10 Facts About Gustav Mahler

Conductor Gustav Mahler
Conductor Gustav Mahler. Bettmann / Getty Images
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Mahler's Longest Symphony

Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 3 is one of the longest symphonies ever created, clocking in at roughly 95 minutes. Composed between 1893 and 1896, it is still performed in symphony halls around the world to this day.

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Mahler and the Vienna State Opera

In 1897, in order to secure a position as the artistic director of the Vienna Court Opera (known today as the Vienna State Opera), Mahler converted from Judaism to Catholicism as the opera company would not hire Jews.

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Mahler's Death

In 1907, Mahler was diagnosed with bacterial endocarditis, also known as infective endocarditis. It is an infection of the inner lining of the heart and/or the heart valves. He died just four years later.

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Mahler's Symphony No. 8

Mahler's Symphony No. 8 was nicknamed the "Symphony of a Thousand" by Mahler's agent because its premiere performance featured over 150 orchestra members and over 800 choral singers. Though Mahler hated the nickname, it stuck.

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Mahler's Fellow Composers

While in Vienna, Mahler was surrounded by younger composers including Schönberg, Berg, Webern and Zemlinsky. He often supported and encouraged their work.

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Mahler the Conductor

While Mahler was alive, he was better known as a conductor rather than a composer. His conducting methods, which were often criticized, were highly volatile, bold, and unpredictable. He was just as passionate about conducting as he was composing.

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Mahler's Symphony No. 4

Many of the themes used throughout Mahler's Symphony No. 4, were in fact, taken from previous compositions from Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn). The fourth symphony exudes childlike qualities as Mahler refrains from using heavy and dark tubas, trombones, and loud brass.

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Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde

Mahler's song cycle Das Lied von der Erde is unique to Mahler's body of work. It is the only composition to use Chinese themes, as the text for the seven songs in the cycle, were taken from Hans Bethge's loosely translated Die Chinesische Flöte ("The Chinese Flute").

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Mahler's 1st and 5th Symphonies

According to Naxos, Mahler's Symphony No. 5 is his second most recorded symphony of his all his symphonies. In a survey taken of three traditional Mahler orchestras (Vienna, New York, and the Concertgebouw), it was found that Mahler's Symphony No. 1 was the most performed.

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Mahler's Quote about Music and Composing

Here's a fascinating Mahler quote that sums up Mahler's music. “It is always the same with me; only when I experience something do I compose, and only when composing do I experience! After all, a musician's nature can hardly be expressed in words.”