(1860 - 1911) Conductor and composer of symphonies and lieder cycles. Mahler was known for the length, depth, and scale of his works. He loved nature and life and, based on early childhood experiences, feared death (family deaths, a suicide, and a rape he witnessed). This informed almost all his compositions, especially the Kindertotenlieder ("Songs on the Deaths of Children"), which are actually about the loss of innocence. Mahler's orchestral music is clear, complex, and full of musical influences from the heavenly to the banal (the family lived near a military barracks, so march tunes sometimes appear; an argument was associated with the sound of a hurdy-gurdy outside the window). It has been said that when Mahler was at his best when he manged to balance just on the edge of bad taste. For example in Das Lied von der Erde ("Songs of the Earth"). He composed ten symphonies, ther last of which was incomplete. I still can't listen to the eighth because it is just too massive and jumbled. I prefer the humour of the fourth.

Mahler composed a large and generally impressive body of work. I provide here a (as far as I know) complete listing of all of his compositions from my CD database.


Three Songs for tenor and pianoforte
Year Written: 1880
All that survive of a projected Five Songs 'dedicated to Josephine'

Im Lenz;
Maitanz im Grünen

Lieder und Gesänge (Vol 1) Five Songs for voice and pianoforte
Year Written: 1880-1883

Frühlingsmorgen (Spring Morning)
Text by Leander
Erinnerung (Remembering)
Text by Leander

Hans und Grethe (Hans and Grete)
Text by Mahler

Serenade aus "Don Juan"
Text by Tirso de Molina

Phantasie aus "Don Juan"
Text by Tirso de Molina

Lieder und Gesänge (Vol 2) Nine Songs for voice and pianoforte
Year Written: 1887-90

Um Schimme Kinder Artig Zu Machen (To Teach Naughty Children to be Good)
Ich Ging Mit Lust Durch Einen Grünen Wald (Full of Joy I walked through a Green Wood)
Aus! Aus! (Finished! Finished!)
Starke Einbildungskraft (Strong Imagination)

Lieder und Gesänge (Vol 3) Four Songs for voice and pianoforte
Year Written: 1888-1891

Zu Strassburg Auf Der Schanz' (On the Ramparts of Strassburg)
Ablösung Im Sommer (The Changing of the Summer Guard)
Scheiden und Meiden (Farewell and Forgo)
Nicht Wiedersehen! (Never to Meet Again)
Selbstgefühl (Self-Assurance)

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer)
Year Written: 1884
For voice and orchestra or pianoforte


Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht
Ging heut' morgen über's Feld
Ich hab' ein glühend Messer
Die zwei blauen Augen

Lieder aus 'Des Knaben Wunderhorn' (The youth's magic horn)
Year Written: 1892-1899
Ten orchestral songs


Der Schildwache Nachtlied (Sentry's Night-Song) (1892)
Trost im Unglück (Consolation in Misfortune) (1892)
Verlor'ne Müh (Wasted Effort) (1892)
Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? (Who made up this little song?) (1892)
Rheinlegendchen (Little Rhine Legend) (1893)
Das irdische Leben (Earthly Life) (1893)
Das Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt (Antony of Padua's Sermon to the Fishes) (1893)
Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen (Where the Splendid Trumpets are Sounding) (1895)
Lied des Verfolgten im Turm (Song of the Prisoner in the tower) (1895)
Lob des hohen Verstandes (In praise of Lofty Intellect) (1896)
Revelge (Reveille) (1899)
Tamboursg'sell (The Drummer Boy) (1901)

Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the death of children)
Year Written: 1901-1904
Text by Rückert


Nun well die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n
Nun seh' ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen
Wenn dein Mütterlein
Oft denk' ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen
In diesem Wetter

Fünf Lieder nach Rückert (Five Rückert Songs)
Year Written:

Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder(1901)
Ich atmet' einen linden Duft(1901)
Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen(1901)
Um Mitternacht(1901)
Liebst du um Schönheit(1902)


Das Klagende Lied
Year Written: 1878-1880

Waldmärchen (Forest Legend)
Der Spielmann (The Minstrel
Hoch zeitsstück (Wedding Piece)


Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth)
Year Written: 1911
For tenor, contralto (or baritone) and orchestra. First performed after his death by Bruno Walter


Das Trinklied vom jammer der Erde (The Drinking Song of Earth's Sorrow)
Der Einsame im Herbst (Autumn Loneliness)
Von der Jugend (Youth)
Von der Schönheit (Beauty)
Der Trunkene im Frühling (Wine in Spring)
Der Abschied (The Farewell)


The chronology of Mahler's composition of a particular work may appear confused. There are many reasons for this. In the 1-4 symphonies, Mahler did not really compose them sequentially. The first movement of the 2nd existed first as a single movement. Unable to continue with the work, Mahler relabeled it as a one-movement tone-poem. Then he figured out how to continue, modified the movement, and back it went to being the first movement of the second symphony. The final movement of the 4th was originally intended as the final movement of the 3rd. And so on.

