Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Bruckner, the organist and a decision with consequences

At the age of 13 years Bruckner came as choirboy to St. Florian to continue his school education by the catholic church due to the death of his father and due to the poverty of his mother. St. Florian was a cultural center for hundreds of years and apart from religion was also teaching music. Bruckner had lessons in singing, violin, piano, and organ. His interest playing organ grew after his voice changed at the age of 15 years, Bruckner became the assistance of the organist Kattinger, who was his teacher and he admired his improvisations, something that had a great impact on Bruckner's future. Part by part Bruckner learned to play first  on smaller organs and finally the great Baroque organ of St. Florian, one of the largest organs in Austria.

During a preparation course, "Präparandenkurs", that he started in 1840, he got also introduced to Johann August Dürrnberger, a music teacher and an important figure as music researcher. Dürrnberger's elementary book in music  had huge influence on Bruckner's music education. Bruckner got introduced to the music of the famous composers Haydn and Mozart.

Bruckner Orgel St. Florian
In 1841 he starts a position as assistant teacher in a small village. He felt lost in this area where his cultural skills were not valued. Mobbing forced him to move to another small position as assistant teacher. Finally in 1845 he managed to get back to St. Florian again as assistant teacher and to his beloved place, that brought him the freedom to start first compositions. In a period of 10 years Bruckner's interest was growing steadily and he started thinking about to become a full time musician.

In 1851 he became organist of St. Florian. A period with daubs followed, creating the first internal crisis. Bruckner at the age of 30 was still not married and suffered again not replied love, an issue that accompanied him through all his life. Maybe this unfulfilled part in his life, was his inner driving force for creativity. His carefulness and shyness might have been a result of a difficult childhood due to the early loss of his father and as consequence of loss of family at the age of 13 years. This is especially tragic  during the developments in puberty. Who knows, maybe we would not have had the grand composer Bruckner, if he had a normal life and if he would be married at the age of 25 years, busy with growing up children and support them.
Alter Dom Linz

In 1955 Bruckner applied as organist of Linz cathedral. Bruckner hesitates, but with support of friends, he finally accepted. He became famous for his free organ improvisations and he had secret admirers.

Bruckner reached his peak in playing organ in 1871, when he go the opportunity to play in London at famous places such as the Royal Albert hall and later at Crystal Palace. 6000 people came to the fist concert at the Royal Albert hall and two more concerts followed therein. Bruckner got invited to play in Crystal Palace. An audience of 70,000 people listen to Bruckner. A gigantic number that has only been reached again today at pop concerts. The size of Crystal Palace was breath taking, uniquely been build for the world exhibition and constructed out of steel and glass.
Crystal Palace, London

Bruckner's success was overwhelming and it was too much for him to cope with it. He was unable to deal with the sudden popularity. Even worse, he refused the opportunity of a concert tour in England that would have brought him within six months an income of 100 yearly salaries as music conservator teacher. Bruckner could have been independent as composer, however, he was unable to use unique opportunity. It is a riddle why he refused it and we can only think of the local people problem, that could explain it, not to see ahead the familiar life and to be too afraid to go out into the world, being drawn back by homesickness.

Maybe another part played an important role for this decision: His focus on composition. Bruckner had a limited organ repertoire and was not willing to extend it. When asked to play other works from Bach, Bruckner said: "Better ask my scholar, he can train it."

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Bruckner's problem of intellectual giftedness


Intellectual giftedness comes with two sides: The exceptional mind and the social problem. This problem is not easy to be understood for most non-gifted people. All humans suffer one problem: Projection. For non-psychologist it can be explained as the phenomenon that all humans project their emotions, thinking, and expectations upon other people, animals, or even objects by thinking that the other will think and feel the same as well as knowing what one expects from him. I can tell you directly here, the exact opposite is the case. Everyone, who is doing this projection, knowingly or unknowingly will totally fail and suffer the frustration of his own non-realistic expectations. One of the beautiful example is when a man talks to his dog, telling him his love problems. When asked he is very confident that his dog with its brave eyes will understand him. Certainly an illusion. As long as he does not expect from the dog to help him in that problem, the illusion will keep going.

