Anton Bruckner. In the rural village of Ansfelden (now a suburb of Linz),
Anton Bruckner was born on September 4, 1824. The son of the village
schoolmaster, Bruckner's father began his musical lessons at an early age and
was soon able to play the organ. In 1833, at the age of nine, he was sent to a
school in Hörsching. The schoolmaster, Johann Baptist Weiß, was a respected organist and furthered
Bruckner's proficiency on the instrument. Bruckner's first attempt at
composition, Vier Präludien for organ, also dates from this time.
With the death of
his father in 1837 and the schoolmaster's position, as well as home, being
given to a successor, Bruckner was sent to the Augustinian monastery in St.
Florian to train as a choirboy. In addition, he also studied violin and organ
and sometimes performed on the latter during church services. However, despite
his growing musical abilities, Bruckner's mother was determined for her son to
follow in the footsteps of his father and become a teacher. After attending a
seminar in Linz, Bruckner was established as a teacher's assistant in Windhaag.
Subjected to terrible pay and even ridicule from his superior, Bruckner was
miserable, though he never complained or rebelled.
In 1848, Bruckner
returned to St. Florian and was appointed to the position of organist. Later,
in 1855, he began studying counterpoint, an indispensable tool for a composer,
with Simon Sechter. A later instructor, Otto Kitzler, introduced Bruckner to
the music of Richard Wagner, whose music Bruckner studied extensively. In 1861,
he met Franz Liszt, the other founding member of the New German School of
composition. Bruckner was greatly influenced by the music of Wagner and, though
his choral music remained relatively conservative, he aligned himself mainly with
the New German School.
counterpoint instruction with Sechter was completed, Bruckner's first mature
composition appeared—the Mass in D minor. After Sechter's death in 1867,
Bruckner succeeded him as a teacher of music theory at the Vienna Conservatory
and he turned his full attention upon the composition of symphonies. Despite
all his efforts, Bruckner's fame was hard won. With Wagner's operations
centered in the Bavarian town of Bayreuth, Vienna was virtually the exclusive
domain of Johannes Brahms. Bitter musical enemies, at least in the eyes of
their supporters, Bruckner occupied a somewhat precarious position between the
two musical giants. Though he aligned himself as a supporter of Wagner's music,
his musical studies, particularly in counterpoint, gave him a technical command
on his art that Wagner and Liszt certainly lacked and for which Brahms was
lauded. In fact, of all the late 19th century composers, Bruckner
was perhaps the only one whose contrapuntal technique matched that of Brahms.
Regardless, Bruckner's acknowledgment of his support for Wagner won him the
disdain of the eminent music critic, Eduard Hanslick, who was able to swing
public opinion against Bruckner. Derided as "wild" and "nonsensical,"
Bruckner's symphonies were poorly received by the Viennese public. He was not
without his supporters, though, who persistently tried to bring his music to
Bruckner was also
renowned as an organist and gave impressive recitals in both France and England
in 1869 and 1871, respectively. It is unusual that he wrote no major works for
his own instrument, however, the orchestration of his symphonies reveal the
organist within. In addition to performing, he also taught organ at the
By the 1880s,
Bruckner had managed to achieve a portion of fame in the hostile musical
environment of Vienna. In 1886, the Emperor decorated him with the Order of
Franz Joseph. Ten years later, on October 11, 1896, Bruckner died of natural
causes. He was buried in the crypt of St. Florian underneath the organ he had
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