Anton Bruckner lived in the hinge between the romantic and the modern eras. As an Austrian in the 19th century, Bruckner had access to the broadest experience of contemporary, classical music. He was a devout Catholic, and he played the organ extraordinarily well, even presenting concerts of organ improvisations for his musical friends. Although this was his primary instrument, Bruckner wrote just a small fraction of his compositions for the organ. He is most well-known as a composer of symphonic works … extremely long symphonic works!
Bruckner was a master of tonal nuance. His orchestral pieces explore the unfolding of harmonies and melodies over extended periods. And while his contemporary, and friend, Richard Wagner was also writing extended works, Wagner’s were chock full of melodies – one after the other, each representing a particular person or action or mood. Bruckner’s music is more reflective and retrospective, pointing harmonically to a shift in compositional technique, but using an established form in which to do his exploration.
Arguably, some of his best, and least performed, exploring was done with choirs and liturgical or church-related texts. Almost half of Bruckner’s catalogue of works includes singers and/or choir. For this week of Lenten listening I have chosen a few of Bruckner’s choral works – works of great emotion and harmonic variation, works that deserve to be more widely performed and enjoyed.
YouTube Playlist of Brucker Choral Pieces, including the Te Deum.