The average of people are of similar intelligence and emotionalism, so that they can try to read, what the other want from them, when the other is expressing something and of course does his projection. It is easier for the two because of the same level of communication. The interpretation of the expression of the other however happens with their own projection. Both might struggle a bit until each gets what he wants and if not, they start fighting. Human mankind somehow works and has successfully survived, which indicates that this mechanism is sufficiently successful in many cases. However, lots of conflicts proof that the ability of understanding is way apart perfectionism. Here the above described problem is the main reason, why fights and wars happen rather than meeting in peace.

What if the emotional sense and the intellectual thinking is 100 times more intense than of an average person? What will be the consequences of the communication of the two? Will it be a balanced or rather one sided communication? Well, the answer is clear: The one with higher intellect and finer senses will much easier read the expressions of the average person, he even will feel it to be quite easy and primitive to read the other, if not boring because of that. Due to his finer senses, the gifted person will try to fulfill the wishes of the average person more easily, trying to avoid further trouble and to get rid of the problem as quickly as possible. He is therefore much more flexible and adaptive, that might be experienced as a weakness by the average person.

How does the average person think of the gifted one? For him the other is not easy to read and his being is more mysterious in the lucky case for the gifted one. However, most average people will say that this one "is complicated" to declassify his personality as they subconsciously feel to be inferior. It is one of the very typical human aspects of hierarchical thinking always wanting to be superior. Those who feel to be inferior will use techniques to become superior of the other. If their intellect is not sufficient, they will use emotional games that block the gifted one to use his full capacity. Today we call this method mobbing, which can be very successful. The adaptability of the gifted person, that will be seen as weakness rather than an useful advantage, will become the starting point of attack. If the gifted person is not aware of these mechanisms, he will end up in the hand of bad people.

Bruckner's intellectual giftedness

When we read Bruckner's letters today, we cannot ignore his very submissive style of writing. Either consciously or subconsciously he is turning his personality far below the addressee. Did he fear to show his intellect and personality to give the addressee a superior feeling in the hope to achieve his goals? Or did he just try to adapt to the level of the addressee? Would he have been successfully reached his goals if he would have shown his real personality? Wouldn't the envy of others then destroy his future?
In my impression, Bruckner must have had negative experiences with people from his early childhood. Even being primus in St. Florian must have caused envy by his classmates. At his first position as assistant teacher in a small village, the local teacher was treating him badly and was mobbing him. It was obvious: Bruckner's intelligence was a danger to the teacher's position.

One specialty of Bruckner were ironic comments for which he used the local Austrian dialect. However, for all important statements he used high standard German. Yet, this difference in expression has not much been realized by historians. A man wanted to know, what was the idea of a passage of Bruckner's symphony, Bruckner said in Austrian dialect: "Here I have looked deeply into the eyes of a young woman." The man, who had asked, because he didn't understand the music, was pleased with the answer. Bruckner had talked to him in his intellectual level. Bruckner itself had peace from further questions and maybe some fun.

During Bruckner's lecture, he also used the two language styles, creating a nice atmosphere with Austrian dialect, however, by important subjects he switch to high standard German. The comedian versus the intellectual. This controversy is typical for Bruckner. Certainly, he had a great humor, even if others might have not understood it.

Bruckner's behavior was very respectfully when meeting Richard Wagner, whom he admired a lot. Wagner was due to his success much more confident. A silhouette illustrates very well the difference of the two. Bruckner offered Wagner to dedicate him one of his symphonies. Sitting in an evening together with Wagner, the composer of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" selected the D moll symphony, "where the trumpet starts the theme" (3rd). The next morning, Bruckner had forgotten it, ask Wagner again and he reminded him on this symphony.

