Gustav Mahler, (1860-1911) an Austro-Bohemian was one of the 19th century's leading composers of vocal and symphonic music. He was also a renowned conductor.

His Symphony No. 8 in E Flat Major (a key also hugely favoured by Richard Wagner) was composed in a burst of creativity in 1906, but was not performed in its entirety until 1910, when he conducted it himself in Munich - the last of his works to be premiered.

Mahler liked to blend orchestral and vocal music, and unlike Beethoven's choral symphony, where the singers only appear at the end, they feature all the way through in this work, drawing on Goethe's iconic "Faust" drama as well as Latin hymns, and with a dramatic conclusion extolling the "Ewig-Weibliche" - the eternal feminine.

Of Jewish heritage, Mahler was banned by the Nazis, but has now been one of the world's most popular composers for decades, and this work is amongst his best known.

Though it does call on enormous vocal and orchestral forces, "thousand" is something of an exaggeration, and Mahler himself never sanctioned the name, but the work is now universally known by it.

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