Anton Bruckner was born in rural Upper Austria in 1824. The son of a village schoolmaster, he initially intended to follow in his father’s footsteps, but at the age of 13 he was accepted as a choirboy at the Augustinian monastery of St Florian, where he received a thorough musical education. During his twenties, he tried various teaching posts, but the desire to compose was growing more urgent.
In 1855 he applied for the post of organist at Linz Cathedral and was appointed by a unanimous decision. He now submitted himself to a rigorous programme of advanced musical education: a six-year correspondence course in harmony and counterpoint, and lessons in form and orchestration. It was only when he was nearing 40 that Bruckner at last felt free to compose as he wished.
Three magnificent Mass-settings followed. But a remark by a critic about the symphonic character of the D minor Mass was interpreted by the devoutly religious Bruckner as a sign of vocation. At around the same time he encountered Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and was bowled over by both. His own symphonies, from the so-called ‘No. 0’ onwards, show him attempting to forge a synthesis of Wagner’s highly charged, volatile Romanticism, Beethoven’s huge symphonic drama and the more stable formal proportions of Baroque and Rococo church music.
After recovering from a nervous breakdown in 1866–7, Bruckner decided to move to Vienna to pursue his symphonic vocation, where he was encouraged by the influential conductor Johann Herbeck. But he made a powerful enemy in the anti-Wagnerian critic Eduard Hanslick, whose hostility caused Bruckner much pain and soul-searching. Years of neglect followed the catastrophic premiere of the Third Symphony (1877), despite Bruckner’s continuing successes as an organist.
Thanks to the efforts of the conductors Hans Richter and Arthur Nikisch, and to pupils such as Franz and Josef Schalk, his fortunes as a composer gradually began to change. The Leipzig premiere of the Seventh Symphony (1881–3) was a triumph, as was the Viennese first performance of the revised Eighth (1890). In his last decade Bruckner set out on what was intended as the summation of his work as a symphonist: the Ninth Symphony, dedicated to his ‘dear God’. But growing anxiety held up its progress, and the finale survives only in extensive sketches, crucial pages of which disappeared after the composer’s death in 1896.
In some ways a Wagnerian Romantic, Bruckner also had profound roots in early Classical, Baroque and even Renaissance church music. Visionary grandeur and serenity can be found alongside some of the darkest, most troubled music written in the 19th century.
Profile © Stephen Johnson
- Clips (17)Latest ClipSymphony No 3 in D minor, WAB 103
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- Symphony No 3 in D minor, WAB 103http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02v3ks4.jpg2015-06-15T01:38:00ZBruckner - Symphony No 3 in D minor, WAB 103http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p02vb8dzSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 56 mins
Symphony No 3 in D minor, WAB 103
- Bruckner: Symphony No. 7http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01s9351.jpg2014-12-13T15:02:00ZJohn Deathridge compares recordings of Bruckner's powerful 7th Symphony and makes a personal recommendation.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p02f58wvSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 59 mins
Bruckner: Symphony No. 7
- Bruckner: Symphony No. 5http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tnm4r.jpg2014-07-11T11:02:00ZIn this Proms Music Guide, Tom Service talks about Bruckner's Symphony No. 5http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p022myqcSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 3 mins
Bruckner: Symphony No. 5
- Bruckner: Symphony No. 6http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01vxplj.jpg2014-07-11T10:53:00ZIn this Proms Music Guide, Stephen Johnson talks about Bruckner's 6th symphony.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p022mxnhSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 3 mins
Bruckner: Symphony No. 6
- Bruckner: Symphony No. 9http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tcxxj.jpg2014-07-11T10:43:00ZProms Music Guide: Stephen Johnson on Bruckner's Symphony No. 9http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p022mwf5Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 3 mins
Bruckner: Symphony No. 9
- Anton Bruckner - one of the great 19th century symphonists.http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02169dg.jpg2014-06-18T14:05:00ZDonald Macleod explores the life and work of Anton Bruckner, now celebrated as one of the greatest symphonists of the 19th century.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p02169dsSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 1 hour 5 mins
Anton Bruckner - one of the great 19th century symphonists.
