, under someone else's generalmusik-directorship - both because this would have been an obvious demotion (just like the post of director at a provincial theater) and because the days when he could still submit to the will of others were over. He would have preferred to lead a symphony orchestra, but of the two best orchestras in Europe Mahler had no relations with one - the Vienna Philharmonic - and the other - the Berlin Philharmonic - had been led for many years by Arthur Nikisch and had no intention of leaving it. Of all the things at his disposal, the most attractive, primarily financially, was an offer from Heinrich Conried, director of New York's Metropolitan Opera, and in September Mahler signed a contract which, as J. M. Fischer writes, allowed him to work three times less than at the Vienna Opera, while earning twice as much.

In New York, where he hoped to secure his family's future in four years, Mahler debuted a new production of Tristan und Isolde, one of those operas in which he was always and everywhere an unqualified success; and this time the reception was enthusiastic. Enrico Caruso, Fyodor Chaliapin, Marcella Zembrich, Leo Slezak and many other fine singers sang at the Met in those years, and the first impressions of the New York audience were also most favorable: people here, Mahler wrote to Vienna, "are not sated, greedy for new things and inquisitive in the highest degree.

But the enchantment did not last long; in New York he encountered the same phenomenon that he had struggled with painfully, albeit successfully, in Vienna: in a theater that staked on world-famous guest performers, there was no sense of an ensemble, no "unified concept" - and no subordination of all the components of a performance to it. And the forces were no longer the same as in Vienna: the illness of the heart reminded him of a number of attacks already in 1908. Fyodor Chaliapin, the great dramatic actor on the opera stage, referred to the new conductor in his letters as "Malheur", which made his surname consonant with the French "malheur" (misfortune). "The famous Viennese conductor Malheur has arrived," he wrote, "and we have begun to rehearse Don Giovanni. Poor Mallières! At the first rehearsal he came to a complete despair, not having met in anyone the love which he himself invariably put into the work. Everything and everyone was done hastily, somehow, for everyone understood that the audience was resolutely indifferent to how the play was going, for they came to listen to the voices and only".

Now Mahler was making compromises unthinkable for him in the Viennese period, agreeing in particular to reductions in Wagner's operas. Nevertheless, he made a number of notable productions at the Metropolitan, including the United States' first production of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades - the opera failed to impress New York audiences and was not staged at the Metropolitan until 1965.

Mahler wrote to Guido Adler that he had always dreamed of conducting a symphony orchestra and even believed that the shortcomings in the orchestration of his compositions stemmed precisely from the fact that he was used to hearing the orchestra "in completely different acoustic conditions of the theater. In 1909, wealthy admirers put the reorganized New York Philharmonic Orchestra at his disposal, which became the only acceptable alternative for Mahler, already quite disillusioned with the Metropolitan Opera. But here, too, he faced, on the one hand, the relative indifference of the public - in New York, as he reported to Willem Mengelberg, the theater was the center of attention, and very few people were interested in symphony concerts - and, on the other hand, the low level of orchestral performance. "My orchestra here," he wrote, "is a real American orchestra. Untalented and phlegmatic. One has to lose a great deal of energy." Between November 1909 and February 1911, Mahler gave a total of 95 concerts with this orchestra, also outside New York, very rarely including his own compositions, mostly songs: in the United States, Mahler the composer could count on even less understanding than in Europe.

Mahler's heart condition forced him to change his way of life, which was not easy for him: "Over many years," he wrote to Bruno Walter in the summer of 1908, "I have become accustomed to incessant vigorous movement. I was used to wandering in the mountains and forests and bringing my sketches from there as a kind of prey. I approached the desk the way a peasant enters the barn: I had only to formalize my sketches. And now I have to avoid all exertion, constantly checking myself, not walking around much. I am like a morphinist or a drunkard who is suddenly forbidden to indulge in his vice." According to Otto Klemperer, Mahler, who had been almost frantic at the conductor's desk in the old days, became very economical to conduct in these last years.

His own compositions, as before, had to be postponed until the summer months. The Mahler spouses could not return to Meiernig after their daughter's death and from 1908 onwards spent their summer vacations in Altschulderbach, three kilometers from Toblach. Here, in August 1909, Mahler completed his work on "Song of the Land," with its final part "Farewell" (for many fans of the composer these two symphonies - the best of all his creations. "...The world lay before him," wrote Bruno Walter, "in the soft light of farewell... 'Sweet Land,' the song of which he wrote, seemed to him so beautiful that all his thoughts and words were mysteriously full of a kind of amazement at the new loveliness of old life."

