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Gustav Mahler Essay

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Mahler was born in Kalischt, Bohemia, on July 7, 1860. At the time, Bohemia (later to form a major component of Czechoslovakia, and later the Czech Republic) was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, then enduring its final crumbling decades, and the region where Mahler spent his youth was strongly associate with the Czech independence movement. However, Mahler also was a Jew, and Jews in the region were associated by ethnic Czechs with Germans. Mahler famous quote is: "I am thrice homeless, as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew throughout the world. Everywhere an intruder, never welcomed." Then add to that the fact that the public considered Mahler to be a gifted conductor with a habit of…show more content…
He also ruled with an iron fist, helping create the image of conductor as dictator. This was not, however, the result of simple ego, but rather of Mahler's artistic honesty and desire. When members of the opera orchestra complained that one or another lazy practice was tradition, Mahler's favorite reply was that "[t]radition is laziness." Mahler believed that opera was the highest form of art, not mere entertainment. A classic example is when Mahler decided to give the Vienna premiere of Charpentier's Louise. Charpentier came to the dress rehearsal and criticized the sets, the costumes and Mahler's conducting. Mahler's reaction was to cancel the premier and redo the costumes and set to Charpentier's specifications and studied the score with the composer so that his conducting, too, would be to Charpentier's satisfaction.
Another demonstrative incident during his leadership of the Vienna Opera was his attempts to present Richard Strauss' opera, Salome. Mahler was a basically prudish man, and his wife, Alma Mahler, later stated that he had argued against Strauss setting Wilde's Salome. Strauss, of course, went ahead and composed the piece, submitted it for production by the Vienna Opera, and was informed that the Censorship Board had banned the work due to Strauss' references to Christ
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