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Mysterious Mahler

What do we really know about Mahler? He has been painted as the sickly, neurotic "victim," obsessed by early death. Not so. Mahler suffered many blows, but he was a musician of great energy and resilience. If his later works seem death-ridden, we should not blame his life

It was like a nightmare. One moment Gustav Mahler was composing peacefully in his hut high in the Dolomites. The next moment, two birds-an eagle in pursuit of a crow-had burst in, shattering a window pane. According to the conductor Bruno Walter, Mahler sprang to his feet in horror at the intrusion and later felt deeply depressed about it. “His musical heaven had been turned into a battlefield for one of the endless fights of all against all,” Walter wrote in his memoir of the composer. Although he fell short of calling the incident a portent, Walter went on to…

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