Gustav Mahler was born July 7, 1860, in Kališt, Bohemia, Austrian Empire—died May 18, 1911, Vienna, Austria) When he was four years old, Gustav discovered his grandparent's piano and took to playing it immediately. He attended the Vienna Conservatory, where he studied piano and composition.
He wrote his first significant work, the cantata Das Klagende Lied in 1880, as he was eking out an existence by giving lessons. In 1880 Mahler became a conductor, and though his dictatorial manner was disliked and critics found his interpretations extreme, by 1886 he had achieved success in Prague. In 1880, he also began the first of his 10 symphonies which would become his main compositional legacy. In 1897 he was named director of the Vienna Opera; his stormy reign there was acknowledged as an artistic success. He moved to the Metropolitan Opera in 1908 and the New York Philharmonic in 1909–10. Ill with heart disease and mourning his daughter's death, he wrote the masterly orchestral song cycle Das Lied von der Erde in 1908–09 and his ninth symphony. His orchestral songs Des Knaben Wunderhorn (1892–98) and Kindertotenlieder (1904; Songs on the Deaths of Children) are frequently performed. He died on May 18, 1911 and left a legacy of emotionally charged and subtly orchestrated music. Although his music was largely ignored for 50 years after his death, he was later regarded as an important forerunner of 20th-century techniques of composition.