Programme Guide

Anton Bruckner is one of the most outstanding composers in more recent music history. His symphonies, which even his contemporaries compared to majestic cathedrals, are monoliths with gigantic swells that nevertheless soar weightlessly to heavenly heights.

Bruckner’s experience as an organist determined the architecture and timbres of his works, in which he adhered to the personal style he developed with impressive consistency. The path to this goal is documented by two works not included in the official count, which Christian Thielemann presents in these concerts: the Symphony in F minor from 1863, with which Bruckner finally wanted to “hold his own” in the symphonic field after years of meticulous study, and the D minor Symphony from 1869, which was composed at a time when Bruckner was still completely under the spell of his dramatic F minor Mass – which is even alluded to on several occasions.

However, when court conductor Otto Dessoff after a private performance asked the provocative question “Yes, but where is the theme?”, Bruckner, plagued by self-doubt, declared the whole thing “void”. Fortunately, he nevertheless carefully kept the score. Because with its distinctly religious colouring, this captivating piece is also a typical Bruckner symphony, in which powerful climaxes meet moments of introspective transfiguration. It was precisely here that the composer found a workable model that he was able to develop further in his later symphonies.

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