Scholar Groups – Composer Profiles, Part 3

Having looked at Mozart and Elgar, we now return to the late Romantic period to take a closer look at Bruckner, whose name belongs to the group led by Mr. Rhind-Tutt.

Bruckner, unlike Mozart and Elgar, was not born into a musical family: his family and ancestors were farmers and craftspeople, but Bruckner’s father was his first music teacher. He learned to play the organ from an early age, and wrote his first composition at the age of eleven. When his father died, Bruckner was sent to a monastery to be a choirboy and continue his musical education. His first job upon leaving was as a teaching assistant, where his work had very little to do with music. Soon, he gained work as an organist and teacher, while improving his own education on the side. As an organist, he now had regular work and could afford to study music theory and composition. After completing those lessons, he wrote what is now considered to be his first mature work, the Mass in D minor.

When one of his former teachers died, Bruckner took up their role as a music theory professor at the Vienna Conservatory, where he wrote most of his symphonies. During this time, he also taught at the Vienna University, where he tried to make music theory integral to the curriculum. Bruckner struggled with critics, one side of the now infamous polarised aesthetic tastes of himself and Brahms. Residing in Vienna for the rest of his life, Bruckner remained an active organist and played in other countries, including England.

Nowadays, Bruckner is most well-known for two genres, depending on whether you are normally a singer or orchestral player: his symphonies and his choral works (especially the motets). Bruckner is often described as one of the greatest every symphonists and as valuable for Mahler’s development as a symphony writer. As a choral writer, his writing is deceptively difficult, but yields stunning results. A classic example of late Romantic music, Bruckner is often sadly overlooked, but hopefully will not remain so thanks to Mr. Rhind-Tutt’s adoption of his name for his scholar group!

Recommended listening:

Christus factus est – if you heard Millfield’s own Camerata sing this at the Start of Year Service in Wells Cathedral, you will know how beautiful this piece is. If you were not there, then look it up: it is full of unexpected harmony changes and exploits the full range of the voices in a choir.

Te Deum – another famous choral work, this is a bit more substantial than Christus, and has the same kind of impact. Instrumental accompaniment adds another dimension to this work and shows just how accomplished Bruckner was at writing for both vocal and instrumental forces.

Symphony No. 8 – while many Bruckner enthusiasts might direct you towards the ninth symphony, No. 8 is terribly exciting. It is sometimes named “The Apocalyptic”, which tells you all you need to know.

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