Symphony No. 1
Year Written: 1889/11/20
Langsam. Schleppend - Im Anfang gehr gemächlich
Kräftig bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell
Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen
Stürmisch bewegt

Blumine (Andante)
Year Written:
Originally the 2nd movt of the 1st Symphony

Symphony No. 2
Year Written: 1895/12/13
For soprano, contralto, chorus, orchestra and organ


Allegro Maestoso
Andante moderato
In ruhig fliessende Bewegung
Text from (from 'Des Knaben Wunderhorn')
Im Tempo des Scherzo's
Text: 'Die Auferstehung)

Symphony No. 3
Year Written: 1902/06/09
Kräftig. Entschieden
Tempo di minuetto. Sehr mäßig
Comodo. Scherzando. Ohne Hast
Sehr langsam. Misterioso. Oh Mensch! Gib acht!
Lustig im Tempo und keck im Ausdruck
Bimm bamm - Es sungen drei Engel einen süßen gesang Langsam. Ruhevoll. Empfunden

Symphony No. 4
Year Written: 1901/11/25
For solo soprano and Orchestra

Bedächtig, nicht eilen
In gemächlicher Bewegung. Ohne Hast
Sehr behaglich
Wir genießen die himmlischen Freuden from Des Knaben Wunderhorn

Symphony No. 5

Year Written: 1904/10/18

Trauermarsch. In gemessenem Schritt. Streng. Wie ein Kondukt
Stürmisch bewegt. Mit grösster Vehemenz
Scherzo. Kräftig, nicht zu schnell
Adagietto. Sehr langsam
(Used in the film 'Death in Venice,' hence the movement someone not familiar with Mahler would be most likely to have heard before.
Rondo - Finale Allegro griocoso Frisch

Symphony No. 6
Year Written: 1906/05/27

Allegro energico, ma non troppo
Scherzo. Wuchtig
Finale: Allegro moderato

Symphony No. 7
Year Written: 1909/09/19

Langsam - Allegro risoluto, ma non troppo
Nachtmusik: Allegro moderato
Scherzo. Schattenhaft
Nachtmusik: Andante amoroso
Rondo - Finale

Symphony No. 8
Year Written: 1909
For three sopranos, two contraltos, tenor, baritone, bass, double choir, boy's choir, orchestra and organ

Hymn: Veni, Creator Spiritus
(Final scene from Faust)

Symphony No. 9
Year Written: 1910
First performed in Vienna under Bruno Walter

1st Movement
2nd Movement
3rd Movement
4th Movement

Symphony No. 10: Adagio
Year Written: 1911
The 10th Symphony was never completed by Mahler. Performing editions have been made using drafts by Mahler, the most often used edition being by Deryck Cooke.

Juvenilia and Fragmentary Works

Projected but uncompleted operas

Herzog Ernst von Schwaben
Year Written: 1875
Libretto by J. Steiner, probably based on Uhland

Die Argonauten
Year Written: 1879-80
Libretto by Mahler, probably based on Grillparzer

Year Written: 1880-90
Libretto by Mahler


Year Written: 1876-8
Rehearsed at Vienna Conservatory

Symphony in A minor
Year Written: 1876-8
(3 movements in Manuscript)

An English couplet about the famous composer:

"Brevity is the soul of wit;
Mahler was unaware of it.

Gustav Mahler was born in 1860 in Kalischt, Bohemia, and grew up in Iglau, Moravia. He had an affinity for music even at an early age, and at age fifteen entered the Vienna Conservatory. He excelled there, where his fellow students included Hugo Wolff and his teachers included Anton Bruckner. There he completed a String Quintet, considered the finest of his juvenilia, and the cantata Das Klagende Lied, considered his first mature work. Its harmonic language is shockingly original, and was incredibly passed up for the Beethoven Prize in composition for its radicalism (by a jury that included Brahms). He then embarked on a highly succesful conducting career, which would take him to the heights of the profession, including the Vienna Opera and New York Philharmonic. He conducted many premieres, including almost all his works and the New York Premiere of Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto with the composer at the piano. However, this is not where his legacy lies nowadays. Rather, it lies with his music.

