Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
Born in Kalischt, Bohemia to a middle class Jewish family. Gustav Mahler was sent to Vienna at the age of 15 to study music with Anton Bruckner. He was renowned as an outstanding conductor from the age of 20, and he worked in opera houses in Kassell, Prague, Leipzig, Budapest and Hamburg. !n 1897 he was appointed director of the Vienna Royal Opera, and in order to ensure the position, he converted to Catholicism. From 1898-1901 he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
He raised both of these institutions to heights unknown both prior to his era and afterwards. His repertoire centred around the operas of Wagner and Mozart, and his performances are considered worthy of emulation to this day. In 1907 he left his position in Vienna and moved to New York, where he served as conductor for the Metropolitan Opera and the Philharmonic Orchestra. He left New York disillusioned, and returned to Vienna, where he passed away.
In addition to his heavy schedule as conductor and art director, Mahler composed music during the summer months he spent on his own in the mountains. While he conducted operas, most of the pieces he wrote were symphonies and songs. Mahler composed nine full symphonies, and had begun a tenth. His famous song collections include: Songs of a Wandering Apprentice, Songs on the Death of Children, and The Ruckert Songs. His most famous composition Song of the Earth, is a unique synthesis of symphony and song. When first performed, the works were considered innovative and daring, though they were well received by the public. Interest in his works has increased in recent decades, and they are currently performed in symphony halls the world over, and are recorded by a number of orchestras.
Biography written by Dr. Avner Bahat, and taken from the brochure of the Philatelic Service of the Israel Postal Authority without permission. (sorry)
A website with more information about Mahler can be reached by clicking here.