Last Year

In the summer of 1910 in Altschulderbach, Mahler began work on the Tenth Symphony, which was never completed. The composer spent most of the summer preparing the first performance of the Eighth Symphony, with its unprecedented cast, which included, in addition to a large orchestra and eight soloists, the participation of three choruses.

Immersed in his work, Mahler, who, according to his friends, was essentially a big child, either did not notice or tried not to notice how year after year the problems that had originally been built into his family life accumulated. Alma never really loved or understood his music - researchers find witting or unwitting admissions to this in her diary - so the sacrifices Mahler demanded of her were even less justified in her eyes. Her protest against the suppression of her artistic ambitions (if that was the main thing Alma accused her husband of) took the form of adultery in the summer of 1910. At the end of July, her new lover, the young architect Walter Gropius, sent his passionate love letter to Alma by mistake, as he himself claimed, or deliberately, as biographers of both Mahler and Gropius suspect, to her husband and later, when he came to Toblach, persuaded Mahler to divorce Alma. Alma did not leave Mahler - letters to Gropius signed "Your wife" lead researchers to believe that she was guided by sheer calculation, but expressed to her husband all that had accumulated over the years of life together. A severe psychological crisis was reflected in the manuscript of the Tenth Symphony and finally forced Mahler to seek help from Sigmund Freud in August.

The premiere of the Eighth Symphony, which the composer himself considered his principal work, took place in Munich on 12 September 1910, in the enormous exhibition hall, in the presence of the Prince Regent and his family and numerous celebrities, including Mahler's long admirers - Thomas Mann, Gerhard Hauptmann, Auguste Rodin, Max Reingardt and Camille Saint-Saëns. This was Mahler's first true triumph as a composer - the audience was no longer divided between cheering and whistling, the applause lasted 20 minutes. Only the composer himself, according to eyewitnesses, did not look triumphant: his face looked like a wax mask.

After promising to come to Munich a year later for his first performance of Song of the Land, Mahler returned to the United States, where he had to work much harder than he anticipated, signing a contract with the New York Philharmonic: in the 1909 season

But these dreams were not destined to come true: in the autumn of 1910 overstretch resulted in a series of sore throats that Mahler's weakened body could no longer resist; the sore throats, in turn, caused complications in his heart. He continued to work, and for the last time, already with a high fever, he sat down at the console on 21 February 1911 (the programme was entirely devoted to new Italian music, with works by Ferruccio Busoni, Marco Enrico Bossi and Leone Sinigaglia, with Ernesto Consolo performing the solo in a concert by Giuseppe Martucci). Fatal for Mahler was a streptococcal infection that caused subacute bacterial endocarditis.

American doctors were powerless; in April Mahler was brought to Paris for treatment with serum at the Pasteur Institute; but all Andre Chantemess was able to do was to confirm the diagnosis: medicine at the time had no effective means of treating his illness. Mahler's condition continued to deteriorate, and when it became hopeless, he wanted to return to Vienna.

On May 12 Mahler was brought to the Austrian capital, and for six days his name was on the pages of the Viennese press, which printed daily bulletins about his state of health and competed in praising the dying composer - who, for Vienna and for other capitals not unconcerned, was still primarily a conductor. He was dying in the clinic, surrounded by baskets of flowers, including some from the Vienna Philharmonic, which was the last thing he had time to appreciate. On 18 May, shortly before midnight, Mahler died. On the 22nd he was buried in the Grinzing Cemetery, next to his beloved daughter.

Mahler wanted the funeral to take place without speeches and chants, and his friends did his will: the farewell was silent. The premieres of his last completed compositions, Songs on Earth and the Ninth Symphony, were already under the baton of Bruno Walter.

Mahler Conductor

Together with Hans Richter, Felix Motl, Arthur Nikisch and Felix Weingartner, Mahler formed the so-called "Post-Wagner Five" who, together with a number of other first-class conductors, ensured the dominance of the German-Austrian school of conducting and interpretation in Europe. This dominance was further cemented, along with Wilhelm Furtwängler and Erich Kleiber, by the so-called "Mahler School conductors" - Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Oskar Fried and the Dutchman Willem Mengelberg.

