Gustav Mahler: betrayed love and endocarditis lenta


  • Eva Cybulska independent scholar



Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), a renown Austrian composer, died of subacute bacterial endocarditis, when antibiotic treatment was not yet available. Earlier in his life, he developed a mitral stenosis with systolic murmur which was a legacy of frequent throat infections and rheumatic fever which he had as a child. This condition was diagnosed accidentally when he was age forty-seven. Throughout his adult life, however, Mahler was asymptomatic and became a very successful conductor and musical director, as well as a prolific composer. His preoccupation with fate and death was notorious, probably having its roots in many deaths of his young siblings. The fatal blow came in a form of betrayal by his beloved wife, Alma, who had a love affair with a younger man. This sudden abandonment constituted a severe emotional stress, which superimposed on other past and present adverse events in his life, weakened his immune system. He developed bacteraemia-cum-endocarditis and finally succumbed to a cruel fate, a theme that repeatedly appears in his music.

Key words

Mahler, endocarditis, betrayal, immune system, fate



Author Biography

Eva Cybulska, independent scholar

independent scholar


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