For some, Anton Bruckner (pictured) was one of the great symphonists to come out of the nineteenth century. Nowadays, his works are performed around the world and are a regular feature of the repertoire. There are many recordings of the nine numbered symphonies. But for a long time, his reputation languished and there was a major effort to recognise his genius in the 1960’s.
At the last meeting of the Society, Terry Barfoot gave an illustrated history of the composer and played four movements from 4 different symphonies to illustrate his work. Bruckner was born in Ansfelden in Austria in 1824, the son of a school teacher. He himself became a school teacher. He was an organist of prodigious ability and toured Europe mostly playing improvisations. Little of this survives. He was the first to play the organ at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
One can hear the influence of the organ in his music. As Terry put it:
[…] the sound-world of the organ in the resonant acoustic of a great cathedral is relevant in his symphonies, as of course it is in his religious works. From Wagner he derived his long time-spans, his weighty brass writing and expressive string textures, while another recurring was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and especially its opening […]
He was clearly a late developer as a composer and Terry made the point that had he died at the same age as Schubert (31) he would today be completely unknown.
He was deeply religious and trained as a musician at the monastery church at Sankt Florian a place he was to return to throughout his life especially when he was depressed. He was also organist in Linz.
Like so many composers – indeed artists generally – he was not appreciated fully in his lifetime. The famous critic Eduard Hanslick gave him a hard time and his time with the Vienna Philharmonic was not a success.
Terry put together a programme to illustrate his range and development as a composer. Bruckner is something of a challenge in the context of a Society evening as the expansiveness of his music does not lend itself to short extracts! He played the following:
- Motet: Locus Iste
- Symphony No. 8 first movement
- Symphony No. 6 second movement
- Symphony No. 4 third movement
- Symphony No. 7 fourth movement
Together with photographs of locations around Austria where Bruckner lived or worked this was an interesting and illuminating evening. We were grateful to Terry Barfoot for putting it together.
Terry runs Arts in Residence
Note: the next meeting is not for 3 weeks because of Easter