Gustav Mahler's 1st symphony began its genesis as a symphonic poem named "Titan", based on an obscure romantic poem. It premiered during his stay as conductor of the Budapest Opera, and the work was greeted with confusion at best, specifically the third movement, which turns Frère Jaques into a funeral march and intersperses klezmer wedding music into the funereal atmosphere. Such music had never been heard before, and the work was a critical failure. It is now perhaps his most popular work.

The Symphony #2, "Resurrection", is another contender for the status of Mahler's most popular work. Set in 5 movements, this work picks up where the 1st symphony left off, the first movement being a funeral march for the hero of the 1st symphony, and the work culminates in his resurrection. In the opinion of the author this marks a truly massive step up for Mahler, the symphony in which he truly gives the first demonstration of what he is capable of. It includes a wonderful 4-minute Urlicht, or "Primal Light" which showcases Mahler's talents in the field of lieder, as well as a massive last movement with full orchestra and chorus. Truly a masterpiece of a master.

The Symphony #3 represents a change for Mahler. Unlike the Sturm und Drang qualities of the first two symphonies, the 3rd is a paean to nature. However, even by Mahler's standards, this is a massive work, cast in six movements that span 2 hours. Always somewhat out of favor due to its immense length, it is nevertheless one of the masterpieces of a master, and an enormously complex piece. The conclusion, originally titled "What Love Teaches Me" is perhaps his finest slow movement other than the adagietto.

Unlike the first 3 symphonies, the fourth is rather light at heart, and unlike 2 and 3, cast in the traditional 4 movements. The last of the 3 Wunderhorn Symphonies, this light hearted piece has always been a crowd-pleaser, especially the wonderfully giddy finale.

The fifth symphony represents perhaps Mahler's most popular work, if only for one movement. While most of the work is typically (and gloriously) Mahlerian, The Adagietto is something else. Set essentially for the strings, this piece perhaps conveys sorrow better than anything else Mahler wrote. Played at RFK's funeral as well as in the film Death in Venice, this movement (the fourth of five) makes this probably Mahler's most popular symphony.

The Sixth symphony, the "Tragic", is my personal favorite. The only one of Mahler's symphonies in the traditional four movements with a traditional orchestra (save for the sledgehammer, more on that later). Perhaps the work that conveys the words Allegro con Brio better than any other, this violent work goes through 73 minutes of anguish, coming to a close when the percussionist slams a slegehammer twice into the stage. Recommended for all.

The Seventh is Mahler's most difficult symphony, both for the listener and players/conductor. Sometimes called the "Song of the Night," this work has never been popular with audiences, and is only recommended for experienced Mahlerians. I personally love it, but this is not always agreed with by others. Do not confuse the two Nachtmusik movements from this symphony with Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

Mahler's Eighth, the "Symphony of a Thousand", was his greatest success in his time. It is therefore ironic that it is my least favorite work of his. Set to an orchestra of mammoth proportions (thus the name "Symphony of a Thousand"), this work sets the hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus" and the second part of Goethe's Faust (conclusion) to music. Falmboyant and massive, it is still popular.

Mahler, noting how many composers had died after writing their ninth symphony, attempted to cheat death by writing one unnumbered "Symphony of Songs". Das Lied von der Erde ("The Song of the Earth") is based on German translations of ancient Chinese poetry. Set in six movements and totaling one hour, it concludes with a half-hour movement entitled Der Abschied (The Farewell). Not to be missed.

Mahler then did write his ninth symphony, and it would be his last completed work. Set in four movements and lasting eighty minutes, this work's only rivals in desolation are the uncompleted tenth and the finale of the Tchaikovsky Symphony #6. A wonderful piece, but not for beginners.

Mahler only completed the Adagio to the Tenth Symphony (there is an uncompleted movement with the wonderful title of purgatorio and a completed version by Deryck Cook). As with the ninth, this is heavy material, even more so. Not for beginners, but certainly a masterpiece.

Mahler also wrote a great deal of lieder. If one is comfortable with the lieder format, they are highly recommended. Otherwise, start with Schubert.

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