“Bruckner’s existence is God’s greatest gift.”
Sergiu Celibidache

“Biography of an Anachronist” (Biographie eines Unzeitgemäßen) is the immanently fitting title chosen by Wolfgang Johannes Bekh for his enlightening 2001 volume on Bruckner. The anachronistic represents an unshakable constant of the serious engagements there that seek to apprehend the highly complex structure of a life and oeuvre, being anything but content to stroll enjoyably through antecourts filled with anecdotal cheer. As a challenge and an unsettling question mark, anachronism stands at the outset of any deep-reaching approach to Bruckner and opens up an aporic chasm on the road to knowledge—a road that, though chosen as a supposedly comfortable and arrow-straight thoroughfare, largely peters out or fails to take on clear contours at all in the particular case of this unfathomable protagonist. It is thus that one must instead attempt—over the course of patient, successive, and occasionally circuitous excursions spoking outward from multiple musico-historical, temporal, and psychographic standpoints—to find routes of approach that can only in combination lead to a deeper understanding of the artist and human being Anton Bruckner.

© Otto Böhler

With the requisite humbleness but self-confidently all the same, an event series of the Anton Bruckner Department of Choral and Ensemble Directing and Music Theory in Music Education in collaboration with several other mdw departments will be complimenting the many large-scale events of this Bruckner memorial year. How will these in-house “centre-based expeditions” into the world of Bruckner shape up? One should first point to a series of academic lectures that will attempt to shed light on and reveal Bruckner as an artist, teacher, human being, and personality from various perspectives. The characteristic features of his musical language, his activities as a music educator, the way in which he related to Wagner, his oeuvre, and his oeuvre’s reception in light of the late 19th and early 20th centuries’ political developments: all this and more will be thematised, elucidated, and subjected to critical reflection. A discussion between two renowned conductors of Bruckner’s works will delve into both the adventure of their interpretation and the problem of their differing versions. Multiple concerts will seek to introduce Bruckner’s compositional output beyond his omnipresent symphonic output, inviting audiences to explore his choral, chamber, piano, Lied, and even brass band compositions in greater detail. And even so, there will indeed be opportunities to also encounter symphonic music by Bruckner (in chamber reductions) as well as to experience the juxtaposition of his motets with contemporary choral music.

A special “Bruckner Day” in June will combine lectures, themed walks, and open-air sounds with concert and exhibition formats. Moreover, this autumn holds in store an hour-long event at the Hofburgkapelle (the Imperial Court Chapel) in formal celebration of Anton Bruckner’s 200th birthday: Bruckner’s 1876 inaugural speech at the University of Vienna, read by Cornelius Obonya in its original wording, will be exquisitely framed by music as the centrepiece of this matinée that will seek to encounter our jubilarian’s creative legacy in a form of commemoration worthy of both the venue and the programme.

In his essay Vom Geist der Utopie (The Spirit of Utopia), authored just over a century ago, Ernst Bloch issued a congenial plea for the lonely Upper Austrian:

“With Bruckner song finally returned to the world, singing with a clear conscience. He learned from Wagner, but the overheated character, the ‘blood-soaked’ score has vanished. An active mobility appears and a radiance of an intellectual nature, an intellectual essentiality, transforming itself within itself: a hovering serenity, albeit drawn by Bruckner even more from the ‘cosmic’ realm than the ‘intelligible.’ But he is as conscientious as he is variable and deep. What we love about him is his warmth, his conviviality, and the joy of the wayfaring, which had been lost.”1

From March to December 2024, the academic and artistic events of the Anton Bruckner Department will invite all those who possess the according interest and openness to spend ten months exploring and engaging with, approaching and critically encountering this great anachronist while most certainly also experiencing his warmth, his conviviality, and the joy of wayfaring.

  1. Ernst Bloch, The Spirit of Utopia, trans. Anthony A. Nassar, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000, p. 69.
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