Gustav Mahler

Jens Malte Fischer, Author
Jens Malte Fisher, trans. from the German by Stewart Spencer. Yale Univ., $50 (706p) ISBN 978-0-300-13444-5
Hardcover - 777 pages - 978-0-300-17219-5
Hardcover - 978-83-00-13444-1
Paperback - 766 pages - 978-0-300-19411-1
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Fischer's exhaustive portrayal uncovers everything one might want to know about Mahler, supplementing it with beautiful descriptions of his music and historical portraits of the cities and people that Mahler moved among during his remarkable life. Hard facts masterfully intertwine with vivid descriptions while emotional states are illuminated through surviving letters or contemporaries' accounts to grant the reader a compelling view of late 19th century Central Europe's cosmopolitan reaches. Fischer's portrait successfully alternates between biographical details and close analysis of his symphonies, revealing the link between his creative production and the conditions that made it possible. Less effective are points where one plods through excessively minute and personal details, but the reader is ultimately rewarded with surprising, delightful sections like the careful and sympathetic portrayal of Mahler's wife's infidelities or Fischer's own musings on "How Men of Genius Die.” The biographer's passion for his subject is evident, allowing the reader to vicariously enjoy a figure who is as moody, shrewd, and argumentative as he is "sensitive, humorous, and full of understanding.” (Aug.)
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