Double autograph of Bruckner and Wagner
From his hotel room he wrote Wagner again just to be really sure: "Symphony in d-moll where the trumpet begins? Anton Bruckner" Wagner wrote on the same letter "Yes, yes, kind regards. Richard Wagner" and returned it to Bruckner. It is the only document with the signature of the two geniuses. Interestingly this small story tells much about the differences of the both personalities although of similar intelligence. One is very self-confident, the other driven by doubts. Obviously the conditioned self-confidence in early childhood has a huge influence in the later life. A general personality factor might be responsible as well.

Bruckner and his reviewers
The conflict between Brahms and Bruckner is legendary. Brahms had a huge success with his symphonies, while Bruckner was fighting for his works to be performed, even had to pay the musicians by himself. In some concerts the audience run part by part out of the concert. Conductors send him back the score, telling him, they do not understand it. Bruckner was down and ended up in doubts. The reviewer Eduard Hanslick wrote very bad articles against Bruckner, who suffered a lot about. All this doubts accumulated so much, that had driven Bruckner to change and revise his symphonies so that of some we have today 4 versions. Nevertheless, Bruckner's intellect didn't surrender, although his emotional side got damaged. This inner conflict is not rare among intellectually gifted people.

Today we know that also Brahms had the strings of the music society in his hands that he cleverly pulled to eliminate concurrence. Bruckner was a dangerous concurrent as he was the greater genius and his music was directing into the future, while Brahms' was oriented to the past. Brahms was convinced that Bruckner's music was all swindle and that it would be soon forgotten. Interestingly Bruckner's scores have been found in Brhams's estate. It is also known that Brahms was sitting in the audience of the performance of Bruckner's Symphony No. 8. People reported that he was leaving the concert at the end with a pale face without comment. Brahms didn't stop to attack Bruckner: "He is a poor crazy man, whom the priests of St. Florian have him on the conscience." A typical mobbing case, giving a clear hint that Bruckner was a problem for Brahms. In the contrary, Bruckner took it more elegant: "He is the Brahms, respect! - I am the Bruckner, but like my stuff more." Although this, Brahms was found hiding behind a column during Bruckner's funeral, bitterly crying. At the end, a secret admirer.

Although all of this complexes and insecurities, Bruckner knew exactly what was his position and meaning in music history. He was saying: "Oh you can change my symphonies as you like as long as they get performed. However, for the Austrian music library you must leave them unchanged for later times when my music will be understood." Bruckner was a genius with an amazing mind and farsightedness, way above the people of his time, but hiding it most of the time.

Bruckner in St.Florian

St. Florian Monastery is located near Linz in Austria. An opulent Baroque architecture of the finest art binds the visitors attention, giving him an impression of a rich culture. Its roots go back to the martyr Florianus, who worked as head of office in the Roman province Ufernoricum in the city of Lauriacum, just an hour by foot from St. Florian. He died 304 AD by torture, because of his Christian believes. Just 8 years later the Roman emperor Constantin won his battle under the cross symbol and started to tolerate the Christians, a significant turn in history. 380 AD Thedosius I. declared Christianity as state religion. Within this context, the grave of Florianus became a place of pilgrimage already in the 4th century. The location is assumed today under the monastery, which was founded in the 9th century.     
Library of St. Florian

Time dimensions later, Bruckner came as young man with the age of 13 to St. Florian to attend the school of 3rd grade and became choirboy. How much must this poor young boy have been impressed by this vast architecture, this amazing history or the art and music? We can only imagine it by the impression St. Florian makes to us still today.

One and a half years later Bruckner became "primus". In the center of the school's education was the religious education, that conditioned Bruckner for all of his life and that became an inner center of his symphonies.
Earliest picture of Bruckner 1861

The school's education included teaching in piano, violin, singing, and organ. Bruckner was fascinated about playing the organ and quickly became assistant of the local organist, who's improvisations Bruckner admired. In St. Florian Bruckner had one of the largest Austrian organs under his hands, that must have been impressive for a boy with 15 and 16 years. He was asked by the prelate what kind of profession he were dreaming of. "Kapellmeister" (conductor) he answered and his dream got destroyed by the comment that his was too exaggerated. It is one of the first moments, were Bruckner's fight for his profession begins, most probably caused by his poor family background.

