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Anton Bruckner

Langue disponible : anglais
Although Anton Bruckner wrote a great deal of sacred choral music (including not only his grandly conceived Mass No. 3, but also his more intimate Mass No. 2 and his astringent motets, which fuse Renaissance and 19th century techniques), he is best known for his symphonies: two unnumbered apprentice works, eight completed mature symphonies, and the first three movements of a Ninth. (The finale has been reconstructed by several hands, but most performances include just the movements Bruckner completed.) The symphonies, influenced to some extent by Wagner and identified with his school by the Viennese public, are monumental: expansive in scale, rigorous (if sometimes gigantist) in formal design, and often elaborate in their contrapuntal writing. Their sonorities are stately and organ-like; the Viennese critic Graf wrote that Bruckner "pondered over chords and chord associations as a medieval architect contemplated the original forms of a Gothic cathedral." Despite occasional folk influences in the scherzos, his symphonies are uniformly high-minded, even religious, in spirit. Together, they form the weightiest body of symphonies between Schubert (whom he greatly admired) and Mahler. Bruckner was born in the town of Ansfelden, Austria, on September 4, 1824, the son of a schoolmaster/church musician and the eldest of 11 children. His first music teacher was his father, and at ten, he was deputized for his father as organist at church and made his first attempts at composition. At 13, the year of his father's death, he was accepted as a choirboy at St. Florian, which, however far afield he would travel, was to become his lifelong spiritual home. He spent the first years of his career as a choirmaster for a group of monks and teaching in various parishes, one of which was close to Enns, where he studied with Leopold von Zenetti beginning in 1843. In 1845 he returned to St. Florian as organist and teacher and remained there for the next decade. He next began studying composition and counterpoint with Simon Sechter, primarily by mail. Until this point, Bruckner's output consisted mostly of sacred choral music and organ pieces, but now he would start to expand his horizons. He passed exams at the Vienna Conservatory in 1861, and then, the 37-year-old student approached cellist/conductor Otto Kitzler for lessons in form and orchestration. Around the same time, he created his first large works, including a Symphony in D minor that he later derisively named "die Nullte," the Symphony No. 0. Kitzler had introduced Bruckner to Wagner's Tannhäuser in 1863, and Bruckner was present at the premiere of Tristan und Isolde in 1865. He remained a near-fanatical admirer of Wagner, but the extent to which his own vast musical structures were modeled on Wagner's is a matter of debate. His symphonies sometimes show a spirituality similar to his sacred choral works, which he also continued to write. Bruckner landed a teaching post at the Vienna Conservatory in 1868, but always retained something of his original rustic character. An often-repeated anecdote tells how he gave a tip to the aristocratic conductor Hans Richter after a successful rehearsal of his Symphony No. 4, telling Richter to go and buy himself a beer. Musical life in cosmopolitan Vienna at the time was split between two schools, the Wagnerians and the Brahmsians. The resulting criticism of his music from the Brahms faction, plus his own lifelong self-doubt are generally seen as the main reasons for his multiple revisions of many of his major works. Bruckner also gave organ performances throughout Europe in this period, impressing audiences with his improvisations that often produced ideas he would use in the symphonies. The Symphony No. 7 (1881-1883) was successfully premiered in Leipzig and New York before being revised and performed in Vienna in 1886. The Eighth brought a standing ovation when premiered in Vienna under Richter in 1892, with even Brahms heartily joining the applause. It was dedicated to Emperor Franz Joseph I, who had decorated Bruckner with the Order of Franz Joseph in 1886 and supported the composer in his final year. The last years of his life were spent in ill-health and working on the Ninth Symphony, but it would never be completed. Bruckner died in Vienna on October 11, 1896, and was buried in the crypt at St. Florian, below the "Bruckner Organ."
© TiVo Staff /TiVo
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