Mahler never gave lessons in conducting and, according to Bruno Walter, was not a teacher by vocation at all: "...For this he was too immersed in himself, in his work, in his intense inner life, too little aware of others and things around him. Those who wanted to learn from him called themselves pupils, and the impact of Mahler's personality was often more important than any lessons. "Consciously," recalled Bruno Walter, "he almost never gave me instruction, but an immeasurably greater role in my education and training was played by the experiences this nature gave me, unintentionally, from an inner excess poured out in word and in music. He created an atmosphere of high tension around him...".

Mahler, who had never studied as a conductor, was apparently born; there was much in his orchestra conducting that could neither be taught nor learned, including, as his oldest student, Oscar Fried, wrote, "an enormous, almost demonic power that radiated from his every movement, from every line in his face. Bruno Walter added to this "the soulful heat that gave his performance the immediacy of a personal confession: that immediacy that made one forget ... about careful study. This was not for everyone, but there was much more to learn from Mahler the conductor: both Bruno Walter and Oskar Fried noted his extremely high demands on himself and everyone who worked with him, his meticulous preliminary work on the score and, during rehearsals, equally meticulous refinement of the smallest details; he did not forgive even the slightest carelessness from orchestra musicians or singers.

The claim that Mahler never studied conducting requires a caveat: in his younger years, fate sometimes brought him together with major conductors. Angelo Neumann recalled how in Prague, while attending a rehearsal of Anton Seidl, Mahler exclaimed: "My God, my God! "My God! I never thought it was possible to rehearse like that!" According to contemporaries, Mahler the conductor was particularly successful with works of a heroic and tragic nature, which were in tune with Mahler the composer as well: he was considered an outstanding interpreter of Beethoven's symphonies and operas and of Wagner and Gluck's operas. At the same time, he had a rare sense of style, which enabled him to achieve success in works of a different kind, including operas by Mozart, whom, in the words of J. Sollertinsky, he was rediscovering, freeing him from "salon rococo and affectation", and by Tchaikovsky.

Working in opera houses, combining the functions of the conductor - the interpreter of a musical work - with directing - subordinating all components of the performance to his interpretation, Mahler made his contemporaries aware of a fundamentally new approach to the opera production. As one of his Hamburg reviewers wrote, Mahler interpreted the music by the stage embodiment of the opera and the theatrical production by the music. "Never again," wrote Stephan Zweig of Mahler's work in Vienna, "have I met such wholeness on stage as I have in these performances: for the purity of the impression they make can only be compared with nature itself... ...We young people have learned to love perfection from him.

Mahler died before any more or less audible recordings of orchestral music were available. In November 1905 he recorded four excerpts from his compositions for the Velte-Mignon, but as a pianist. And if a layman is forced to judge Mahler as an interpreter solely by the memories of his contemporaries, an expert can get a clear idea of him from his conducting retouchings in scores of both his own and others' works. Mahler, wrote Leo Ginzburg, was one of the first to address the question of retouching in a new way: unlike most of his contemporaries, he saw his task not in correcting "authors' mistakes" but in ensuring that the work was perceived correctly, from the viewpoint of the author's intentions, giving preference to the letter and the spirit. The retouching in the same scores varied from time to time as it was done, as a rule, during rehearsals, in preparation for the concert and took into account the quantitative and qualitative composition of a particular orchestra, the level of its soloists, the acoustics of the hall and other nuances.

Mahler's retouches, above all in the scores of L. van Beethoven, which were central to his concert programs, were often used by other conductors as well, and not just by his students themselves: Leo Ginsburg mentions Erich Kleiber and Hermann Abendroth, among others. In general, Stephan Zweig believed that Mahler had far more pupils than is commonly thought: "In some German town," he wrote in 1915, "the conductor raises his baton. In his gestures, in his manner, I sense Mahler, I do not need to ask questions to know: this too is his pupil, and here, beyond his earthly existence, the magnetism of his vital rhythm is still impregnating.

Mahler the Composer

Musicologists note that Mahler the composer, on the one hand, certainly absorbed the achievements of 19th century Austro-German symphonic music from Beethoven to Bruckner: the structure of his symphonies and the inclusion of vocal parts are developments of the innovations of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, his "song" symphonism - from F. Schubert to Bruckner. Long before Mahler, Franz Liszt (following Berlioz) rejected the classical four-part symphony structure and used a program; finally, from Wagner and Bruckner Mahler Mahler inherited the so-called "endless melody". Mahler was undoubtedly close to some features of Tchaikovsky's symphonism, and his need to speak the language of his homeland brought him closer to the Czech classics - B. Smetana and A. Dvorak.

