Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was a late-Romantic composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born to a Jewish family in the village of Kaliste in Bohemia, in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now the Czech Republic.
As a composer, Gustav Mahler acted as a bridge between the 19th-century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained popularity in Europe (especially Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands) before the Second World War (when performances were banned in those countries). After the war, émigré conductors popularized his works in the US and UK as well, and they gained popularity when recordings became widely available, especially after the anniversary years of 1960/61.
Gustav Mahler’s oeuvre is relatively small; for much of his life composing was necessarily a part-time activity while he earned his living as a conductor. Aside from early works such as a movement from a piano quartet, composed when he was a student in Vienna, Gustav Mahler’s works are designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and vocal soloists.
His works were often controversial when first performed, and several were slow to receive critical and popular approval. Some of Gustav Mahler’s immediate musical successors included the composers of the Second Viennese School, notably Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern.