Posted by: rbbadger | October 17, 2010

On the Mahler Trail

This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Mahler.  Mahler, the great Austrian conductor and composer was one of the last really great Romantic Austro-German symphonists.  The New York Times has a piece on places where Mahler lived in the Czech Republic.  You can access it here.

At the time when Mahler was born, what is today’s Czech and Slovak Republics formed a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which included the former Yugoslavia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, and quite a few other places as well.  He was born to a family of German speaking Jews in Kaliste in what is now the Czech Republic.  He later achieved great renown as a conductor.  His works as a composer received a lukewarm response during his lifetime.  However, following World War II, they have since become quite popular and often performed.  This despite the absolutely vast ensembles required for some of his works. 

Mahler’s works were banned in Germany during the Hitler era.  Mahler was Jewish and the Führer didn’t look to kindly on the works of Jewish musicians.  Even the ever-likeable Felix Mendelssohn fell under the Nazi ban. Arnold Schönberg, who had friendly relations with Mahler, fled Europe in the 1930s. He was also Jewish. His non-Jewish students and allies Alban Berg and Anton Webern likewise had their works banned. Paul Hindemith, a composer of a more neo-classical orientation than Schönberg and his students had his works banned as well. The fact that his wife was of Jewish extraction didn’t help much either.


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