On the other hand, it is clear to scholars that literary influences had a stronger impact on his work than musical ones; this was already noted by Mahler's first biographer, Richard Specht. Although the early Romantics still drew inspiration from literature and Liszt proclaimed "the renewal of music through a connection with poetry", very few composers, writes J. M. Fischer, were such avid book-readers as Mahler. The composer himself said that many books caused a turning point in his outlook and feeling of life or, at any rate, accelerated their development; he wrote from Hamburg to a Viennese friend: "...They are my only friends who are everywhere with me. And what friends! They grow closer to me and bring me more and more comfort, my true brothers and fathers and lovers.

Mahler's reading ranged from Euripides to H. Hauptmann and F. Wedekind, though in general he took only a very limited interest in turn-of-the-century literature. His work was directly influenced at different times by his interest in Jean Paul, whose novels organically combined idyll and satire, sentimentality and irony, and by the Heidelberg Romantics: for many years he drew lyrics for songs and movements of symphonies from the collection The Magic Horn of the Boy by A. von Arnim and C. Brentano. Among his favorite books were works by F. Nietzsche and A. Schopenhauer, which is also reflected in his work; one of the writers closest to him was F. M. Dostoyevsky, and in 1909 Mahler told Arnold Schoenberg about his students: "Make these people read Dostoyevsky! It's more important than counterpoint." Both Dostoevsky and Mahler, writes Inna Barsova, are characterized by "a convergence of mutually exclusive genre aesthetics", a combination of the incompatible, creating an impression of the inorganic nature of form, and at the same time a constant, agonizing search for harmony capable of resolving tragic conflicts. The composer's mature period of creativity passed mainly under the sign of Johann Wolfgang Goethe.

Scholars consider Mahler's symphonic legacy as a unified instrumental epic (I. Sollertinsky called it a "grandiose philosophical poem") in which each movement flows from the preceding one - as a continuation or negation; his vocal cycles are also linked to it in the most direct way; it also forms the basis of the periodization of the composer's work accepted in literature.

The account of the first period begins with The Complaint Song, written in 1880 but revised in 1888; it includes two song cycles, Songs of a Wandering Apprentice and The Boy's Magic Horn, and four symphonies, the last of which was written in 1901. Although, according to N. Bauer-Lehner, Mahler himself called the first four symphonies a "tetralogy," many scholars separate the First from the next three, both because it is purely instrumental, while Mahler uses vocals in the others, and because it draws on the musical material and range of images from Songs of a Wandering Apprentice, while the Second, Third and Fourth draw on The Magic Horn of the Boy; In particular, Sollertinsky considered the First Symphony a prologue to the entire "philosophical poem." Barsova writes that the works of this period are characterised by "a combination of emotional directness and tragic irony, genre sketches and symbolism. These symphonies demonstrate such features of Mahler's style as a reliance on genres of folk and town music - the very genres that accompanied him as a child: song, dance, most often the crude Ländler, the military or the funeral march. The stylistic origins of his music, Herman Danuser wrote.

The second period, short but intensive, embraced the works written between 1901 and 1905: the vocal-symphonic cycles Songs about Dead Children and Songs to Poems by Rückert and the thematically linked, but now purely instrumental, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Symphonies. All of Mahler's symphonies were programmatic in essence; he believed that, beginning at least with Beethoven "there is no new music which does not have an inner programme"; but whereas in his first tetralogy he attempted to explain his idea using programme titles - the symphony as a whole or its individual movements - from the Fifth Symphony onwards he abandoned these attempts: His program titles generated only misunderstandings, and in the end, as Mahler wrote to one of his correspondents, "nothing is worth such music about which the listener must first be told what feelings it contains, and, accordingly, what he himself is obliged to feel." The rejection of the resolving word could not but entail a search for a new style: the semantic burden on the musical fabric increased and, as the composer himself wrote, the new style demanded new technique; I.A. Barsova notes "an outburst of polyphonic activity of the texture, the thought-bearing, emancipating individual voices of the fabric, as if striving for an utterly expressive self-expression". The universal human collisions of the early tetralogy, which were based on texts of a philosophical and symbolical nature, gave way to another theme in this trilogy - man's tragic dependence on destiny; and while the conflict of the tragic Sixth Symphony found no solution, in the Fifth and Seventh Mahler tried to find one in the harmony of classical art.

Among Mahler's symphonies, the Eighth Symphony, his most ambitious work, stands apart as a kind of culmination. Here the composer once again turns to words, using texts from the medieval Catholic hymn Veni Creator Spiritus and the closing scene of the second movement of Johann Wolfgang Goethe's Faust. The unusual form of this work and its monumentality have given researchers grounds to call it an oratorio or cantata, or at least to define the genre of the Eighth as a synthesis of a symphony and an oratorio, a symphony and a "musical drama".

And the epic concludes with three symphonies of a farewell nature written in 1909-1910: Song of the Land ("a symphony in songs," as Mahler called it), the Ninth and the unfinished Tenth. These works are distinguished by their deeply personal tone and expressive lyricism.

In Mahler's symphonic epic, researchers note above all the variety of solutions: in most cases he abandoned the classical four-part form in favor of five- or six-part cycles, while the longest, the Eighth Symphony, consists of two movements. Symphonies that are purely instrumental are a neighborhood of synthetic structures, while in some of them the word is used as an expressive means only in the culminating moments (in the Second, Third and Fourth Symphonies), while others are based predominantly or wholly on verse texts - the Eighth and Song of the Earth. Even in four-part cycles the traditional sequence of movements and their tempo correlations normally change and the center of meaning shifts; with Mahler it is most often the finale. The form of individual movements, including the first movement, also underwent a significant transformation in his symphonies: in his late works the sonata form gives way to an ongoing development and a songlike variant-strophic structure. It is not unusual for Mahler to see various principles of formation interacting in one movement: sonata allegro, rondo, variations, couplet or three-part song; Mahler frequently uses polyphony - imitative, contrasting and polyphony of variations. Another technique often used by Mahler is the change of tonality, which T. Adorno saw as a "criticism" of the through tonal gravitation, which naturally led to atonality or pantonality.

Mahler's orchestra combines two equally characteristic tendencies for the early 20th century: the expansion of the orchestra, on the one hand, and the emergence of the chamber orchestra (in detailing the texture, in maximizing the possibilities of the instruments, connected with the search for increased expressiveness and colorfulness, often grotesque), on the other: in his scores the orchestra instruments are often interpreted in the spirit of the ensemble of soloists. Mahler's compositions also contain elements of stereophony, as his scores in a number of cases suggest that the orchestra on the stage and a group of instruments or a small orchestra behind the stage are heard simultaneously or that the performers are placed at different heights.

During his lifetime, Mahler the composer had only a relatively narrow circle of convinced followers: at the beginning of the 20th century his music was still too new. In the mid-twenties it became a victim of anti-Romantic, including "neoclassical" trends - for fans of new trends Mahler's music was already "old-fashioned". After the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, the performance of works by the Jewish composer was banned, first in the Reich itself and then in all territories it occupied and annexed. Mahler had no luck in the post-war years either: "Exactly that quality," Theodor Adorno wrote, "with which the universality of music was connected, the transcending moment in it... that quality which permeates, for example, all of Mahler's work down to the details of his expressive means - all this falls under suspicion as megalomania, as an inflated evaluation of the subject himself. What does not renounce infinity is as if it were manifesting the will to dominance peculiar to the paranoid..."

At no time was Mahler a forgotten composer: admiring conductors - Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Oskar Fried, Karl Schuricht and many others - constantly included his works in their concert programs, overcoming the resistance of concert organizations and conservative critics; Willem Mengelberg in Amsterdam in 1920 even held a festival dedicated to his work. During World War II, Mahler's music, exiled from Europe, found a refuge in the United States, where many German and Austrian conductors emigrated; after the war, it returned to Europe with the emigrants. By the beginning of the 1950s, there were already a dozen and a half monographs devoted to the composer's works; many dozens of recordings of his works: the long-time admirers were already joined by conductors of the next generation. Finally, in 1955, the International Gustav Mahler Society was established in Vienna to study and promote his art, and over the next few years a series of similar societies, national and regional, emerged.

