(1860 – 1911)
Gustav Mahler was born in 1860 into a Jewish working-class family in Bohemia. His first compositions, symphonies and song cycles, received mixed reviews, but he gradually garnered the respect of the European musical community, both as a conductor and composer, and by the early 1880's, having directed several small orchestras and choirs, had established a reputation as a first-rate, though temperamental conductor.
In the late 1890's Mahler achieved considerable professional success in Vienna as well as a measure of personal happiness when he met Alma Schindler, an energetic, highly educated, and gifted musician twenty-two years his junior. The Mahler marriage was turbulent; Alma chafed under Gustav's insistence that she subordinate her career, talents, and ambitions to his. Alma and Gustav both raged at each other's imagined and actual infidelities.
When Mahler was invited to direct the Metropolitan Opera of New York that same year he and Alma hoped for a fresh beginning. Mahler's career in New York began well but poor health and continued marital distress caused the Mahlers to return home. In 1910 Mahler achieved public success with the premier of his Eighth Symphony; he completed his Ninth Symphony and began his Tenth. On May 18, 1911 he died in Vienna from a streptococcal infection, just two months before his fifty-first birthday.