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Anton Bruckner

Updated on December 23, 2010

1824-1896

Anton Bruckner was an Austrian composer, son of a village schoolmaster; destined for a teaching career, he was also taught the organ and at the age of 13, when his father died, he went as chorister to the monastery of St Florian, where he received more systematic training in music.

As well as absorbing a thorough knowledge of the Viennese Classical church music repertoire, he composed much while filling various teaching posts; but it was not till the age of 32 that he was appointed organist at Linz Cathedral. He took a course of study in strict counterpoint under Schubert's teacher Sechter during visits to Vienna, and another in orchestration and form under Kitzler at Linz, who introduced him to the music of Wagner, which was to be such a powerful inspiration behind Bruckner's own music. Only at the age of 40 did he write his first mature work, the Mass in D minor.

In 1868 he became a tutor, and later professor, at the Vienna Conservatory; in 1869 he visited France, and in 1871 England as organ virtuoso. From 1868 he was attached to the Viennese court chapel, but he was never comfortably off and his works made slow headway. He wrote a vast amount of sacred and secular choral music on a small scale, but very little for the piano or organ; among his important works are the Masses and Te Deum, the string quintet, and particularly his nine symphonies which show gran­deur of conception, organ-like splendour of orchestration and expansive melodic beauty. These works are heirs to the large-scale symphonic structures of Beethoven and Schubert.

He was too easily induced by his professional friends to revise, cut and rescore the symphonies, with the result that various versions exist to confuse students and to provoke endless quarrels among experts.

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