Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gustav Mahler: 1860 - 1911

Composer and conductor Gustav Mahler died 100 years ago today.  Although he was a resident of New York at the time, he passed away in Vienna, the city where he began his career.

His musical style bridges the high Romanticism of the Nineteenth Century and the Modernism of the Twentieth Century.  It also melds vocal and orchestral sounds, by including solo and choral voices in symphonies and using a full symphonic orchestra to accompany songs.  He was one of the few composers who made his living as a conductor, conducting both opera and orchestral music.  He converted from Judaism to Catholicism to qualify for his post as director of the Vienna Court Opera but still experienced anti-semitism.

In New York he conducted both the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.  Leonard Bernstein, also Jewish and a much later conductor of the New York Philharmonic, became a champion of Mahler's music, recording all nine of the symphonies twice.  He also recorded the songs for voice and orchestra, Das Lied von der Erde (Song of the Earth) Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children) and Lieder aus "des Knaben Wunderhorn"  (Songs from "The Youth's Magic Horn").  All nine symphonies, rehearsals, and Das Lied von der Erde are available on DVD in the Educational Resources Collections.

The Music Collection has several biographies of Mahler and books about his unique style as well as compact discs of his music.

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