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BRUCKNER, Anton  (1824-1896) 

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Bruckner, (Josef) Anton, inspired Austrian composer; b. Ansfelden, Sept. 4,1824; d. Vienna, Oct. 11, 1896. He studied music with his father, a village schoolmaster and church organist; also took music lessons at Horsching with his cousin Johann Baptist Weiss. After his father’s death in 1837, Bruckner enrolled as a chorister at St. Florian, where he attended classes in organ, piano, violin, and music theory. In 1840—41 he entered the special school for educational training in Linz, where he received instruction from J.N.A. Durrnberger; he also studied music theory with Leopold Edler von Zenetti in Enns. While in his early youth, Bruckner held teaching positions in elementary public schools in Windhaag (1841—43) and Kronstorf (1843—45); later he occupied a responsible position as a schoolteacher at St. Florian (1845—55); also served as provisional organist there (1848—51). Despite his professional advance, he felt a lack of basic techniques in musical composition, and at the age of 31 went to Vienna to study harmony and counterpoint with the renowned pedagogue Simon Sechter. He continued his studies with him off and on until 1861. In 1856 he became cathedral organist in Linz, having successfully competed for this position against several applicants. Determined to acquire still more technical knowledge, he sought further instruction and began taking lessons in orchestration with Otto Kitzler, 1st cellist of the Linz municipal theater (1861—63). In the meantime he undertook an assiduous study of the Italian polyphonic school, and of masters of German polyphony, especially Bach. These tasks preoccupied him so completely that he did not engage in free composition until he was nearly 40 years old. Then he fell under the powerful influence of Wagner’s music, an infatuation that diverted him from his study of classical polyphony. In 1865 he attended the premiere of Tristan und Isolde in Munich, and met Wagner. He also made the acquaintance of Liszt in Pest, and of Berlioz during his visit in Vienna. His adulation of Wagner was extreme; the dedication of his 3rd Sym. to Wagner reads:
“To the eminent Excellency Richard Wagner the Unattainable, World-Famous, and Exalted Master of Poetry and Music, in Deepest Reverence Dedicated by Anton Bruckner.” Strangely enough, in his own music Bruckner never embraced the tenets and practices of Wagner, but followed the sanctified tradition of Germanic polyphony. Whereas Wagner strove toward the ideal union of drama, text, and music in a new type of operatic production, Bruckner kept away from the musical theater, confining himself to symphonic and choral music. Even in his harmonic techniques, Bruckner seldom followed Wagner’s chromatic style of writing, and he never tried to emulate the passionate rise and fall of Wagnerian “endless” melodies de
picting the characters of his operatic creations. To Bruckner, music was an apotheosis of symmetry; his syms. were cathedrals of Gothic grandeur; he never hesitated to repeat a musical phrase several times in succession so as to establish the thematic foundation of a work. The personal differences between Wagner and Bruckner could not be more striking: Wagner was a man of the world who devoted his whole life to the promotion of his artistic and human affairs, while Bruckner was unsure of his abilities and desperately sought recognition. Devoid of social graces, being a person of humble peasant origin, Bruckner was unable to secure the position of respect and honor that he craved. A signal testimony to this lack of self-confidence was Bruckner’s willingness to revise his works repeatedly, not always to their betterment, taking advice from conductors and ostensible well-wishers. He suffered from periodic attacks of depression; his entire life seems to have been a study of unhappiness, most particularly in his numerous attempts to find a woman who would become his life companion. In his desperation, he made halfhearted proposals in marriage to women of the people; the older he grew, the younger were the objects of his misguided affections; a notorious episode was his proposal of marriage to a chambermaid at a hotel in Berlin. Bruckner died a virgin.
