Programme Guide

To a friend, Anton Bruckner outlined a historical scene which forms the basis of the first movement of his symphony. There is mention of a “medieval city”, “the rustle of the forest” and of knights who “gallop out into the fields on their proud steeds”. But we must assume that Bruckner devised these poetic descriptions only later to facilitate access to his music to his audiences. Indeed, the Fourth Symphony is in no way programme music, but is “Romantic” through its use of melody which surges between pride and melancholy, through its horn calls and archaic fanfares.

Richard Strauss had a decidedly low opinion of Bruckner’s work, which he described as “boring peasant music.” It may be that Strauss – who had long seen himself as the spearhead of the avant-garde – simply found this music to be too old fashioned. However, in his 1945 Oboe Concerto, composed in the face of the devastation of World War II, he dreams himself into history. And so Strauss’s work, infused with Mozartian grace is, in the words of Albrecht Mayer – “one of his most heartfelt and among the best he ever wrote.”

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