I’ve been trying to branch out a bit recently and listen to composers that I haven’t listened to before. I’ve heard a lot about Anton Bruckner and the music sounded interesting so I checked out copies of his 5th and 8th symphonies from the local library (live recordings from the Munich Philharmonic conducted by Sergiu Celibidache).
The 5th Symphony did absolutely nothing for me. It was long and tedious. According to the Wikipedia article “Many consider this symphony to be Bruckner’s lifetime masterpiece in the area of counterpoint.” That might very well be but this was just not an interesting work for me. My bias is toward the Baroque era while also liking bits and pieces of various other periods. I have not yet found a composer any further out in the symphonic music spectrum than Beethoven that I really enjoy. Bruckner’s 5th did not change my mind.
Bruckner’s 8th Symphony was a lot more enjoyable. Bruckner apparently had a love of reworking pieces (much to the consternation of musicologists) and this was no exception when it was trashed by a conductor that had made his 7th Symphony quite a success. This piece surprised me in many spots because of similarity in sound to several contemporary 20th century composers I have listened to such as Alan Hovhaness. There are sections where the orchestration reminded me of the opening passages of Hovhaness’ “Loon Lake” symphony (No. 63), which is incredible given that “Loon Lake” was written the year I graduated from high school (1988)…almost 100 years after Brucker had revised his 8th symphony. All that being said my opinion of Bruckner wasn’t changed by the 8th Symphony either.
To someone who really studies music I suspect Bruckner’s works are a fantastic source of material. To me there just isn’t enough going on there to keep me interested. When I listen to Beethoven’s works I quite literally am overcome with emotion. When I listen to Mozart, or Bach, or Handel they also move me emotionally in a way that works of Bruckner that I listened to just did not. I know others feel differently but I’m not so sure I’ll be listening to more Bruckner anytime soon. I have so much Bach and Handel to enjoy 🙂