“Who Is Gustav Mahler?” is one of Leonard Bernstein’s famous “Young People’s Concerts” with the New York Philharmonic. This musical lecture was broadcast on July 7, 1960, the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. It is noteworthy that Mahler’s music had not yet achieved the great popularity that it has today, and that as a result Bernstein is partly making a case for the composer’s greatness in his talk. 

“No composer goes quite so far in each direction—so happy and so sad. When Mahler is sad, it’s a complete sadness. Nothing can comfort him; it’s like a weeping child. And when he’s happy, he’s happy the way a child is, all the way. That’s one of the keys to this Mahler puzzle: He is like a child. His feelings are extreme, exaggerated, like young people’s feelings…. Once you understand that secret of his music—the voice of a child—you can really love his music…. Here was this grown-up, very sophisticated, learned man—with children of his own—and a heart full of struggles between the different voices fighting inside him, always trying to feel pure and innocent again like a child. And that too is one of the battles that he had: the battle of the double man, half man, half child.”

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The featured image is a photograph of Gustav Mahler that is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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