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A Bruckner Adventure

February 3, 2013

Often misunderstood and thrown away as a superficial, third-rate composer, Anton Bruckner faced dissent during his life and even after his death. He never heard some of his pieces performed, and audiences walked out during other premieres. Even today, many musicians pass off Bruckner as a not-quite-Mahler. They are very wrong.

This critic took great interest in Bruckner after hearing The Cleveland Orchestra pull off a stunning performance of his Fifth Symphony a number of years ago. As a musician and active listener, I know that there is much more to Bruckner than he may seem. Thus, I am embarking on something I will call the Bruckner Project: reviewing a complete set of Bruckner symphonies in several weeks. The first Bruckner I ever owned, the set was recorded by Staatskapelle Dresden and Eugen Jochum. However, before I review (starting as soon as possible), I must give some background on the composer and the orchestra.

Bruckner was born on September 4, 1826 in Austria. A talented musician from an early age, he was a choir boy at the St. Florian monastery. After childhood, he became a teacher, and then a church organist. He began composing, and soon became a full-time musician. He was extremely religious, and rumor has it that he would drop to the ground in prayer when he heard church bells (this cannot be verified). Also, despite having been blessed with great gifts, he did spend time in a sanatorium. He also had a passion for teenage girls, and even nicknamed his First Symphony the “saucy maid”.

During his lifetime, his music was torn apart by critics who did not agree with his style, and his works were not remotely appreciated until the very end of his life, when he was to old to do much more. Of all composers, Bruckner was one of the biggest late bloomers.

The Staatskapelle Dresden is a very old orchestra. Founded in 1548 as a court orchestra, the Staatskapelle is rich with history. The orchestra’s webpage claims,”over its long history many distinguished conductors and internationally celebrated instrumentalists have left their mark on this one-time court orchestra.” However, the Staatskapelle is no ordinary European Orchestra. Unlike many orchestras today that produce an international, common sound, the Dresden sound is unique and identifiable. Listeners describe it as tart, salty, and very dry. They are perhaps the most clean-sounding orchestra in the world.

The few who listen to Bruckner tend to hear the Vienna or Berlin Philharmonic versions of the 7th and 8th symphonies and nothing else. During the Bruckner Project, I plan to uncover everything! Let us make it a goal to bring Bruckner into the spotlight he truly merits (despite the many affairs he may have had!). Hopefully, Anton Bruckner will posthumously become as famous as he should be.

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From → Bruckner Project

One Comment
  1. thank you, look forward to your sharing, it’s so nice to hear you mention Staatskapelle Dresden!

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