Best known forSymphonies, Masses, Te deum
Similar toBeethoven, Brahms, Wagner, possibly Mahler
Few composers divide listeners like Anton Bruckner. For many, as for his contemporary Johannes Brahms, he is the creator of “symphonic boa-constrictors”. The critic Peter Stadlen earned plaudits and an entry in Private Eye’s‘Pseuds Corner’ for asserting the “right to be bored by Bruckner”. For others there is something almost priest-like about this composer. In the words of his biographer Max Auer, “Bruckner may be the lay apostle who… may touch the hearts of those whose ears are closed to the preaching of the churches. He can become the mediator leading from materialism to spirituality, from disbelief to true religion.” Even Ludwig Wittgenstein, ruthlessly critical of metaphysical language, could still state quite bluntly: “I don’t believe a note of Gustav Mahler. I believe every note of Anton Bruckner.”
That word ‘believe’ stands out. For the real devotee, it would seem, listening to Bruckner isn’t simply a pleasant use of one’s leisure time: it is something approximating to a religious experience. The difficulties involved – the effort of concentration, the ordeal of remaining still and silent in a probably not-too-comfortable seat for...