Anton Bruckner, Rustic Genius

By Werner Wolff; Walter Damrosch | Go to book overview
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FORTY-FIVE years have passed since Bruckner died. He had in fact become very old, years before the end of his life. The fading of his mental and physical forces had been a long Coda, though not so sonorous and jubilant as those in his symphonies. This was a dark period for music, with Buelow, Anton Rubinstein, Tschaikolwsky, Bruckner, and Brahms dying within one lustrum. Bruckner's death was felt least of all by the world in general. "Only Vienna," says Decsey, "missed the rustic king . . . the figure that had enriched the pageant of the city."

Life had not been kind to him. He had labored hard until death came to give him peace. But there was no peace in the music world around him even then. It was a daring undertaking for great conductors -- Nikisch, Loewe, Karl Muck, Franz Schalk, and others -- to put a Bruckner symphony on their programs at the time of his death. Their performance meant a risk for the concert management. His friends certainly had as much reason as ever to be preoccupied with the future of his works. His death did not make their task easier. It was not at all sure whether his works would gain a firm foothold in the concert world or continue to be rarities. There were various reasons for this uncertainty. First, to the more conservative concert-goers, Brahms' works were the culmination of symphonic music. Second, new trends in the development of music seemed unfavorable to the popularity of the new absolute music. Richard Strauss' and Debussy's tone- poems pleased the taste of the musical public apparently more


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