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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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Personality and Oeuvre

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“I read his human significance in his work, at the risk of underestimating the artistic worth.”

Karl Amadeus Hartmann about Bruckner

One of the key issues in the psychology of creativity concerns the secret of artistic inspiration, the question as to the sources and resources from which artists draw. According to an early theory, artistic inspiration comes from on high, as a gift of the Muses or a divine revelation. This notion, which originated in antiquity, runs through European intellectual history like a red thread, a nexus, as it were, connecting the religious belief of a Hildegard von Bingen with the aesthetic views of a Johannes Brahms. It survives in the 20th century as the secular variant according to which the artist does not belong to himself but is guided by the instinct of the production. Thus Arnold Schönberg, during his final years, felt himself to be a mouthpiece of divine power. Karlheinz Stockhausen regarded himself as an emissary conveying messages whose meaning he did not know. In similar terms, Theodor W. Adorno thought that composers like Gustav Mahler and Alban Berg made themselves the “instrument,” the “subordinate executor” for the production of significant works of art.

According to a very different view, one often associated with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the artist creates from his “inner experience.” Many composers, including Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler, Béla Bartók, Arnold Schönberg or Alban Berg, were firmly convinced that there was...

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