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A century after his death, Gustav Mahler is the most important composer of modern times. Displacing Beethoven as a box-office draw, his music offers more than the usual listening satisfactions. Many believe it has the power to heal emotional wounds and ease the pain of death. Others struggle with the intellectual fascination of its contradictory meanings. Long, loud and seldom easy, his symphonies are used to accompany acts of mourning and Hollywood melodramas. Sometimes dismissed as death-obsessed, Mahler is more alive in the 21st century than ever before.

Why Mahler? Why does a Jewish musician from a land without a name capture the yearnings and anxieties of post-industrial society? Is it the music, it is the man, or is it the affinity we feel with his productive peak - a decade when Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Joyce and Mahler reconfigured the ways we understand life on earth?

In this highly original account of Mahler's life and work, Norman Lebrecht - renowned writer, critic and cultural commentator - explores the Mahler Effect, a phenomenon that reaches deep into unsuspecting lives, altering the self-perceptions of world leaders, finance chiefs and working musicians. Why Mahler? is a multi-layered exploration of the role that music plays as a soundtrack to our lives.

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