Born on 4 September 1824, Anton Bruckner would grow to become one of the last great Austro-German Romantic composers, his compositions emblematic of the end of this era and prophetic of 20th century music.
Bruckner came to know music through the organ, which he learnt to play as a boy. Although he wrote no major works for the instrument, his improvisational sessions furnished him with ideas for his famous symphonies. These often feature abrupt switches and call-and-response between different groups of instruments, characteristics that reflect the switching of manuals on an organ. It was a style that invited criticism from many of his contemporaries but that has drawn much admiration in more recent years as it has come to be understood as a extension of his passion for organ-playing.
The symphonic material presents numerous problems for classical music scholars, since Bruckner frequently made sweeping revisions to them once finished. He worked on them successively, starting to pen new ideas just days after finishing the last one. Often feature powerful codas and big finales (listen out for the use of Wagner tubas in his last three works), his symphonies develop organically one from another in a pattern reminiscent of Schubert's working process.
Enjoy the unique sound of the 'Bruckner symphony' in this recording of the seventh and the ninth. Listen out for the organ-like changes of flow and sit back in awe at those monumental finales.
If you enjoy these symphonies, you can read more about Bruckner's choral music in our special discovery article. Why note discover more about Austo-German Romantic composers here.