- Anton Bruckner - his time in Viennahttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02168x2.jpg2014-06-18T13:53:00ZThe life and works of the 19th century Austrian composer, famous for his grand symphonies.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p02168x7Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 1 hour 5 mins
Anton Bruckner - his time in Vienna
- Bruckner: Symphony No. 6http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01s6yg5.jpg2014-05-23T15:34:00ZStephen Johnson examines the workings of Bruckner's enigmatic Sixth Symphony.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p01znsdmSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 42 mins
Bruckner: Symphony No. 6
- Bruckner: Motetshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01td96h.jpg2014-05-23T14:21:00ZStephen Johnson reveals the importance of Bruckner's motets.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p01znlq2Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 32 mins
- Bruckner: Symphony No. 8http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w65n3.jpg2014-03-25T11:12:00ZRichard Osborne considers the available recordings of Bruckner's 8th Symphony and recommends a favourite.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p01w65nhSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 38 mins
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8
- Bruckner: Symphony No. 4http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01szkgy.jpg2014-02-27T13:20:00ZStephen Johnson provides a personal recommendation from recordings of Bruckner's 4th Symphony.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p01szkpySelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 37 mins
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4
- Bruckner: Symphony No 8 In C Minor - Preview Cliphttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpg2013-12-29T18:50:00ZListen to an excerpt from Bruckner's Symphony No 8 In C Minor.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p01p27l3Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 1 min
Bruckner: Symphony No 8 In C Minor - Preview Clip
- Bruckner: Symphony No 7 (Preview Clip)http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p017rsr8.jpg2013-04-18T16:27:00ZA preview clip of Bruckner's Symphony No 7 in E major.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p017wn7wSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 1 min
Bruckner: Symphony No 7 (Preview Clip)
- Bruckner’s Symphony No 7 / Symffoni Rhif 7 Brucknerhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02cd6t0.jpg2011-11-22T00:00:00ZBBC National Orchestra of Wales’s Principal Trombone, Donal Bannister, discusses the epic Symphony No 7 by Bruckner, to be performed at St David’s Hall, Cardiff on Friday 25 November, 7.30pm. / Prif Ganwr Trombôn Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Gymreig y BBC yn trafod y Seithfed Symffoni enfawr gan Bruckner, a berfformir yn Neuadd Dewi Sant, Caerdydd nos Wener 25 Tachwedd am hanner awr wedi saith.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p00m14m9Selected ClipSelected ClipVideo 1 min
Bruckner’s Symphony No 7 / Symffoni Rhif 7 Bruckner
- Ilan Volkov on Bruckner's Symphony No.5.http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02c7980.jpg2011-02-08T00:00:00ZInterview with BBC SSO Principal Guest Conductor Ilan Volkov about Bruckner's Symphony No.5. Recorded at City Halls, Glasgow.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p00dyw27Selected ClipSelected ClipVideo 4 mins
Ilan Volkov on Bruckner's Symphony No.5.
- Ilan Volkov on Bruckner's Symphony No.5.http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02c6jgw.jpg2011-01-20T00:00:00ZExclusive interview with BBC SSO conductor Ilan Volkov about Bruckner's Symphony No.5 ahead of its performance in Glasgow and Aberdeen during January 2011.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p00dcsycSelected ClipSelected ClipVideo 4 mins
Ilan Volkov on Bruckner's Symphony No.5.
- Prom 62: Bruckner Symphony no. 9 (excerpt)http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02bpwjk.jpg2010-09-02T16:43:17ZThe Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester under Herbert Blomstedt perform Bruckner's ninth symphony (excerpt).http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/9debb4c3-dc10-440f-9c96-b777d51ea998?clipfocus=p009sh28Selected ClipSelected ClipVideo 2 mins
Prom 62: Bruckner Symphony no. 9 (excerpt)
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