We've had two Gustav Mahler jubilee years in a row. Last year was his 150th birthday, this year is the 100th anniversary of his death. (Those of you clever at math can figure out how long he lived.)

It's somehow more appropriate to commemorate his death year because he was somewhat death-obsessed. One of his most famous pieces is the Kindertotenlieder, which translates as "Songs on the death of children." He also was extremely superstitious about writing a ninth symphony. He felt that if he tried to go beyond Beethoven, he would die. So after writing eight symphonies, the next symphony he wrote, he did not call a symphony: he called it Das Lied von der Erde (the Song of the Earth). Thinking he had cheated the curse of the ninth, he then wrote a genuine ninth symphony, started a tenth, and died before the tenth was finished.

Mahler, however, is not widely known outside of the heavy-duty classical music fans. Which is a shame, because his music is amazing. He is perhaps best known for his gradiose orchestral arrangements--few composers sound as big as Mahler. But beyond that, he was an incredible melodist: his melodies can range from simple, folksy beauty to passages of pure sublimity.

Here's an example of Mahler at his folksiest:



And if you've watched Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, you've heard Mahler. That episode contains a long excerpt from the first movement of Mahler's Symphony No. 8, one of the most massive pieces of music ever composed. It's just so big that the best you can do is swim in the music like an ocean.