The last of the great late-romantic composers, Gustav Mahler was born in Austria in 1860. Although born in the Jewish faith, he converted to Catholicism in 1897 but held a more expansive philosophy than either religion offered. Mahler began studying piano, harmony, and composition at the Vienna Conservatory at the age of 15. At the age of 20, he began conducting and held positions at the Budapest Imperial Opera (1880--90), the Hamburg Municipal Theater (1891--97), the Vienna State Opera (1897--1907), the Metropolitan Opera House of New York (1908--10), and the New York Philharmonic (1909--11). As a conductor, Mahler held his orchestras to very high standards, but it was as a composer of symphonies that he is best remembered and revered. Mahler completed nine symphonies and, at his death, left one unfinished which was later completed by another composer. He also wrote five series of songs for solo voices with orchestra. The last of these---"The Song of the Earth" (1908)---was first performed after Mahler's death and is thought by many music experts to be his finest work. In it, he expresses feelings of pleasure and foreboding, both of which characterized the mood of the late romantic period. Mahler's work often mixed simplicity with sophistication, lofty ideas with strong feelings, and the grotesque or fantastic with the common and ordinary. While Mahler's symphonies are regarded as the high point of the romantic period, they also include elements that foreshadowed the age to follow, influencing such composers as Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton von Webern.