The Man and the Work
The Fiction of “Absolute Music”
”The artist Anton Bruckner presents, in both life and work, a firm unity of being of such extraordinary and sharply defined attitude of mind that its import extends far beyond the merely musical.”
One of the oddest stereotypes in Bruckner research is the frequently argued and still not altogether silenced notion of the supposed discrepancy between 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 following: “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 establishing 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 Bruckner s a “metaphysician” and a...
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