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Donald Macleod explores five personality traits of Anton Bruckner, one of the strangest geniuses in music. Today, the insecurities that led him to rethink his works again and again

Donald Macleod explores five personality traits of Anton Bruckner, one of the strangest geniuses in music. Today, the insecurity that led him to rethink his works again and again.

Anton Bruckner is one of music history’s great re-thinkers. Of his nine symphonies, he significantly reworked numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8 – in some cases, a number of times. Sometimes the impetus came from Bruckner himself – for instance in a desire to improve a work’s internal proportions. But more often it stemmed from the insecurity prompted by adverse criticism, whether by musical opponents, friends, or even students. Occasionally, as in the case of the 8th Symphony, the criticisms were well-founded and the improvements genuine. But more often than not, as in the case of the 1st Symphony, they had the effect of diluting the composer’s original inspiration. And ultimately, the many years Bruckner devoted to reworking his earlier music helped ensure that he would fail to complete his final symphony, the 9th.

Bruckner: Symphony No 2 in C minor, WAB 102 (original version, ed. Carragan)
(1st mvt, Allegro. Ziemlich schnell, extract)
Hamburg Philharmonic
Simone Young, conductor

Bruckner: Symphony No 4 in E flat, WAB 104 (‘Romantic’) (original version)
(3rd mvt, Sehr schnell. Trio. Im gleichen Tempo)
Hamburg Philharmonic
Simone Young, conductor

Bruckner: Symphony No 4 in E flat, WAB 104 (‘Romantic’) (1878/80 version, ed. Nowak)
(3rd mvt, Scherzo. Bewegt – Trio. Nicht zu schnell. Keinesfalls schleppend)
Gewandhaus Orchestra
Andris Nelsons, conductor

Bruckner: Symphony No 8 in C minor, WAB 108 (1887/90 version, ed. Haas)
(4th mvt, Feierlich, nicht schnell)
Berlin Philharmonic
Herbert von Karajan, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Anton Bruckner

    Allegro (Symphony No 2 in C minor)

    Orchestra: Philharmoniker Hamburg. Conductor: Simone Young.
    • OEHMS OC 026.
    • OEHMS.
    • 1.
  • Anton Bruckner

    Scherzo (Symphony No 4 in E flat major - 1874 version)

    Orchestra: Philharmoniker Hamburg. Conductor: Simone Young.
    • OEHMS OC 026.
    • OEHMS.
    • 3.
  • Anton Bruckner

    Scherzo (Symphony No 4 in E flat major - 1878 version, ed Nowak)

    Orchestra: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Conductor: Andris Nelsons.
    • DG 479 7577.
    • Deutsche Grammophon.
    • 4.
  • Anton Bruckner

    Finale (Symphony No 8 in C minor, ed Haas)

    Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Herbert von Karajan.
    • DG 477 7580.
    • Deutsche Grammophon.
    • 3.

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