Gustav Mahler

Overview

A best seller when first published in Germany in 2003, Jens Malte Fischer's Gustav Mahler has been lauded by scholars as a landmark work. He draws on important primary resources—some unavailable to previous biographers—and sets in narrative context the extensive correspondence between Mahler and his wife, Alma; Alma Mahler's diaries; and the memoirs of Natalie Bauer-Lechner, a viola player and close friend of Mahler, whose private journals provide insight into the composer's ...

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Gustav Mahler

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Overview

A best seller when first published in Germany in 2003, Jens Malte Fischer's Gustav Mahler has been lauded by scholars as a landmark work. He draws on important primary resources—some unavailable to previous biographers—and sets in narrative context the extensive correspondence between Mahler and his wife, Alma; Alma Mahler's diaries; and the memoirs of Natalie Bauer-Lechner, a viola player and close friend of Mahler, whose private journals provide insight into the composer's personal and professional lives and his creative process.
Fischer explores Mahler's early life, his relationship to literature, his achievements as a conductor in Vienna and New York, his unhappy marriage, and his work with the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic in his later years. He also illustrates why Mahler is a prime example of artistic idealism worn down by Austrian anti-Semitism and American commercialism. Gustav Mahler is the best-sourced and most balanced biography available about the composer, a nuanced and intriguing portrait of his dramatic life set against the backdrop of early 20th century America and fin de siècle Europe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fischer's exhaustive portrayal uncovers everything one might want to know about Mahler, supplementing it with beautiful descriptions of his music and historical portraits of the cities and people that Mahler moved among during his remarkable life. Hard facts masterfully intertwine with vivid descriptions while emotional states are illuminated through surviving letters or contemporaries' accounts to grant the reader a compelling view of late 19th century Central Europe's cosmopolitan reaches. Fischer's portrait successfully alternates between biographical details and close analysis of his symphonies, revealing the link between his creative production and the conditions that made it possible. Less effective are points where one plods through excessively minute and personal details, but the reader is ultimately rewarded with surprising, delightful sections like the careful and sympathetic portrayal of Mahler's wife's infidelities or Fischer's own musings on "How Men of Genius Die.” The biographer's passion for his subject is evident, allowing the reader to vicariously enjoy a figure who is as moody, shrewd, and argumentative as he is "sensitive, humorous, and full of understanding.” (Aug.)
New York Times Book Review
Sympathetic . . . evocative . . . original and refreshingly opinionated.—John Adams, New York Times Book Review

— John Adams

Quarter Notes
Superb...A passionate book in which Gustav Mahler emerges as a true genius.—Ralph Collier, Quarter Notes

— Ralph Collier

Reporter-Times
"Much has been written in recent years about this supremely gifted, high-strung composer/conductor, but nothing better than Fischer's intelligent and sympathetic biography."—Reporter-Times
Opera News
Mahlerians will welcome this important work for its synthesis of new and old data within a bold, passionately argued study . . . [Fischer's] biography may be the most rewarding way to appreciate Mahler and his resonant art.—Jeffery S. McMillan, Opera News
— Jeffery S. McMillan
Quarter Notes - Ralph Collier
“Superb...A passionate book in which Gustav Mahler emerges as a true genius.”—Ralph Collier, Quarter Notes
Opera News - Jeffery S. McMillan
"Mahlerians will welcome this important work for its synthesis of new and old data within a bold, passionately argued study . . . [Fischer's] biography may be the most rewarding way to appreciate Mahler and his resonant art."—Jeffery S. McMillan, Opera News
John Adams
…the first source of reference for anyone seriously interested in Mahler, is the massive multi­volume biography by Henry-Louis de La Grange…For those who desire a more manageable overview of this artist's extraordinary life and work, Jens Malte Fischer's Gustav Mahler…is a good place to start. At 700-plus pages, Fischer's book is no bagatelle either, but it is the work of a sympathetic writer who takes pains to establish the historical and cultural milieu that informs Mahler's music. His affection for his subject is palpable, the descriptions of the rural setting of the composer's Bohemian childhood are evocative, and the discussions of the symphonies and song cycles are original and refreshingly opinionated.
—The New York Times Book Review
New York Times Book Review - John Adams
“Sympathetic . . . evocative . . . original and refreshingly opinionated.”—John Adams, New York Times Book Review
The Sunday Times - Adam Lively
"[A] superb, multi-faceted biography. . . . Fischer's superb study does full justice to the complexity of its subject."—Adam Lively, The Sunday Times
New York Times Book Review - John Adams
“Sympathetic . . . evocative . . . original and refreshingly opinionated.”—John Adams, New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300134445
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/30/2011
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 766
  • Sales rank: 1,072,098
  • Product dimensions: 9.48 (w) x 6.52 (h) x 2.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Jens Malte Fischer is professor of the history of theater at the University of Munich. He writes regularly for leading German newspapers and periodicals and is the author of several books, including a documentary study of Wagner's anti-Semitism. He lives in Munich, Germany. Stewart Spencer is an acclaimed translator whose work includes biographies of Richard Wagner, Cosima Wagner, and W.A. Mozart, all published by Yale University Press.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

1 What Did Mahler Look Like? An Attempt at a Description 1

2 Small Steps: Kalischt and Iglau (1860-75) 12

3 Studies in Vienna (1875-80) 42

4 The Summer Conductor: Bad Hall (1880) 90

5 Emotional Ups and Downs in Laibach (1881-2) 99

6 For the Last Time in the Provinces: Olmutz (1882-3) 108

7 Presentiment and a New Departure: Kassel (1883-5) 114

8 The Avid Reader: Mahler and Literature 125

9 Becoming Mahler: Prague (1885-6) 140

10 The First Symphony 148

11 Life's Vicissitudes: Leipzig (1886-8) 157

12 Notes on Mahler's Songs 168

13 Lowland Dreams: Budapest (1888-91) 178

14 The Conductor 191

15 The Second Symphony 202

16 Self-Realization: Hamburg (1891-7) 208

17 Jewishness and Identity 251

18 The Third Symphony 274

19 The God of the Southern Climes: Vienna (1897-1901) 282

20 Mahler's Illnesses: A Pathographical Sketch 321

21 The Fourth Symphony 333

22 Vienna in 1900: Alma as a Young Woman (1901-3) 340

23 The Fifth Symphony 385

24 'Nothing is lost to you': Faith and Philosophy 392

25 The Sixth Symphony 409

26 Opera Reform - Early Years of Marriage - Mahler's Compositional Method (1903-5) 416

27 The Seventh Symphony 458

28 The Administrator - Contemporaries - Signs of Crisis (1905-7) 464

29 The Eighth Symphony 519

30 Annus Terribilis (1907) 527

31 Das Lied von der Erde 562

32 Starting Afresh: New York (1908-11) 568

33 The Ninth Symphony 611

34 Crisis and Culmination (1910) 620

35 The Fragmentary Tenth Symphony 662

36 'My heart is weary' - The Farewell 666

37 Mahler and Posterity 691

List of Abbreviations 707

Notes 709

Select Bibliography 734

Index 740

Acknowledgements 765

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