Rudolf Bruci and the Criticism of the European Avant-Garde

By Sovtic, Nemanja | Studia Musicologica, December 2015 | Go to article overview

Rudolf Bruci and the Criticism of the European Avant-Garde


Sovtic, Nemanja, Studia Musicologica


Rudolf Bruci was a Yugoslav composer, educator, and cultural activist.1 He approached the Communist Party in the interwar period, becoming during World War II an associate in the war of national liberation. After the war, he found himself in Belgrade where he played viola in the orchestra of the Yugoslav National Army for a few years. He studied composition with Petar Bingulac at the Music Academy in Belgrade from 1947 to 1952. During 1954-1955 he studied with Alfred Uhl at the Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna. The major part of his life Bruci spent in Novi Sad, where he lived from 1950 until his death. He received numerous awards and recognitions for his work.2 Even during his lifetime Bruci was included in all major Yugoslav encyclopedias and lexicons and entries about this composer can also be found in both Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart and The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.3 On the international scene, Bruci is known as the author of the Sinfonia Lesta, the first-prize winning composition at the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Belgium (1965). Nationally, Bruci's social role was not just limited to the field of his creative freedom - as a member of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia - but the composer spent his entire working lifetime holding responsible positions in various cultural institutions,4 "dictating the rhythm" of the cultural life of Novi Sad and the province of Vojvodina until the collapse of Socialism, when he retired from public life.

Rudolf Bruci left behind over a hundred musical-dramatic, vocal-instrumental, symphonic, concert, and chamber works. Transformations of the composer's creative persona range from the Zhdanovian national classicism of the late 1940s, through the adoption of the elements of European radical modernism during the 1950s and 1960s, to the reaffirmation of national/regional idiom in the mid-1970s. Thus, a developmental line of Bruci's oeuvre conjugates general tendencies of the postwar music scene in Eastern Europe. Some of the most significant stylistic features of Bruci's artistic creation include heterogeneity of musical material, genre syncretism, symmetry as a regulator of musical flow, expressive treatment of twelve-tone melodies, use of musical folklore, imitative polyphony, whole-tone and eight-tone scale. The few musicologists who have studied Bruci's music gave a relatively adjusted assessment about the composer's creative development. Bogdan Dakovic noticed that Bruci's maturity in terms of compositional technique relies on the "combination of ongoing research and positively affirmed elements of musical tradition,"5 while Vesna Rozic characterized Bruci's creative approach as the application of "new musical (avant-garde) techniques to the traditional thinking of music."6

Despite being a man of letters, Bruci rarely wrote. He would rather engage in conversation to make statements and assumptions about his work. Although aware that the art of his time lost the privilege of being self-evident, Bruci still believed that the personal attitude towards worldview issues was better described by musical means of expression. On two occasions he stated that "music (...) is primarily a way of thinking" and "that it is less than any other art just a performance of a God-given talent, echo of sensibility or an act of human will".7 It is interesting that Bruci described his beliefs in more detail only when he began to question modernism with its demand for conceptualization of the creative practice, i.e. only after he modernized his musical language to the point where it dissolved into the silence of new sound. Bruci explained the breaking with the radically modernist/ avant-garde European models, conducted at the immanent level of the musical discourse in the second half of the 1970s in his writings.8 Criticism of the European avant-garde is a part of a more comprehensive, self-critical review of Yugoslav music in the first and the second article, while it is the central theme of the third. …

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