Gustav Mahler, an Austrian composer of the late Romantic period, inspires in his followers a fanatical devotion, much like a huge fan club. For them, hearing Mahler’s work is like going to church.
Born in 1860, Mahler was primarily a conductor. After graduating from music school, he slowly worked his way up through the ranks to become head of the Vienna Opera, a position he held for ten years. During his time there he WAS the opera. He chose the works to be performed and the singers and ran all aspects of the production. Mahler was what we would call today a workaholic and often drove his musicians to exhaustion demanding impossible perfection from them.
Late in his life, Mahler went to New York City, first to conduct the Metropolitan Opera and then to lead the Philharmonic Society. He was not successful in America. The audiences did not like him and he was not able to rule his orchestras as he had in Vienna. He left the city without completing his last season and died shortly thereafter.
Mahler is noted primarily for his nine symphonies, which are large, expansive intense works, and for his art songs.