Acommanding trait of Bruckner’s personality was his devout religiosity. To him the faith and the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church were not mere rituals but profound psychological experiences. Following the practice of Haydn, he signed most of his works with the words Omnia ad majorem Dei gloriam~ indeed, he must have felt that every piece of music he composed redounded to the greater glory of God. His original dedication of his Te Deum was actually inscribed “an dem lieben Gott.” From reports of his friends and contemporaries, it appears that he regarded each happy event of his life as a gift of God, and each disaster as an act of divine wrath. His yearning for secular honors was none the less acute for that. He was tremendously gratified upon receiving an honorary doctorate from the Univ. of Vienna in 1891; he was the 1st musician to be so honored there. He unsuccessfully solicited similar degrees from the univs. of Cambridge, Philadelphia, and even Cincinnati. He eagerly sought approval in the public press. When Emperor Franz Josef presented him with a snuff- box as a sign of Imperial favor, it is said that Bruckner pathetically begged the Emperor to order Hanslick to stop attacking him. Indeed, Hanslick was the nemesis of the so-called New German School of composition exemplified by Wagner and Liszt, and to a lesser extent, also by Bruckner. Wagner could respond to Hanslick’s hostility by caricaturing him in the role of Beckmesser (whom he had originally intended to name Hanslich), and Liszt, immensely successful as a virtuoso pianist, was largely immune to critical attacks. But Bruckner was highly vulnerable. It was not until the end of his unhappy life that, thanks to a group of devoted friends among conductors, Bruckner finally achieved a full recognition of his greatness.
Bruckner himself was an inadequate conductor, but he was a master organist. In 1869 he appeared in organ recitals in France, and in 1871 he visited England, giving performances in the Royal Albert Hall and the Crystal Palace in London. He was also esteemed as a pedagogue. In 1868 he succeeded his own teacher Sechter as prof. of harmony, counterpoint, and organ at the Vienna Cons.; also in 1868 he was named provisional court organist, an appointment formally confirmed in 1878. Concurrently he taught piano, organ, and music theory at St. Anna College in Vienna (1870-74). In 1875 he was appointed lecturer in harmony and counterpoint at the Univ. of Vienna. In failing health, Bruckner retired from the Vienna Cons. in 1891 and a year later relinquished his post as court organist; in 1894 he resigned his lecturer’s position at the Univ. of Vienna. The remaining years of his life he devoted to the composition of his 9th Sym., which, however, remained unfinished at his death.
Bruckner’s syms. constitute a monumental achievement; they are characterized by a striking display of originality and a profound spiritual quality. His sacred works are similarly
expressive of his latent genius. Bruckner is usually paired with Mahler, who was a generation younger, but whose music embodied qualities of grandeur akin to those that permeated the symphonic and choral works of Bruckner. Accordingly, Bruckner and Mahler societies sprouted in several countries, with the express purpose of elucidating, analyzing, and promoting their music.
The textual problems concerning Bruckner’s works are numerous and complex. He made many revisions of his scores, and dejectedly acquiesced in alterations suggested by conductors who expressed interest in his music. As a result, conflicting versions of his syms. appeared in circulation. With the founding of the International Bruckner Soc., a movement was begun to publ. the original versions of his MSS, the majority of which he bequeathed to the Hofbibliothek in Vienna. A complete ed. of Bruckner’s works, under the supervision of Robert Hans and Alfred Orel, began to appear in 1930; in:
1945 Leopold Nowak was named its editor in chief. An excellent explication of the textual problems concerning Bruckner’s works is found in Deryck Cook’s article “The B. Problem Simplified,” in the Musical Times (Jan-Feb., April-May, and Aug. 1969). For a complete catalogue of his works, see R. Grasberger, ed., Werkverzeichnis A. B. (Tutzing, 1977).