The centennial of Mahler's birth in 1960 was still quite modestly celebrated, however, researchers believe that it was the year of the turning point: Theodor Adorno forced many to take a new look at the composer's work when, rejecting the traditional definition of "late romanticism", attributed him to the era of musical "modernity", proved the closeness of Mahler - despite the external dissimilarity - to the so-called "New Music", many representatives of which for decades, considered him their opponent. In any case, only seven years later, one of the most fervent proponents of Mahler's work, Leonard Bernstein, could state with satisfaction: "His time has come.

In the late 1960s Dmitry Shostakovich wrote: "It is a joy to live at a time when the music of the great Gustav Mahler is gaining widespread recognition. But in the 1970s the composer's longstanding admirers stopped rejoicing: Mahler's popularity surpassed all imaginable limits, his music filled concert halls, recordings poured out of horns of plenty - the quality of his interpretations was of secondary importance; in the United States t-shirts bearing the slogan "I love Mahler" sold in great demand; on the wave of his growing popularity attempts were made to reconstruct the unfinished Tenth Symphony, which angered old Mahler scholars in particular.

The cinematography contributed to the popularization not so much of the composer's work as of his personality - the films "Mahler" by Ken Russell and "Death in Venice" by Luchino Visconti, which were saturated with his music and caused a mixed reaction among specialists. At one time Thomas Mann wrote that the death of Mahler had a considerable influence on the conception of his famous novel: "...this man, burning with his own energy, made a strong impression on me. Later these shocks mingled with the impressions and ideas from which the novel was born, and I not only gave my orgiastically dead hero the name of the great musician, but also borrowed the mask of Mahler to describe his appearance. In Visconti, the writer Aschenbach became a composer, a character not foreseen by the author, the musician Alfried, appeared so that Aschenbach would have someone to talk to about music and beauty, and Mann's quite autobiographical short story was transformed into a film about Mahler.

Mahler's music has stood the test of popularity; but the reasons for the composer's unexpected and in their own way unprecedented success have become the subject of special research.

Studies have found above all an unusually wide spectrum of perception. The famous Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick once wrote of Wagner: "Whoever follows him will break his neck, and the public will look on indifferently. The American critic Alex Ross believes (or believed in 2000) that exactly the same applies to Mahler, since his symphonies, like Wagner's operas, recognize only superlatives, and these, Hanslick wrote, are the end, not the beginning. But just as the opera composers who were Wagner's admirers did not follow their idol in his "superlative degrees," no one followed Mahler so literally. His earliest admirers, the composers of the New Viennese School, thought that Mahler (together with Bruckner) had exhausted the genre of the "grand" symphony, and it was in their circle that the chamber symphony was born - and also under Mahler's influence: the chamber symphony was born in the depths of his vast works, like expressionism. Dmitri Shostakovich proved with his entire oeuvre - as others after him proved - that Mahler had exhausted the Romantic symphony alone, but that his influence could also extend far beyond Romanticism.

Danuser wrote that Shostakovich's work continued the Mahlerian tradition "directly and uninterruptedly"; Mahler's influence is most noticeable in his grotesque and often sinister scherzos and in the "Mahlerian" Fourth Symphony. But Shostakovich - like Arthur Honegger and Benjamin Britten - also took major dramatic symphonism from his Austrian predecessor; in his Thirteenth and Fourteenth Symphonies (as in works by several other composers) another of Mahler's innovations - the "symphony in songs" - found their continuation.

Whereas during the composer's lifetime his music was disputed by opponents with adherents, in recent decades the discussion, and none the less fierce, has unfolded among his many friends. For Hans Werner Henze, as for Shostakovich, Mahler was above all a realist; what he was most often attacked by contemporary critics for - the "juxtaposition of the incompatible", the constant juxtaposition of "high" and "low" in his music - for Henze was no more than an honest reflection of the surrounding reality. The challenge that Mahler's "critical" and "self-critical" music posed to his contemporaries, according to Henze, "derives from its love of the truth and the reluctance to embellish that love. Leonard Bernstein expressed the same idea differently: "Only after fifty, sixty, seventy years of world destruction ... can we finally listen to Mahler's music and realize that it predicted it all.

