Gustav Mahler Jens Malte Fischer

Publication date:
15 Apr 2013
Yale University Press
776 pages: 235 x 156mm
16 b-w illus.
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The definitive biography of the celebrated composer, published in English to coincide with the centenary of his death

A best seller when first published in Germany in 2003, Jens Malte Fischer's Gustav Mahler has been lauded by scholars as a landmark work. He draws on important primary resources—some unavailable to previous biographers—and sets in narrative context the extensive correspondence between Mahler and his wife, Alma; Alma Mahler's diaries; and the memoirs of Natalie Bauer-Lechner, a viola player and close friend of Mahler, whose private journals provide insight into the composer's personal and professional lives and his creative process.

Fischer explores Mahler's early life, his relationship to literature, his achievements as a conductor in Vienna and New York, his unhappy marriage, and his work with the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic in his later years. He also illustrates why Mahler is a prime example of artistic idealism worn down by Austrian anti-Semitism and American commercialism. Gustav Mahler is the best-sourced and most balanced biography available about the composer, a nuanced and intriguing portrait of his dramatic life set against the backdrop of early 20th century America and fin de siècle Europe.

Jens Malte Fischer is professor of the history of theater at the University of Munich. Stewart Spencer is an acclaimed translator whose work includes biographies of Richard Wagner, Cosima Wagner, and W.A. Mozart, all published by Yale University Press.

'This is a masterly and indeed monumental biography, some 800 pages long, a memorable portrait of the age as well as the composer.' PD Smith, Guardian

'A superb, multi-faceted biography... Fischer's superb study does full justice to the complexity of its subject.' Adam Lively, The Sunday Times

'Drawing on a vast hinterland of scholarship, including documents unavailable to de La Grange, Fischer details all this with aplomb, navigating his way carefully through areas of controversy and avoiding extreme conclusions.' Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph

'a formidable read... Fischer's canny handling of the latest Mahlerian scholarship is likely to remain the best one-volume treatment of its inexhaustible subject.' Bayan Northcott, BBC Music Magazine

'Gustav Mahler contains much new information on a multi-faceted musician who autobiography can be read in his symphonies.' Liz Thompson, The Independent

'Much more than a biography... It is a portrait of an entire epoch.' Hans Rudolf Vaget, Smith College