I just can't get into Bruckner

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I just can't get into Bruckner

Howdy-- I'm a fan of most classical music, own a couple hundred CDs and multiple versions of big stuff like LvB's symphonies. I can appreciate pretty much all composers, EXCEPT BRUCKNER. Not only can I not get into his symphonies, I can't understand why anyone would even listen to him, let alone proclaim him a musical genius.

That said, I didn't used to like beer or stinky cheese, either, and now I can't get enough of those. 

Brucknerites, what am I missing??? I have a Karajan Bruckner box. What's the best symphony to start with, and do you have any tips on approaching/appreciating it?

RE: I just can't get into Bruckner

It's said that the main problem with Bruckner is the sheer length of his symphonies, yet Mahler's (currently a more highly esteemed composer) are longer.  Maybe it is the slow pace of his musical thought, especially at the start of a symphony (his 4th is a good example).  Yet Elgar's 1st Symphony  begins at the same measured speed, without losing the listener's attention. Maybe he just has less to say than either of these two composers??

A case could be made for the last three symphonies, especially the unfinished 9th, which has long been a personal favourite.  But more and more I find myself turning to his motets to understand and appreciate Bruckner.

RE: I just can't get into Bruckner

I suggest you start with symphony 6.It is a little lighter than most of the others,it is a little bit "Bruckner light", but still fantastic music.The second slow movement is breathtakingly beautiful.One of Bruckners most serene moments.

RE: I just can't get into Bruckner

I have to be in a sort of zen frame of mind to listen to Bruckner. After being blown away the first time I heard him - #9 conducted by Jochum on Heliodor - I went right off him and didn't listen to anything of his for years. Nowadays I can take either of the two cycles I own (Tintner and Jochum's first) in small doses. I've read the Simpson analyses and others to try to find out what it is I'm missing but, as I say, I think it's a matter of being in that sedate, uruffled, living-the-moment kind of mood. And if he's being done by anybody but Jochum or Tintner he bores the daylights out of me.

So my suggestion, Sebastian, would be to try other conductors.

There's something slightly similar about listening to Wagner, for me. Except that once I've adjusted to his time frames - which usually takes the best part of one act if I've heard him for a while - I thoroughly enjoy him.

RE: I just can't get into Bruckner

It's true; some people just find Bruckner's music a hard nut to crack . Not me. Exactly 40 years ago when I was just a teenager,I bought the Seraphim LP of the 9th symphony with Carl Schuricht conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, and I was enthralled.
I went on to listen to all the others and the different versions of them and have been a confirmed Bruckerian ever since. The first symphony, which is no longer than the Brahms 1st, contains the basic elements of the Bruckner style but is mercifully short, and the 4th and 7th are probably the most approachable of the others.
You have to concentrate hard and let the music flow over you. Please keep trying, and I hope Bruckner's music will finally "click" with you.
You should also try some of Bruckner's great choral works, such as the three masses (I recommend Jochum on DG in an inexpensive 2 for i set, or the great Te Deum,or the 150th Psalm, or the string quintet,or the motets.

RE: I just can't get into Bruckner

As the gentlest possible introduction, listen to the Symphony in F Minor, the so-called Study Symphony, conducted by Inbal.  It doesn't sound far removed from Schubert or Mendelssohn.  If you like that, next move to the 00 'Nullte' Symphony under Haitink.  These two symphonies are untypical, but they may remove your aversion and make you want to explore the later works.

Alternatively, try jumping in at the deep end with Symphony # 9 under Reggie Goodall.  In my opinion it's his very best, though last, symphony and if it doesn't draw you in after a few plays Bruckner may not be for you. 

RE: I just can't get into Bruckner

I'd say, persist with 4 (his "poppiest") and 9 (his greatest). B undoubtedly has his longeurs, and these two symphonies avoid them best. Try a variety of performances and see which suits you; as ever, tastes vary widely in these matters (FWIW, I like Karajan in this work, but he's better outside the boxset).

If you like choral music, you should like B's powerful (and relatively short) Te Deum.

'Art doesn't need philosophers. It just needs to communicate from soul to soul.' Alejandro Jodorowsky

RE: I just can't get into Bruckner

I have the Karajan cycle, too, but over the years I've turned to Georg Tintner's recordings on Naxos more and more.  Whether it's the performances or the audio quality (or both), I think they have an immediacy that makes Bruckner's music more compelling, accessible, and pleasurable.

RE: I just can't get into Bruckner

I was turned on to Bruckner by a live recording of Gunter Wand conducting the 4th Symphony on RCA.  What Wand does rather better than Karajan is make sense of the structure of the music so that there is a feeling of overall shape and proportion.

RE: I just can't get into Bruckner

I was hooked by Bruckner at the age of around 15 when I attended a concert in Paris conducted by Carl Schuricht. It was Easter, so we had the Good Friday music from Parsifal .. plus the adagio from Bruckner's 7th symphony. My love of both Wagner and Bruckner probably dates from that one concert. It's a pity that nowadays people are denied the opportunity to get to know composers via bits of music; it has to be all Tristan & Isolde, or all the Bruckner symphonies. Difficult to appreciate and digest if it's music to which you are new.

Immediately after the Paris concert I invested in Jascha Horenstein conducting Bruckner's 9th symphony (I still have the mono LP). For the greatest Bruckner ever, however, I recommend Furtwängler's blazing live 1944 Berlin performance (in surprisingly good sound).

 

H. Collier
RE: I just can't get into Bruckner

You need a friend!  I had the same problem until friend, whose opinion I respect, told me how she was enjoying Bruckner.  Her description was that only Bruckner lifts the listener to the top of a mountain, and then – unlike Brahms and Shostakovich – Bruckner lets the listener figure out which direction he/she should proceed.  The revelation shocked me.  And so, I forced myself to listen to Bruckner (he's an acquired taste like your stinky cheese or tofu), and, yes, this composer requires repeated and dedicated exposure.  It worked – and now I am truly moved by his work.  My favorite symphonies are #2, #3, #8 and #9.  #7 is terribly repetitious in my view.  Nevertheless, I would start with #4 – the lean EMI Karajan rendition.  Good luck and good listening.  Jim

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