An Austrian conductor and composer of symphonies and lieder cycles whose most notable works include Das Lied von der Erde (1909) and Symphony No. 9 (1909). Mahler
was known for the length, depth, and painful emotions of his works. He loved nature and life and, based on early childhood experiences, feared death (family deaths, a suicide, and a brutal rape he witnessed). This duality appears in almost all his compositions, especially in the Kindertotenlieder ("Songs on the Deaths of Children"), which are actually about the loss of an innocent view of life. Mahler
's orchestral music is clear, complex, and full of musical imagery, from the heavenly to the banal (the family lived near a military barracks, so march tunes sometimes appear; an argument was associated with the sound of a hurdy-gurdy outside the window). The "program" in the incredible symphonies is therefore that of personal tragedy and hope projected onto a universal scale. The traumas of the 20th century are expressed in the Symphony No. 9 (especially the Adagio); the elusiveness of beauty and its loss among harshness and modern tragedies are the subjects of the first and fifth symphonies. Mahler
discovered the verbal expression of this auditory imagery in poems translated from the Chinese of the T'ang dynasty; Das Lied von der Erde ("The Song of the Earth") was the musical result, expressing the transience of all things in a mixture of warmth and severe beauty.