January 27, 2012


This may get my avatar pasted on many dartboards, but I think only a juvenile mind can be fascinated by music whose principal aim is to show how to keep an orchestra busy with a single triad for nearly half an hour at a stretch.  Which is what Bruckner's symphonies offer in abundance.  And for many elderly maestros these symphonies also offer a pleasurable and socially respectable way of regressing to the wide-eyed mindset of their teenage years - the years when metaphysical significance seemed to be attached to even the simplest pleasures, be they an 80-minute long Bruckner symphony blasted in the basement of your parents' house, or a 5-minute long handjob administered by your college sweetheart in the deserted basement of the University library.


Anonymous said...

Bruckner may be tiresome, but not quite as tiresome as using masturbation as a metaphor

tholins said...

First, Boom, I want to applaud you for posting music that you know others might like, even though you dislike it yourself. I think that's admirable.

Second, Bruckner is (like everything except sugar) an acquired taste; and adequate but unexceptional performances like Mehta's don't do much to advocate for Bruckner.

Context: Listen to Beethoven 9, Schubert 8 and 9, and *then* listen to Bruckner. Also, it's important to play it with the imaginative ebb and flow of intense tempo rubato that performers commonly applied prior to the 20th century, and which all composers expected. Playing it more or less straight, like Mehta, misses the point. Try Furtwangler or Walter or Klemperer, or perhaps Barenboim or sometimes Kubelike in their *live* performances -- much closer to the spirit of the music than Mehta's moderation. Note that Mehta isn't boring! Just that he misses the depth in the music.

Anyway, thanks for the Bruckner, and I hope you'll indulge us with more in the future!

Boom said...


You are certainly right in that Bruckner needs understanding, sympathetic, and idiomatically attuned advocates. But then so does Schoenberg and Carter, and every other composer come to think of it.

I know every recorded Bruckner performance by Furtwangler, including his wartime studio-made Adagio from the 7th symphony. Ditto for Bruno Walter's late studio recordings (and his live 4th with the NBC SO, 8th and 9th with NYPO from the 1940s - 50s, and also the Vienna live 9th). And despite my dislike of studio recordings, I even own Schuricht's Vienna recordings of the 8th and 9th. (The string playing in the 9th is about the most unforgettable I've heard from VPO.)

These "old master" recordings surely confirm you point - they make a better (more idiomatic) case for the music than Mehta ever did (or perhaps even could). But "better", alas, does not mean good enough to make the music interesting (thematically, harmonically, developmentally, etc.) to my mind...

tholins said...

Well, some people like asparagus and some don't; same with Bruckner (or anything else).

You remind of Furtwangler, who hated Toscanini -- but wrote in his private notebooks that he'd attended 300 (!) Toscanini performances and tried unsucessfully to figure out what others saw in him. (Incidentally, I agree with Furtwangler. Toscanini is the only conductor who made the Blue Danube sound like a military march. No wonder Beecham called Toscanini a "glorified Italian bandmaster." But I digress.)

Thanks for your thoughtful comments!