Gustav Mahler and nature

Gustav Mahler once called himself a “singer of nature.”

Here you will find short videos of places that most likely inspired Gustav Mahler on his excursions. Mahler was a health enthusiast and embraced all kinds of physical activities.

His attitude towards nature is reflected in many remarks he made throughout his life. Here you can find some favorite passages selected by his granddaughter Marina Mahler.

“As one had perhaps aptly called Mozart ‘the singer of love,’ one will also (naturally with considerable leeway) be able to give me the title: ‘singer of nature.’
1898 letter to Joseph Stransky

“I always feel it strange that when most people speak of ‘Nature,’ what they mean is flowers, little birds, the scent of the forest, etc. No one knows the god Dionysus, or the great Pan. Well: there you have a kind of program—i.e., a sample of how I compose. Always and everywhere it is only the sound of Nature.”
1896 letter to Richard Batka

“But I have already written to you that I am working on my large work. Don’t you comprehend how this demands the whole person and how one is often so immersed in it that one is as if dead to the outer world. […] But now imagine such a large work that, in fact, mirrors the entire world—one is, so to speak, only an instrument upon which the universe plays. […] At such times I do not belong to myself […]."
1896 letter to Anna Mildenburg

“I know that, so far as I myself am concerned, as long as I can express an experience in words I should never try to put it into music. The need to express myself musically—in symphonic terms—begins only on the plane of obscure feelings, at the gate that opens into the ‘other world,’ the world in which things no longer fall apart in time and space. “
1896 letter to Max Marschalk

“What I then experienced had now to be expressed in sound. And yet—if I had not already borne the work within me—how could I have had that experience? […] It is always the same with me: only when I experience something do I compose, and only when composing do I experience!”
1897, Symphony No. 2

“A burning, painful feeling crystallizes: What a world this is that emits such sounds and forms as a reflection of itself! Something like the funeral march and the storm that then breaks out seem to me like a burning indictment of the Creator. And in each new work of mine (at least up to a certain period) this cry rises up again and again: ‘You are not their father, but their tsar!’”
1909 letter to Bruno Walter

“A music-maker’s life, after all, offers nothing in the way of external events—he lives inwardly. It is probably rather significant that musicians take little interest in the visual arts; it is their nature to try to get to the bottom of things, to go beyond external appearances.”
1896 letter to Max Marschalk

"How can people forever think, that Nature lies on the surface! Of course it does, in its most superficial aspect. But those who, in the face of Nature, are not overwhelmed with awe at its infinite mystery, its divinity (we can only sense it, not comprehend or penetrate it)—these people have not come close to it. […] And in every work of art, which should be a reflection of nature, there must be a trace of this infinity.”
1900 letter to Natalie Bauer-Lechner