Gustav Mahler

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

Gustav Mahler (7 July 186018 May 1911) was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and conductor.


  • Ich weiß für mich, dass ich, solang ich mein Erlebnis in Worten zusammenfassen kann, gewiss keine Musik hierüber machen wuerde.
    • If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.
    • Variant: For myself I know that, as long as I can summarize my experience in words, I would certainly not make any music about it.


  • The point is not to take the world's opinion as a guiding star but to go one's way in life and working unerringly, neither depressed by failure nor seduced by applause.
  • A symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.
  • The longer you live and the more you learn, the more clearly you will feel the difference between the few men who are truly great and the mere virtuosi.
  • Don't bother looking at the view — I have already composed it.
  • If you think you're boring your audience, go slower not faster.
  • The important thing is never to let oneself be guided by the opinion of one's contemporaries; to continue steadfastly on one's way without letting oneself be either defeated by failure or diverted by applause.
  • What's best in music is not to be found in the notes.
  • Was ihr Theaterleute euere Tradition nennt, das ist nichts anderes als eure Bequemlichkeit und Schlamperei.
    • What the theater folks call tradition is nothing more than their laziness and sloppiness.
  • You couldn't imagine how this will sound!
    • To Natalie Bauer-Lechner of his third symphony
  • Try to imagine the whole universe beginning to ring and resound.
    • On the finale of his eighth symphony "Res Severa Verum Gaudia" (To Be Serious is the Greatest Joy)

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