CHAPTER VI
THE COMPOSER AND HIS CENTURY

ANTON BRUCKNER is undoubtedly the most considerable composer of symphonies and of music for the Roman Church emerging after Beethoven and Schubert, and sharing their national, cultural and religious environment. Yet his general recognition was so long delayed that his claim to eminence in those two special fields is still contested outside the German-speaking communities. Although only thirteen years younger than Liszt and less than nine years older than Brahms, Bruckner did not begin to make an impact on his contemporary world till the later 1870s, when Liszt's creative work was all but completed, and when Brahms had firmly established himself as the leading instrumental composer in the classical tradition. The chief reasons for this belated emergence of Bruckner as a front- rank composer may be found in the peculiarities of his personal character, in the circumstances of his musical development and also in certain stylistic features of his music. Both the man and his work are at odds with the typical musician of the later nineteenth century. In time Bruckner belongs to the generation of sophisticated and intellectually alert composers anticipated by Berlioz, Mendelssohn and Schumann, and culminating in Liszt and Wagner, but compared with these brilliant contemporaries he appears like a throw-back into an earlier phase of musical development. He has but little in common with the average romantic composer of his century, although many critics continue to classify him as such.

In an epoch of profuse song composition he hardly wrote more than a few lyrical trifles of no artistic value. Nor did he seem to share the delight of the romantics in the various branches of chamber music. He remained totally unaffected by Liszt's fertilizing idea of the one- movement symphonic poem, and Wagner's music-drama affected him only as a new world of sound, for it remains doubtful whether

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