"I don't choose what I compose. It chooses me."
Gustav Mahler was once quoted as saying, "The symphony must be like a world: it should contain everything." In his symphonies and song cycles, he created universes, encompassing every kind of human experience, from childlike innocence and wonder to anguish and despair. To achieve this, he wrote music for a huge orchestra, sometimes with voices added as well. He pushed musical form or construction to new limits and used exciting new harmonies. Listening to Mahler's music can be a truly overwhelming and rewarding experience.
Born on 7 July, 1860 in Kaliste, Bohemia (the Czech Republic), Mahler was the son of a shopkeeper. At the age of 15 he entered Vienna Conservatory, but also studied philosophy at Vienna University.
Mahler's life and career spanned the end of one era and the beginning of another. The degree of personal expression and descriptive content of many of his works represents the last word, or note, of the 19th century Romantic world of Liszt, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky. But as Mahler developed his style, his harmonies and the sounds he drew from the orchestra paved the way for such 20th century masters as Schoenberg and Webern.
Mahler was also a great conductor, and here too he was a pivotal figure. He outshone all other conductors before him, as well as those of his own time, in his fierce dedication to his work. He spared neither himself nor anybody else in his desire to raise the standards of performance to new heights. He was the first all-powerful maestro and the model for many other famous conductors of the 20th century.
Gustav Mahler died on 18 May, 1911 in Vienna.
contributed by Gifford, Katya