Mahler was a wanderer in two senses: as an enthusiastic explorer of nature and as an eternal seeker of a spiritual home. From his Bohemian, Austrian, German and Jewish identity, the composer reached for the expressive power of music to give expression to this divided self. Overcoming this restlessness, he sought comfort in a higher sphere: in nature while swimming, cycling and hiking. Thus Mahler also tried in his works to portray our humble place in the endlessness around us.
Mahler first came to Steinbach am Attersee in the summer of 1893, and the breathtaking surroundings worked wonders on Mahler's creativity. In the course of four summers (until 1896) he completed half a dozen songs and two enormous symphonies (2nd and 3rd) in his specially built composer's cottage.
Gustav Mahler was born in July 1860 as a child of Jewish parents in Kalischt, today's Czech Republic. As the second oldest of a total of 14 children, he spent most of his youth in the Moravian town of Iglau.
Mahler was highly talented: at the age of six he was already giving music lessons and at 15 he went to the conservatory in Vienna. Just 20, he began an unparalleled career as a conductor and opera director. Via Ljubljana, Kassel, Prague, Leipzig, Budapest and Hamburg, his path finally led him to Vienna at the Court Opera, today's State Opera.
During his Viennese years 1897-1907 Gustav Mahler was at the height of his career. He introduced groundbreaking reforms in the hitherto traditional opera business: he did away with antiquated stage decorations and rigidly posing singers. He combined stage design, plot and music into a dramatic whole; his innovations were the beginning of modern opera production.
In Vienna, however, Mahler's private longings were also fulfilled. He was baptized and converted to Catholicism, also for fear of anti-Semitic obstacles. In March 1902 he married Alma Schindler, whom he adored passionately. She was fascinated by Mahler as a personality and conductor. Although Alma was an artist herself and had grown up in the circle of Gustav Klimt and Max Klinger, Mahler insisted that Alma devote herself solely to her duties as wife and mother. The couple spent the summer months together with their two daughters Maria Anna (*1902) and Anna Justine (*1904). During this time, however, Mahler was so immersed in his compositions that they seldom did anything together. Even the tragic death of their older daughter in 1907 did not strengthen the bond between Gustav and Alma Mahler.
In 1908 Mahler moved to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, but returned to Vienna in 1911, where he died on 18 May of the same year. Alma Mahler later played an important role in society as the host of an artists' salon, married the architect Walter Gropius and later the poet Franz Werfel, but was celebrated as "Gustav Mahler's widow" until the end of her life.
Gustav Mahler loved holidays at the Attersee and resided in the Gasthof zum Höllengebirge in Steinbach am Attersee during the summer months of the years 1893 to 1896.
The breathtaking surroundings worked wonders on Mahler's creativity; in the course of four summers he created half a dozen songs and two enormous symphonies here. In order to get even closer to nature and to be able to work in peace, the composer had a little house built on the meadow by the lakeside, which still exists and has become a major attraction for Mahler lovers around the world.
The Gustav Mahler Festival in Steinbach is a celebration of several days around the composer's birthday on 7 July.
Every year musical gems as well as cultural and historical insights into the area around this historic site are presented.
The programme deliberately provides enough time for all participants to exchange ideas and enjoy the breathtaking natural scenery to celebrate Mahler's inspiration in all its facets.