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Anton Bruckner

Opinions once varied on the music of Anton Bruckner (born on September 4, 1824 in Ansfelden, near Linz), who ranks amongst the great symphonists after Beethoven. While one faction regarded him as a destroyer of traditions, the other side ecstatically declared that he had brought those traditions to full fruition. Bruckner also unwittingly found himself wedged between the fronts in the hostile dispute between the so-called "new Germans” and "musicians of the future” surrounding Wagner and Liszt and the more conservative forces of Schumann and Brahms along with the influential critic, Eduard Hanslick. The conservatives castigated his harmonic boldness, the complexity and alleged formlessness of his symphonic structures as well as the monumentality of his approach to musical setting. But the "new Germans” also had very little interest in Bruckner’s music: Wagner, whom he admired all his life and to whom he dedicated his Third Symphony and erected a grandiose monument in the slow movement of his Seventh Symphony, treated him with outright ignorant condescension. This may be the reason why the rather reticent, not very self-confident Bruckner subjected his symphonies to permanent revisions and new versions. On the other hand, his liturgical compositions – documenting his profound religious faith – were accepted earlier on.

Bruckner, who could improvise magnificently on the organ, served as of 1855 as cathedral organist in Linz and was appointed to a professorship at the Vienna Conservatory in 1868. Today his nine symphonies rank as an apex of the form. The Munich Philharmonic has made a major contribution to this development, having taken on his works at a very early stage and establishing a Bruckner tradition of its own in Munich. Conductor Hermann Levi made a decisive contribution to Bruckner’s growing fame, having ushered in an unparalleled triumphal march with his performance of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, while conductor Ferdinand Löwe, a Bruckner pupil, initiated the first Bruckner Festival ever in Munich in 1905. The orchestra’s Bruckner tradition extends from conductors like Fritz Rieger, Eugen Jochum, Rudolf Kempe, Sergiu Celibidache, Günter Wand, Lorin Maazel and Valery Gergiev to our own day.

Bruckner died in Vienna in 1896 at the age of 72. He is buried in the crypt of the monastery church at Sankt Florian, immediately below his favorite organ.