Gustav Mahler



Here are some famous and not-so-famous quotes by the composer, giving an idea of his views on music, with special emphasis on his symphonies.

"I am three times homeless: a Bohemian in Austria, an Austrian among the Germans, and a Jew throughout the world, everywhere an intruder, never welcomed."

"You will see: I will not live to see the victory of my cause! Everything I write is too strange and new for the listeners, who cannot find a bridge to me."

“We modern people need such a large apparatus to express our thoughts whether great or small.”

“The artist-like everyone else-draws all material and form from the surrounding world, though in a different and more extensive sense. Whether one's relationship with nature is happy and harmonious, painful and miserable, or hostile and defiant, or whether one considers nature from a lofty standpoint with humor and irony, these attitudes provide the basis for an artistic style that is beautiful and sublime, sentimental, tragic, or humorous and ironic.”

"Destiny smiles upon me but without making me the least bit happier."

"My time will come.....when Strauss's has passed."

"Man lives in greatest pain."

"If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music."

"The point is not to take the world's opinion as a guding star but to go one's way in life and work unerringly, neither depressed by failure nor seduced by applause."

"When I have reached a summit, I leave it with great reluctance, unless it is to reach for another, higher one."

"A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything."


“What kind of a world is this that casts forth such sounds and shapes as a reflection. Something like the death march followed by the outbreak of a storm seem to me like the burning accusation of the creator.”

“But by no means do I suggest the First Symphony: that one is very difficult to understand.”

“I played my First Symphony with the orchestra, which behaved splendidly and was obviously well-prepared. Several times I had chills running down my back. Confound it, where do the people have their ears and hearts that they don't get this!”


"Everything sounds as if it is coming from another world.”

To Richard Strauss: “In recent weeks I have completed the final movement of my Second Symphony. When you hear it you will understand why I had to do something other than correct my shed skin (meaning his First Symphony). I have grown a new one-a better fit. In fact, my new work in relation to the one you know is like a man to a newborn baby.”


“My Symphony will be unlike anything the world has ever heard! All of nature speaks in it, telling deep secrets that one might guess only in a dream!”

“But now it is the world, nature in its entirety, that awakens from unfathomable silence to ringing and resounding.”


“I am still living somewhat in the world of my Fourth. It is basically different from my other symphonies. But it must be that way; it would be impossible for me to repeat myself, and just as life moves on, I likewise explore new paths in every new work.”


“The Fifth is finished-I had to re-orchestrate it almost completely. It is hard to believe that at the time I could have written again like a beginner, as though I had completely forgotten the routine of the first four symphonies. A completely new style demanded a new technique.

“The Fifth is a cursed work. No one comprehends it.”


“My Sixth will be asking riddles that can be solved only by a generation that has received and digested my first five.”


“It is my best work and predominantly of a cheerful character.”


“Here I am immersed in many notes! I have just completed my Eighth. It is the greatest I have composed thus far. It is so unique in content and form that it does not lend itself to description. Imagine that the universe begins to sound and ring out. These no longer are human voices, rather planets and suns that are circling.

“All my previous symphonies are merely the preludes to this one. In the other works everything still was subjective tragedy, but this one is a source of great joy.”