Classical Music | Orchestral Music

Anton Bruckner

Symphony No. 6 (Scherzo)  Play

The Texas Festival Orchestra Orchestra
Christopher Campestrini Conductor

Recorded on 07/01/2008, uploaded on 08/18/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

Anton Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony in A major is the third installment of what is sometimes considered his “Major Tetralogy”—the four symphonies beginning with his Fourth Symphony in E-flat major that are all in major keys. At the time of its composition during 1879-81, Bruckner had had only three of his other symphonies performed. With Wagner’s activities concentrated mainly in Bayreuth, Johannes Brahms was the leading composer in Vienna. Though Brahms did not partake in the great musical debate of the time, a vivacious battle did however take place between his supporters and those of Wagner. Eduard Hanslick, Vienna’s leading music critic and a stalwart supporter of Brahms, held great sway over public opinion. Bruckner, given his admiration for Wagner’s music though at the same time a disciple of the old contrapuntal forms so effectively mastered by Brahms, was “caught in the crossfire,” so to speak. The Sixth Symphony did not escape Hanslick’s often scathing criticisms. A partial performance of the work consisting of only the two middle movements occurred in 1883. In his critique of the performance, Hanslick cited a common criticism of Bruckner’s symphony stating that “original, and even inspired moments alternate frequently without recognizable connection…stretched out over such unsparing lengths as to threaten to run players and as well as listeners out of breath.” Even in recent times, Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony is criticized over this point and is the least favored among his symphonies.

Whatever may be the critic’s remarks, Bruckner himself considered the Sixth Symphony to be his “boldest symphony.” Indeed, the A major tonality and the triumphant tone of its themes gives the work a strong and grand character. Furthermore, it was written during a time when Bruckner took great confidence in his work. Bruckner often extensively revised his works for years after their completion. In many cases, this has led to confusion in establishing a definitive version of his symphonies. The Sixth Symphony, on the other hand, underwent few revisions and those not by Bruckner at all. The most substantial revisions were made by Gustav Mahler before the premiere of the entire symphony in 1899, three years after Bruckner’s death.

Among Bruckner’s symphonic output, the Sixth Symphony is perhaps the most unique. Whereas his other symphonies varied little from the four-movement pattern Bruckner utilized, the Sixth alone makes one significant alteration—in place of the typical expansive ternary form found in the slow movements of his other symphony, Bruckner instead employed the sonata form in the Adagio movement of the Sixth Symphony. The first movement, also in sonata form, possesses many of the characteristics typical of Bruckner with the only exception being a shorter and less complex development section than is usual. Incidentally, the movement also bears the unusual tempo marking Majestoso, instead of the more common Maestoso. Likely taken from the Latin “maiestas,” meaning “sovereign power,” it is an indication of Bruckner’s pious and mystical nature. The Scherzo third movement also is somewhat different than the scherzi of his other symphonies. Here, the tempo is slower and the characteristic drama more subdued. Lastly, the Finale is full of triumph and grandeur.      Joseph DuBose

Courtesy of The International Festival-Institute at Round Top

Located in historic Round Top, Texas, The James Dick Foundation for the Performing Arts and its sole project, The International Festival-Institute at Round Top, were founded in 1971 by world-renowned concert pianist James Dick. Begun with a handful of gifted young pianists in rented space on the town square, the project is now an internationally acclaimed European-styled music institute for aspiring young musicians and distinguished faculty. Over a thirty eight year period and with the help of its patrons and friends, The James Dick Foundation for the Performing Arts has developed superb year round education and performance programs.

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