Anton Bruckner, Rustic Genius

By Werner Wolff; Walter Damrosch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV

SIMPLE and ingenuous men are said to possess the gift of premonition to a higher degree than cultured and sophisticated persons. Looking backward from the end of Bruckner's life to the struggle just described, one is tempted to ask: Did he really have a premonition of the period of bitterness in store for him? Or was it mere fear of the metropolis where he, a smalltown man, was henceforth to live that made him so reluctant and cautious? Many of his biographers have considered his move to Vienna the most fateful step in his life. Louis reports that a friend of Bruckner's told him he thought Bruckner's move to Vienna was not a piece of good luck at all. Bruckner, in his opinion, would have developed in a freer and richer way if he had stayed in his Upper Austrian homeland. Louis disagrees and is quite right in saying precisely because of Vienna Bruckner became the artist we love and no one can tell what might have happened if he had not gone there. He concludes that Bruckner was given to the world by his move to Vienna. This conclusion is far more positive and pertinent than Goellerich's sentimental idea: "Now he went, as the cross-bearer of mankind, to the place which Destiny had decreed as his purgatory."

Herbeck, whose energy had brought this important event about, was the leading musician of Vienna at the time. He was the director of the Society of Friends of Music, a professor at the Conservatory, and musical leader of the Hofkapelle. In 1869 he became the conductor -- and in 1870, when he was thirty-nine years old, the director -- of the Imperial Opera House, for many years the leading institution of its kind in Europe. He had discovered the original score of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, hidden from the world, and performed it in 1865 for the first time. He was a man of culture and broad interests, as he proved by his courageous and unprejudiced work for the advancement of music in the Aus

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