A contemporary of César Franck and Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner was at first a shy and clumsy provincial organist who only began composing at the age of thirty. However, he would end up as one of the greatest composers of sacred and symphonic music. Moved to tears by Richard Wagner, this son of a musician and schoolteacher from the city of Linz laboriously taught himself almost entirely. In Vienna, however, Bruckner was to become a great professor at the conservatory and university with Gustav Mahler and Wolf figuring among his pupils.
Little appreciated during his lifetime, rarely praised by critics, Anton Bruckner left nine, often revised, symphonies admired by the greatest conductors of his time. As a catholic organist, he skilfully used hymns and canticles introducing them to the orchestra. His organ playing influenced his orchestration, which was massive, thought out in sections, emphasised by fanfares of brass and sustained by the lyricism of the strings.
A worthy heir to Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Wagner said, “I can only think of one composer who could stand up to Beethoven, and that is Anton Bruckner”. Hugo Wolf saw in the composer’s work, “the total victory of light over darkness”. His great religious fervour accompanied by a touching naivety leave a monument to faith directly descending from Schütz or Bach. Furtwängler talked of “the work of a gothic mystic lost in the 19th century”. Sheltered from the turmoil of his time, Bruckner built cathedrals of sounds.