At the age of 16, Bruckner left St. Florian and went to another school in Linz. After an odyssey, he returned 1845 as assistant teacher to St. Florian and left 10 years later to become organist at the cathedral of Linz. Through all his life, Bruckner returned regularly to St. Florian to his emotional home to find peace. His wish was to be coffined in the basilica of St. Florian, the place were we can find him today. 

Bruckner Symphony No. 9 completed by Schaller

I have been lucky to be in the recent concert of Anton Bruckner's symphony No. 9 completed by Gerd Schaller. The concert was in an amazing atmosphere in Ebrach's "Abteikirche" with one of the bests sounds and interpretations in my opinion and also the warm south German sound of the Philharmonie Festiva was tempting. Especially the completion is the first that matches Bruckner's style as best, compared to the previous attempts during the last decades. There are no changes in style and even for experts it will be difficult to know where Bruckner ends and Schaller starts.

Previous attempts to complete the 4th movement ended fully out of style, sounding more like Mahler, such as Carragan or turned out to be rather boring and not inspired such as SPCM. Not so Schaller's version. He matches first time the dimension of the symphony and manages to set a point on top for a fulminate final. And even better, this new version even has a "Reprise", that non of the others tried, although in can be found in Bruckner's sketches. Schaller created an excellent coda with a full dramatic development before it. He made like a retrospective of other Bruckner's symphony themes but citing them in an indirect and modified way. Bruckner's doctor noted that Bruckner had played for him the version of the finale on piano, where he overlapped the themes of the last symphonies. Exactly this was done by Gerd Schaller, giving the coda as much authenticity as possible from the currently available material and information.

I am sure that there will be many discussions coming about this version. Some will like it, others won't. Nevertheless, I have am quite convinced that this version has a great potential to make it into concert halls.

Yesterday I got the CD of this concert, available by Profil Hännsler. I have listened to it now several times, especially the finale. My impression is that one can listen to it many times without getting tired of it. It is the same effect when listening to Bruckner's symphonies. I really can recommend this excellent recording.

Here the picture of the CD cover:

Bruckner's mystery

Nearly 120 years after Anton Bruckner's death, his music still polarizes people in absolute extremes. Some really hate his long symphonies and they don't see any sense in his long musical lines. However, others adore it. This intense polarization is probably one of the reasons of his success.

Even more interesting is the process of Bruckner's popularity. Most of his life time, his music was mainly ignored, while others like Brahms were in the sunshine of the music society of the late 19th century. Bruckner was fighting for many years against the attacks against his personality and his music. Hence, Bruckner had to pay himself for getting some of his symphonies performed. Often conductors reorganized his symphony, took out areas or even worse, reorchestrated it according the conservative taste of that time. His scholars, the Schalk brothers, even dared to rewrite his symphonies, and hence attacked indirectly Bruckner's self esteem. 

It is just about 80 years ago, that a small change happened. One was looking after the original unchanged scores of Bruckner's symphonies. As deeper one has looked into the matter, it turned out to be rather a difficult task. Due to the lots of criticism Bruckner had to suffer, he tried to improve his symphonies and modified them to get versions that should easier been understood. In some cases he wrote even fully new movements by replacing the old ones. Some symphonies have up to three versions, each one appearing in a different light. It is often not clear, if the last version was the final version or if it was a new way to see it. Today we classify therefore the symphony version by the year of their finalization.

The interpretation of his symphonies by conductors even complicates the situation as the styles of interpretation can change dramatically. Often conductors loose the overview, end up in timing problems that causes huge abrupt breaks in the flow of music. Some even think that this is pure Bruckner style. Only during the last 10 years a new way of understanding Bruckner's music is awakening. Following strictly the commands of the score and choose beats been related to each other, Bruckner's huge dimensions in his symphonies become visible.

Bruckner and the women

Anton Bruckner was never married and had no children. There are many stories about his contact attempts to women, his several marriage offers, but all were refused, except one that he finally refused. Till today, there are many discussions about his private life. What we know today appears to be rather bizarre. His tendency to especially young woman is notably a delicate issue that remained through all his life. His expectations were quite high and he focused on woman way too attractive and not matching to his own attractive appearance. Today the research can be quite confident about the fact that Bruckner had never been with a woman together.

