Gustav Mahler is the most influential symphonist of the twentieth century. In this pioneering study, Norman Lebrecht reveals the man and musician through the words of his contemporaries.
Using many previously unpublished documents, he constructs a profile of Mahler even more complex and compelling than that familiar from his letters and the often unreliable memoirs of his widow, Alma.
Compassionate or callous, idealistic or pragmatic, Mahler aroused violently contrasting impressions and emotions in those who lived and worked with him.
Accounts of the composer include the artist Alfred Roller’s description of Mahler’s naked body, a Nazi-era reappraisal by one of his closest relatives, Natalie Bauer-Lechner’s unpublished jottings of Mahler’s childhood, and Stefan Zweig’s report of his final voyage.
Together, they form a remarkable and deeply illuminating image of a formidable personality. The effect is cumulative, sometimes contradictory, and vivid-like a written version of a radio or film portrait.