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There are many books on Mahler. Why is this one my favorite?
The first half of the book tells, in good detail and with biographical sources, the story of the life of the Late Romantic composer, Gustav Mahler. Lots of books do that, though few do it as well as Egon Gartenberg.
For me, the big bonus is the second half of the book, which offers commentary and explanations of each of Mahler's works, in chronological order. Usually, it tells when and where the work was written, and next goes into a description of just what each work deals with. Sometimes the explanations are several pages long. This is just the book to have at hand when you're about to listen to any of Mahler's music. It will help you get more out of the music, and understand even more deeply why Gustav Mahler was such a remarkable man, and why for so many people his music is so meaningful.
I agree with the other review posted here. Gartenberg's "Mahler" is not only a good overview of Mahler's life and musical career, Gartenberg also lends good, solid insight into Mahler's bigger-than-life symphonies, as well as his more intimate vocal settings. Those who need more insight and understanding into Mahler as a person (and personally, I think there's a limit to that) should probably spring for the much larger Jens Malte Fischer biography on Mahler. But I do think that Gartenberg is far better and more succinct in discussing the music. For most folks, this will do just fine.