Did composer Gustav Mahler know the worst was yet to come in his life?
‘While there’s no proof of this, it’s possible he had clairvoyant talents.’
Biographically, we know that composer Gustav Mahler was personally at his happiest and most satisfied from the summer of 1903 through the summer of 1904, the period during which he started and completed his Sixth Symphony.
Yet this symphony — 80 minutes without intermission and being performed by Peter Bay and the Austin Symphony for the first time Friday and Saturday — is not a happy-go-lucky piece.
“Perhaps it’s an oversimplification to say artists create happy works when th eyare happy and sad works when things are not going well,” Bay says. “But of hisn ine symphonies — plus an incomplete one — t his is by far the bleakest.”
Did Mahler sense fate?
The AustroGerman Mahler, whose works bridged the Romantic and modern eras, was practically a newlywed when he started the symphony, having married the beautiful and talented composer Alma Schindler in 1902. By the time the Sixth Symphony was completed, the couple had two daughters.
Artistically, too, he was at the height of his powers as music director of the Vienna Opera. During summers off, he composed. Perhaps unfairly, he gave little attention during this time to Alma’s compositions.
“His music was being played