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Anton Bruckner

The Man and the Work

Constantin Floros

While unappreciated and controversial during most of his life, Anton Bruckner is today regarded as the greatest symphonist between Beethoven and Gustav Mahler – in terms of originality, boldness and monumentality of his music. The image of Bruckner the man, however, is still extreme instance of the tenacious power of prejudice. No less a figure than Gustav Mahler coined the aperçu about Bruckner being «a simpleton – half genius, half imbecile». The author is out to correct that misperception. His thesis in this study is that contrary to what has hitherto been asserted, there is an intimate relation between Bruckner’s sacred music and his symphonies from multiple perspectives: biographical data, sources and influences, the psychology of creation, musical structure, contemporary testimony and reception history. Additional chapters assess important Bruckner recordings and interpreters and the progressiveness of his music.


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PART THREE: The Symphonies


PART THREE The Symphonies 97 The Fiction of “Absolute Music” ”The artist Anton Bruckner presents, in both life and work, a firm unity of being of such extraordi- nary and sharply defined attitude of mind that its import extends far beyond the merely musical.” Robert Haas One of the oddest stereotypes in Bruckner research is the frequently argued and still not altogether silenced notion of the supposed discrepancy be- tween his life and his work. In 1919, the journalist Julius Bistron went so far as to maintain that Bruckner as a man was “not only unimportant in the ordinary sense of the word but all but inconsequential.” As a result, it was difficult “to find one’s way back from such a human being to the idea of a significant art.”1 Fifty years later, the feature writer Karl Grebe thought along similar lines. His 1972 popular-science monograph opines the fol- lowing: “The description of Anton Bruckner’s work cannot be incorporated into a narrative of his life. Life and work reveal nothing about each other. His life says nothing about his work, and his work says nothing about his life: any presentation has to start from this awkward fact.”2 Even today many commentators confess to being at a loss when it comes to establish- ing any closer relation between Bruckner’s personality and his oeuvre.3 In an attempt to find a way out of this aporia, several writers in the ’twenties, including Erich Schwebsch, Oskar Lang and, later, Ernst Kurth, stylized...

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