Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Anton Bruckner (1824 – 1896)

Composer

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His Times: By the time Bruckner had moved to Vienna for a post at the University in about 1868, a fierce stylistic rivalry known as “The War of the Romantics” was going on. The debate took the form of intense public criticism between the conservative advocates of composers like Brahms, and the more progressive composers like Wagner. Bruckner showed no interest in participating in these hostilities, but unfortunately the hostilities found him anyway due to his compositional style being considered very radical for his time, being influenced strongly by Wagner, and Viennese society having a typically conservative view on music.

His Music: Being a devout Catholic, he spent most of his life writing and setting hymns, masses, and other forms of sacred music; it was only in his 40s that he started dedicating his time to symphonies. As a result of harsh criticism from composers, critics, and friends alike, most of Bruckner’s compositions have been revised many times, and not just by Bruckner himself. There are about 25 different scores for his nine symphonies, 10 of which were “amended” by outside sources and don’t even represent Bruckner’s own intentions. This has created some confusion as to which versions could be considered the definitive score.

Himself: All accounts describe him as an excellent church organist, and a gentle and good natured fellow with some bizarre habits. He had an apparent obsession with numbers; he would often spend time counting all the individual bricks and windows of buildings. He was known to propose marriage to teenage girls all throughout his life, even after he reached his seventies. He also seemed to have a fixation on death; the only photograph he kept of his mother was a picture of her corpse, and there are also accounts of him “fingering and kissing the skulls of Beethoven and Schubert” when he attended the exhumations of their bodies.

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