The great composer and conductor, Gustav Mahler, lived in or visited Vienna at various times during his life. It was here that he also died in 1911. Use the map and links below to find your way to the more resonant sites associated with his life and work in the city.
- See also: Famous composers in Vienna
(Video: an introduction to the Gustav Mahler room at the state opera house)
Mahler remains indelibly connected to Vienna through his tenure in charge of the State Opera House, where he was director from 1897 to 1907. Experts credit him with turning the Hofoper (as it was then called) into a world-class institution.
As well as introducing various reforms, Mahler also worked on the creative side of operations. The Hofoper performed his production of Beethoven’s Fidelio 35 times, for example, and he conducted at five of those.
(The Mahler star outside the Staatsoper)
One of the rooms where you can enjoy an interval drink is named after him (the Gustav Mahler-Saal). It houses, for example, a travelling piano that once belonged to the celebrated composer.
The square immediately to the east of the Staatsoper has Mahler’s star embedded in the pavement (look opposite the fountain).
Other concert venues
(The Mahler plaque outside the Konzerthaus)
Inevitably, Mahler performed at Vienna’s top concert venue during his time at the Hofoper: a bust inside the Musikverein pays tribute to this connection.
Although Mahler died before completion of the Konzerthaus, a 1945 plaque on the wall outside Vienna’s other major concert venue commemorates the “return” of his work to the city (my interpretation of the inscription). Nazi-run Austria had previously deemed Mahler’s music as degenerate.
Mahler also conducted a brief arrangement of Beethoven at the Secession building for the opening of the celebrated Beethoven art exhibition put on by Gustav Klimt and colleagues. Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze (still on view at the Secession) allegedly includes Mahler depicted as the Golden Knight.
Mahler’s death and grave
A seriously-ill Mahler returned to Vienna from New York in May, 1911, and was taken immediately to the Loew Sanitorium in Vienna’s 9th district. He died there just a few days later on May 18th. A plaque outside commemorates the event.
The funeral took place on May 22nd at Grinzing cemetery. Mahler’s grave consists of little more than a large, plain stone block with a grassy patch in front. It’s not far from the cemetery’s main entrance and close to the grave of his wife, Alma Mahler-Werfel.
Other Mahler locations
Musical Instrument Collection: the Neue Burg wing of the Hofburg palace provides a home for the Historical Musical Instrument Collection, which is part of the Kunsthistorisches Museum group of museums and collections.
One of the many keyboard instruments on display is a 1902 piano that belonged to Mahler.
Karlskirche: this beautiful 1737 church towers over Karlsplatz square. It was here that Gustav Mahler married Alma Schindler in 1902.
Haus der Musik: think of the Haus der Musik as a museum of music and sounds. One floor has rooms dedicated to individual composers, including one for Mahler. As well as photos and other pieces of memorabilia, the museum has one of Mahler’s travelling caps and a score for the Marriage of Figaro with Mahler’s handwritten notes scribbled on it.
Auenbruggergasse 2: Mahler lived for most of his Hofoper years in an apartment opposite Lower Belvedere Palace. Otto Wagner designed the building around 1890 and a small plaque outside reminds passersby of its one-time famous musical occupant. The text reads (my translation):
Gustav Mahler lived and composed in this house from 1898 to 1909
Mahlerstraße: Pop out of the State Opera House’s east entrances and you’ll find yourself opposite Mahlerstrasse, a street leading away down from Hotel Bristol (where Mahler once stayed) and along the edge of Vienna’s picturesque old town.
You might consider the street name representative of the entirety of Austrian history. Created in the late 1800s, it first bore the name, Maximilianstraße, after the brother of the Emperor of the time. Then in 1919, when Vienna began to disassociate itself from the now defunct Habsburg Monarchy, it became Mahlerstraße. Then it became Meistersingerstraße in 1938, named for a Richard Wagner opera (thank you, Hitler), before reverting to Mahlerstraße in 1946 (shortly after Vienna’s “liberation” from the Nazis).
Upper Belvedere palace: I spotted the famous bust of Mahler by Rodin among the artworks on the Klimt floor of the Upper Belvedere museum.