Gustav Mahler

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Gustav Mahler was born on July 7th 1860 in a village in Bohemia called Kalischt, what is now Kaliste in the Czech Republic. His mother and father were Bernhard and Marie Mahler. Gustav was the second oldest of his twelve brothers and sisters, of which six of them died at a very young age. Mahler grew up in a town called Iglau (now Jihlava). As a child, Mahler studied music with native teachers in his village. Although Mahler loved composing music, his school reports portrayed him as unreliable and absent minded. At the age of four, Gustav discovered his grandparents’ piano and immediately fell in love with it. A few years later at the age of ten, he gave his first public performance in Iglau. Bernhard Mahler, his father, was very supportive of his son’s dreams and ambitions. Bernhard Mahler strived for his sons’ music career and agreed that he should audition for a spot at the Vienna Conservatory. Mahler suffered an unpleasant personal loss of his younger brother, Ernst, in 1874 after a long illness. He wanted to express his feelings by playing music. With help from Josef Steiner, a close friend, he began to write an opera called Ernst von Schwaben as a tribute to his lost brother. In 1875, he went to Vienna to study at the conservatory, where he stayed for a few years. After completing his studies, he took a series of producing steps throughout Central and Eastern Europe, including many cities such as: Budapest, Hamburg, and Leipzig. Then he moved to Vienna, where he conducted the state opera orchestra. Mahler succeeded in transforming the staging and performance standards of the opera house. It was nothing short of remarkable, but it came at a high personal cost. The continual work forced him to restrict his co...

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...choir, two harps, an organ and a large percussion section, along with a gigantic orchestra. He also deviated from tradition in his use of tonality. His larger works often finished in a different tone than when they began. This weakened the structural role of tonality at the same time that Schoenburg and his contemporaries were moving forward a purely atonal style. The final factor we can note in Mahler’s music is its wit, frequently touched with irony and parody. This can occur by means of the comparison of incongruous elements to create a jarring, banal, mix. Mahler died in Vienna on May 18, 1911 at the age of fifty from a blood infection. The International Gustav Mahler Institute that was established in 1955 was built to honor his life and work.

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