Fumeux fume | Solage, Alla Francesca
“We start in late 14th century Avignon, in the musical movement now known as the ars subtilior. I’ve chosen this as an early and very fine example of one of the main tools in Bruckner’s creative toolkit – the building of large musical structures from the repetition of simple units.
Joseph Martin Kraus: Symphony in C Minor, VB 142: I. Larghetto – Allegro
Then we spring forward in time to a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart, the Stockholm-based Joseph Martin Kraus, who like Mozart also died in his mid-thirties. His most well-known work is a symphony in C minor, the same key as Haydn’s 95th, but in contrast deeply melancholy and beginning – rather than ending, as Haydn did – with a display of his learned contrapuntal style.
Luciano Berio: Rendering per orchestra, da F. Schubert (2. Andante)
A bridge to Bruckner from the classical period, but in a form he would never have recognized: the second movement of Luciano Berio’s completion of one of Schubert’s many other unfinished symphonies. Schubert’s treatment of blocks of musical material to furnish his very expansive large musical canvasses is a clear antecedent to Bruckner’s symphonic epics.
Anton Bruckner: Improvisationskizze Ischl 1890 (Completed by E. Horn)
Bruckner was well-known as an organist during his lifetime, but left few notated organ works. His reputation was almost entirely built on his skills as an improviser. A few of his sketches for improvisations have survived, and we hear Bruckner as an organist by way of a reconstruction from one of the most complete of these sketches, which also contains themes from the first symphony.
John Adams: Naive and Sentimental Music: Pt. III – Chain to the Rhythm
Although Bruckner taught music theory and organ performance for decades in Vienna, his legacy as a composer only took shape long after his death. His music remains divisive, with fervent admirers pitted against those who quip that he wrote the same symphony 12 times. American minimalist composer John Adams has been an admirer from childhood, and composed “his” Bruckner symphony in 1998 inspired by a performance of Bruckner’s 4th.
Anton Bruckner: Mass No. 2 in E Minor, WAB 27: I. Kyrie
Bruckner is one of those composers who is recognizable from just a couple of chords. Even when the music is fully clothed in Renaissance choral polyphony here—repertoire he no doubt taught to his music theory students—his voice remains incredibly distinctive in this gorgeous Kyrie from the Mass No. 2.
Franz Josef Haydn: Die Schöpfung, Hob. XXI:2 / Erster Teil – No. 1a. Einleitung. Die Vorstellung des Chaos (Largo)
Haydn in C minor – not our symphony, but perhaps his most original use of C minor, the overture of the oratorio The Creation, entitled “The Representation of Chaos.” One wonders whether Beethoven knew this and found lasting inspiration in the darkness of his old teacher’s use of C minor.
Senleches: En attendant esperance
And we end in 14th century Aragon, again in the ars subtilior, with a ballade that exemplifies complex rhythmic layering similar to that found throughout Bruckner’s symphonic music, yet difficult to find in Western European concert music in the 450 intervening years.”