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, 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. A festive “Happy Birthday Gustav” dinner, held each year on or around July 7 at a New York restaurant, has been a tradition since 1976. As the Soho Weekly News once said of them, the group was “admirably bananas for Mahler.”
After the sad passing of Jack Diether in 1987, Gerald S. Fox, known to all as Jerry, was elected president, to carry on the work that Jack directed so well for more than ten years. Jerry has lectured extensively on Mahler, and regularly reviewed Mahler recordings for American Record Guide.
In January 2009, after 22 years of leadership, Jerry Fox retired as president, and was succeeded by long-time vice-president Lewis M. Smoley. Lew is the author of "The Symphonies of Gustav Mahler: A Critical Discography" and "Gustav Mahler's Symphonies: Critical Commentary on Recordings Since 1986"; together, the two volumes review virtually every recording of Mahler's music, from the early days of the gramophone through 1996.
While the plethora of Mahler performances makes organizing them no longer necessary, the group, now called The Gustav Mahler Society of New York, invites noted musicologists and critics to lecture, and maintains this website to help keep other Mahler lovers up to date, with information on Mahler concerts and related events. The group also provides members with discounts on books, CDs, DVDs, and concert tickets, as well as the periodic newsletter Wunderhorn, which offers in-depth writing on concerts, recordings and other Mahler related issues.