A Short History of

The Gustav Mahler Society of New York


Young Gustav Mahler


The Gustav Mahler Society of New York was founded in 1976, but had its genesis in 1975 as a result of an article by dance critic, journalist, and current member of the board Doris Diether. She had interviewed fellow Greenwich Village resident, art critic and collector Nancy Karlins, co-founder and also a current board member, for a feature in the newspaper The Villager. When Doris returned some material she had borrowed from Nancy, she was accompanied by her husband, the distinguished music critic Jack Diether. While the two women talked, Jack made a beeline for the many records in Nancy's apartment. Soon he was excitedly plucking Mahler recordings from the shelf.

It was only later that Nancy realized she had met that Jack Diether, the noted authority on Bruckner and Mahler. Records, phone calls, and visits were exchanged. Information on the latest Mahler performances was shared. Nancy asked Jack why there was no group in New York devoted to Mahler and suggested that he start one. He said he couldn't do it alone. She agreed to help, and The New York Mahlerites was born.

Beginning with a viewing of Ken Russell's film on Mahler and dinner at a Chinese restaurant afterward to analyze it, which led to many passionate discussions, a nucleus of Mahler lovers began to meet after concerts. Lectures were organized, and chamber performances of the Piano Quartet, orchestral transcriptions, and songs by both Gustav and Alma, including some American premieres, were presented. The festive “Happy Birthday Gustav” Dinner, each year on or around July 7 at a restaurant in NYC, has been a tradition since 1976.

While the plethora of Mahler performances makes organizing them no longer necessary, the group, now called The Gustav Mahler Society of New York, still dispenses lists of Mahler concerts every season, invites noted musicologists and critics to lecture, and now has its own website to help keep other Mahler lovers up to date. The group also provides members with discounted books and concert tickets as well as periodic newsletters that report on Mahler events throughout the world.

After the sad passing of Jack Diether, Gerald Fox was elected president and now carries on the work that Jack directed so well for more than ten years. Many of Jack's archival recordings and unpublished or out-of-print writings will be made available through the Society to members and others interested in Mahler in the years ahead.

Whether called the New York Mahlerites or The Gustav Mahler Society of New York, they remain—as the Soho Weekly News said of them—“admirably bananas for Mahler.”