Gustav Mahler (1860–1911)

How to say the name:

‘Mahler’ is said like Mar-ler. ‘Gustav’ is said like ‘Goos-tav’.


7th July 1860 in Kaliště (in German, Kalischt), Bohemia, Austria (now in the Czech Republic).

Mahler’s grave in Vienna


18th May 1911 in Vienna, Austria.


Grinzinger Friedhof (Grinzing Cemetery), Vienna.

Type of Music:

Classical music from the late romantic period.

A famous piece:
  • Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 (this was used in the film ‘Death in Venice’ in 1971). (See below for a video.)
Some great pieces:
  • All his symphonies!! (Nos. 1–10). (See below for a video of the end of Symphony No. 2.)
Some interesting facts:
  • His symphonies are long and need lots of musicians!
  • Symphony No. 8 needs so many musicians that it is called the ‘Symphony of a Thousand’ (although it doesn’t need quite this number!).
  • His music wasn’t very popular when it was written, but it is very popular now.
  • His symphonies are full of very strong emotions.
  • He was very strict towards his musicians when they played his music.
  • He had a lot of sadness in his life. Many of his brothers and sisters died when they were young, as did his first daughter (Mahler is buried with her). This pain can be heard in his music.
  • He never really felt at home anywhere. He once said, “I am thrice homeless, as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew throughout the world”.
  • He composed a lot of his music in a tiny hut on the edge of a lake in Austria. The famous conductor Bruno Walter once visited Mahler there and said how much he liked the scenery. Mahler simply replied, “Don’t bother looking, I’ve already composed all of it”!!
  • One Hollywood producer liked Mahler’s music in the film ‘Death in Venice’ so much, he asked if he could get Mahler to write more music for movies. He didn’t know that Mahler had been dead for over 60 years!

Here is a video of the end of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. Make sure you watch the end of this. It is very exciting. Notice how much energy the conductor puts into conducting the orchestra.

The end of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2

And here is a video of the Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. This piece became famous when it was used in the film Death in Venice in 1971. The performance in this video was given in memory of Raisa Gorbachev, wife of Mikhail Gorbachev (the last leader of the USSR). I think it is a very good piece to choose for a memorial concert.

Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5

Picture credits:
  1. Gustav Mahler. This is a photograph from 1909. The image is in the public domain. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
  2. Mahler’s grave in Vienna. This photograph was taken by Michael Kranewitter of Vienna on 11th July 2008. This image may be used freely if one mentions the photographer’s name and tells him about its use. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
Video credits:
  1. Mahler Symphony No.2 Finale by Haitink, RCO (1984). Mahler Symphony No.2 in C minor ‘Resurrection’. Roberta Alexander, Soprano. Jard van Nes, Alto. Bernard Haitink, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Groot Omroepkoor. Live at Grote Zaal, Het Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (1984/12/25).
  2. MAHLER ADAGIETTO FIFTH SYMPHONY PERFORMED AT A CONCERT IN MEMORY OF RAISA GORBACHEV. Mahler Symphony No. 5, Adagietto, Joel Spiegelman, conductor, Spiegelman Symphony Orchestra. Raisa Gorbachev was the wife of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR.