Gustav Mahler

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Gustav Mahler in 1909
If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.

Gustav Mahler (7 July 186018 May 1911) was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and conductor.


  • Ich weiß für mich, daß ich, solang ich mein Erlebnis in Worten zusammenfassen kann, gewiß keine Musik hierüber machen würde.
    • For myself I know that, as long as I can summarize my experience in words, I would certainly not make any music about it.
    • Variant: If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.
      • Letter to Max Marschalk (26 March 1896). Original German text cited from: Blaukopf, Herta (ed.). Gustav Mahler. Briefe. 2nd edition. Zsolnay, Vienna 1996, ISBN 3-552-04810-3, p. 171.
  • For a month now I have been an out-and-out vegetarian. The moral effect of this way of life, with its voluntary castigation of the body, causing one's material needs to dwindle away, is enormous. You can judge for yourself how utterly I [am] convinced of it, when I tell you that I expect of it no less than the regeneration of humanity. All I can tell you is: let yourself be converted to a natural way of living, but one in which you eat suitable food (compost-grown, stone-ground, wholemeal bread) and soon you will see the fruits of your endeavours.
    • Letter to Emil Freund (1 November 1880), in Gustav Mahler: New Insights into his Life, Times and Work by Alfred Mathis-Rosenzweig, translated by Jeremy Barham, Ashgate Publishing, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7546-5353-0, pp. 165-166.

Quotes about Mahler[edit]

  • It really lives up to its name, doesn't it? Mahler's 4th Symphony.


  • Tradition ist nicht die Anbetung der Asche, sondern die Weitergabe des Feuers.
    • Tradition is not the cult of ashes, it is the transmission of fire. (Quoted by @Arch_Revival_ 5:42 PM · May 29, 2020).
    • According to Irrwege einer Metapher ("The Vagaries of a Metaphor"), an article published in the Wiener Zeitung (The Vienna Times), this quote is a shortened version of a sentence in a speech delivered in the French Parliament by Socialist politician Jean Jaurès : "Nicht vergeblich hat die Flamme im Herd so vieler menschlicher Generationen gebrannt und gefunkelt; aber wir, die wir nicht stillstehen, die wir für ein neues Ideal kämpfen, wir sind die wahren Erben der Herde unserer Vorfahren: wir haben daraus ihre Flamme geholt, ihr habt nur die Asche bewahrt." (« Oui, nous avons, nous aussi, le culte du passé. C’est pas en vain que tous les foyers des générations humaines ont flambé, ont rayonné ; mais c’est nous, parce que nous marchons, parce que nous luttons pour un idéal nouveau, c’est nous qui sommes les vrai héritiers du foyer des aïeux ; nous avons pris la flamme, vous n’en avez gardé que la cendre. » = "Yes, we [Socialists], we ourselves have a cult of the past. It is not in vain that the hearths of all human generations have blazed with warmth, have shone with light; but it is we, because we march, because we fight for a new ideal, it is we who are the true inheritors of the hearth of our ancestors; we have maintained the fire, while you [Nationalists] have preserved only the ashes.")

External links[edit]

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