What I Like About...
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
  Virga Jesse
Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 9 Track 37

It is not difficult to find people who dislike Mr. Bruckner's music. You may recall the tour bus metaphor offered by Tom Strini last March (which I came across via Alex Ross). And I do not think I could distance myself from opinions like Mr. Strini's too easily. As much as I admire maestro Skrowaczewski, I have not followed his admiration for Bruckner. However, I have not ignored Bruckner entirely either and perhaps, in the future, I may be able to appreciate the substance of Mr. Bruckner's musical effort.

It seems that Bruckner's current fame is due to his symphonic output and specifically his Symphony Number 9. Which makes the choice of this piece, for a cappella choir, an interesting choice for the anthology. I am not sure that an excerpt of a Bruckner symphony would have shown us anything we had not already seen in the Marche au supplice and I suspect that, unlike Berlioz, Bruckner does not do well in excerpts. With this choice we have a complete Bruckner work without taking too much time that shows a beautiful concern for music of antiquity blended with a personal creative spark.

The most lovely feature of this very modern choral writing is that the dynamics are a vital part of the thematic material. Not being familiar with the modern choral repertoire I hoped to find some commentary on this piece over at the Fredösphere. No such luck. Was it there and I simply could not find it? At any rate, this piece would be a good one to serve as an introduction to Bruckner. It shows the straightforwardness and inventiveness of the man in a way that does not ask too much of the listener. 
Without doubt, the shadow of Wagner's scope and approval were great influences. The execution there of, though lacking the refinement found in Mahler, gives the repertoire more of Bruckner's personae, instead of a masterpiece. Respect must be given for the apocalyptic cadences, and at minimum for the amount of horns in his symphonic works.
His choral works are often overlooked, not without justification, which he did write out of his Roman Catholic duties. They reflect his touch as a theorist in the use of polyphony and counterpoint, as well as the lean towards a more harmonic classical style; saving his more romantic expressions for his symphonic works.
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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