Mahler has long ago become a friend of the avant-garde, who believe that only "through the spirit of New Music" can one discover the true Mahler. The voluminosity of sound, the splitting of direct and indirect meanings through irony, the lifting of taboos on banal, everyday sound material, musical quotations and allusions - all these features of Mahler's style, Peter Ruzicka claimed, found their real meaning in New Music. György Ligeti called him his predecessor in the field of spatial composition. Be that as it may, the surge of interest in Mahler paved the way for avant-garde compositions in concert halls as well.

For them, Mahler is a composer with an eye toward the future, and nostalgic postmodernists hear nostalgia in his compositions, both in his quotations and in his stylizations of classical era music in the Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Symphonies. "Mahler's romanticism," Adorno wrote in his time, "denies itself through disillusionment, mourning, long memory. But while for Mahler the "golden age" was the time of Haydn, Mozart, and early Beethoven, in the 1970s the pre-modern past already seemed a "golden age."

According to Danuser, Mahler is second only to Johann Sebastian Bach and Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven in his universality, his ability to satisfy a wide variety of needs and to please almost opposing tastes.  S. Bach, W. A. Mozart and L. van Beethoven. Today's "conservative" part of the audience has its own reasons for liking Mahler. Already before World War I, as T. Adorno remarked, audiences complained about modern composers' lack of melody: "Mahler, who held to the traditional view of melody more than other composers, has made enemies just because of this. enemies. He was reproached for both the banality of his inventions and the violent nature of his long melodic curves..." After World War II, the adherents of many musical movements diverged further and further from their listeners, who for the most part still preferred the "melodic" classics and romantics - Mahler's music, L. Bernstein wrote, "in its prediction ... showered our world with a rain of beauty equal to which it has not been since then".


  1. Gustav Mahler
  2. Малер, Густав
  3. Имеется в виду Ханс Рихтер, в то время первый капельмейстер Придворной оперы и главный дирижёр Венского филармонического оркестра[89].
  4. Когда Малер с неподдельной искренностью человека, готового сделать всё, чтобы вернуть любовь жены, объявил, что все его симфонии не стоят ничего по сравнению с её 14 песнями, Альма, к изумлению биографов композитора, приняла эти слова совершенно всерьёз и вполне помирилась с мужем[211].
  5. Малер записал песню «Шёл сегодня утром по полю» из цикла «Песни странствующего подмастерья», песню «Шёл с радостью по зелёному лесу» из цикла «Волшебный рог мальчика», песню «Небесная жизнь» — финал Четвёртой симфонии, с фортепианным аккомпанементом, и первую часть (Траурный марш) Пятой симфонии — в транскрипции для фортепиано.
  6. С началом «малеровского бума» из статьи в статью, из монографии в монографию кочевали «пророческие» слова Малера: «Моё время придёт». На самом деле Малер говорил о своём счастливом сопернике Рихарде Штраусе: «…Когда закончится его время, настанет моё»[283]. Й. М. Фишер по этому поводу пишет, что слава Штрауса померкла ещё в период между войнами; Г. Данузер считает, что именно Малер, уже в 60-х, и оттеснил Штрауса[284].
  7. В 2014 году общее число записей сочинений Малера уже перевалило за 2500[278].
  8. Pirfano, Íñigo (2015). Música para leer. Plataforma Editorial. ISBN 978-84-16256-50-1.
  9. Blaukopf, 1974, pp. 15-16
  10. Cooke, 1980, p. 7
  11. a b c Sadie, 1980, p. 505
  12. a b c Blaukopf, 1974, pp. 18-19
  13. ^ The music of Der Trompeter von Säkkingen has been mostly lost. A movement entitled "Blumine" was included in the first, five-movement version of Mahler's First Symphony.[23]
  14. ^ Mahler may have been aware of this collection earlier, since he had based the first of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen poems on a Wunderhorn text.[28]
  15. ^ Some sources, e.g., Paul Banks writing in Sadie, p. 509, give the appointment date as 8 September 1897. According to La Grange the decree appointing Mahler to the directorship was dated 8 October and signed by the Lord Chamberlain on behalf of the Emperor on 15 October.
  16. ^ a b c d „Gustav Mahler”, Gemeinsame Normdatei, accesat în 9 aprilie 2014
  17. ^ a b c d Gustav Mahler, SNAC, accesat în 9 octombrie 2017
  18. ^ a b c d Gustav Mahler, Internet Broadway Database, accesat în 9 octombrie 2017
  19. ^ a b The Fine Art Archive, accesat în 1 aprilie 2021

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