There is one obscure story about him: At a time when Bruckner was leading a chorus, the group was meeting in a pub after the rehearsal. The musicians new about Bruckner's complex and convinced the waitress to seduce Bruckner. She was so successful that they ended up in a room. But what one might have thought, Bruckner started to pray and finally run out of the room. A typical behavior of Bruckner. In his world he had to marry the woman first.

What could be the psychological reasons of his complex? Was it the strong religious education? One can be quite confident that at least during his early life, he was strongly believing. Was it the time among the monks who had neglected the very human way of living? Did this maybe prevented to get experiences in his adolescent time, which would be important for developing later and mature relationships? Is the absence of this experience the reason for his preference of young women? Today, we can only speculate and asume that the answer might be found within these questions.

During his later life, Bruckner became quite overweight, that certainly was not helpful to finally find the woman of desire. He obviously replaced his unfulfilled desire by another.

Did his personal situation of unfulfilled love had an influence on his work as composer? From the nature of music, we cannot find any direct hint, that would allow such a conclusion. Psychoanalysis was first time mentioned by Sigmund Freud in the year of Bruckner's death 1896 and started a revolution of the understanding of the human mind and behavior. Today, we are familiar with displacement activity that may appear in spontaneous behavior or as long rage behavior by a lasting trigger. It may end up to obsessive-compulsive disorder on a non resolving inner conflict. Bruckner developed in the middle of his live a counting obsessive-compulsive disorder, that became so strong, that he ended up in a sanatorium. This deep crises had a huge influence for his later life. His counting obsession can be found in many aspects in his music, either in bar periods or repeating motives. Therefore we can assume, that we would not had Bruckner's music in the way it developed, if Bruckner would have been happily married, being distracted by a family life or the need to take care of others or for living. His life as single provided him with much time for his development as musician and to substitute his unfulfilled wishes into the highest intellectual form of music art with a huge emotional component. Bruckner was so far out of the normal life and hence also from the music styles at that time, that he was free of these limitations and could develop a fully unique style of music.

The last woman in his life was his female housekeeper Kathi Kachelmayer who took care of Bruckner till his last moments. 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Bruckner's complex

Bruckner grew up in very poor conditions. His father was a teacher, who barely could support his family. After the death of his father, Bruckner had been brought to church to receive an education there. After some odyssey he finally returned to St. Forian, the place that had the greatest influence in him as a place of inspiration, developing his taste for arts and music. In his later life, Bruckner returned regularly to St. Forian where he also got coffined. 

His poor conditions at childhood did not allow him to receive an academic education in music, something that would have opened him the door to the higher society. Lifelong he suffered on the fact, not to be accepted for his music in the academic society, even though he got in his later life period an academic teaching position.

Brahms, the one in the sunshine of the music society, was very much admired especially in Vienna, because his music matched the music conventions of that time as best. Bruckner's revolutionary ideas in music shocked many people, who were unable to understand this music intellectually.  This often resulted in total rejection of Bruckner's music, some considered him crazy, others being a farmer. Also his inability to adapt himself to the clothing style of the higher society enforced his problem of acceptance.

Although all of this attacks upon his personality and music, he knew exactly the importance of his music in respective to the music history. Only a few comments indicate it. His awareness about himself is in huge contrast to his shy and often submissive behavior, that certainly has its roots in the permanent attacks against him. One should also note that such geniuses are extremely sensitive, having developed more senses than average people, who consider the smart people as crazy, because they simply do not understand them. Today we know this phenomenon of high talented children.

Bruckner developed methods to deal with the situation, often not to be understood. One typical behavior was to speak in local dialect, when he made ironic fun in situations of ignorant people, who of course didn't realize it and took it serious. However, at important situations he used the high standard German, a fact that has not been discussed much in music history yet. It would rather need a psychologist than a music historian to start to understand Bruckner's life.