WORKS:    Bruckner rejected his 1st sym. asa student work; it is in F minor and is known as his Schul-Symphonie or StudiesSymphonie (Study Sym.; 1863; movements 1, 2, and 4 1st perf. under Moissl, Klosterneuburg, March 18,1924; movement 3 1st perf. under Moissl, Klosterneuburg, Oct. 12,1924). A 2nd early sym., in D minor, apparently held some interest for him, as he marked it No. 0, “Die Nullte” (1863-64; rev. 1869; movements 3 and 4 1st perf. under Moissl, Klostemeuburg, May 17, 1924; 1st complete perf. under Moassl, Klosterneuburg, Oct. 12, 1924). The following list of his 9 syms. is the standard canon: No. 1, in C minor (Version I “Linz” 1865-66; 1st perf., with minor additions and alterations, under Bruckner, Linz, May 9,1868; Version II, “Vienna,” 1890-91, a thorough revision; 1st perf. under Richter, Vienna, Dec. 13, 1891); No. 2, in C minor (Version I, 1871-72; 1st perf., with minor revisions, under Bruckner, Vienna, Oct. 26, 1873; Version II, 1876-77, with cuts and alterations); No. 3, in D minor, the “Wagner” Sym. (Version 1,1873; 1st perf. in the Nowak ed. under SchOnzeler, Adelaide, March 19, 1978; Version II, 1876-77, a thorough revision; 1st perf. under Bruckner, Vienna, Dec. 16, 1877; Version III, 1888-89, a thorough revision; 1st perf. under Richter, Vienna, Dec. 21, 1890; a 2nd Adagio [1876], unrelated to the other versions, was 1st perf. under C. Abbado, Vienna, May 24, 1980); No. 4, in E-flat major, the “Romantic” Sym. (Version I, 1874; 1st perf. in the Nowak ed. under K. Woss, Linz, Sept. 20, 1975; Version II, 1877- 78, with Finale of 1880, a thorough revision with a new Scherzo;
1st perf. under Richter, Vienna, Feb. 20, 1881; Version III,1887-88, a major revision by Lowe, including a new Finale;
1st perf. under Richter, Vienna, Jan. 22, 1888); No. 5, in B- flat major (1875-76; minor revisions, 1876-78; 1st perf. in a recomposed version by F. Schalk, under his direction, Gras, April 8, 1894; 1st perf. in the Haas ed. under Hausegger, Munich, Oct. 20, 1935); No. 6, in A major (1879-81; Adagio and Scherzo under Jahn, Vienna, Feb. 11,1883; with major cuts, under Mahler, Vienna, Feb. 26, 1899; 1st complete perf. under Pohlig, Stuttgart, March 14, 1901); No. 7, in E major (1881-83; 1st perf. under Nikisch, Leipzig, Dec. 30, 1884); No. 8, in C minor (Version 1,1884-87; 1st perf. in the Nowak ed. under SchOnzeler, BBC, London, Sept. 2,1973; Version II, 1889-90, a thorough revision; 1st perf. under Richter, Vienna, Dec. 18, 1892; 1st perf. in the Haas ed. [a composite version of I and II] under Furtwangler, Hamburg, July 5, 1939); No. 9, in D minor (movements 1-3, 1887-94; Finale [unfinished], 1894-96; 1st perf. in a recomposed version by LOwe, under his direction, Vienna, Feb. 11, 1903, with Brucknes~s Te Deum substituted for the Finale; 1st perf. in the Haas ed. under Hausegger, Munich, April 2,1932). Other major works are 3 masses: D minor (1864; Linz, Nov. 20, 1864; rev. 1876 and 1881); E minor (1866; Linz, Sept. 29, 1869; rev. 1869, 1876 and 1882); F minor (1867-68; Vienna, June 16, 1872; iyrevisions); String Quintet in F major (1878-79); Te Deum (1881; rev. 1883-84; 1st perf. with orch. under Richter, Viin,Jan. 10,1886); Psalm 150(1892; Vienna, Nov. 13, 1892). cted minor works are a Mass in C major (1842?); Requiem minor (1848-49; St. Florian, March 13, 1849); Missa muds in B-flat minor (1854; St. Florian, Sept. 14, 1854); Iwnarsch for Military Band (1862; authenticity not estabmd); March in D minor for Orch. (1862); 3 orch. pieces major, E minor, and F major (1862); String Quartet minor (1862); Overture in G minor (1862-63; Klostemeuj Sept. 8, 1921); Gerinanenzug for Male Choir and Brass nlments (1863); March in E-flat major for Military Band 5);Abendzauber for Male Choir and 4 Horns (1878); Interw for String Quintet (1879); Helgoland for Male Choir Orch. (1893); other choral settings; motets; etc.