About this Recording
2.110334 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - BRUCKNER, A.: Symphony No. 4, "Romantic" (with scenery and sights of Austria) (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Tour of Austria
With Symphony No 4 ‘Romantic’ by Anton Bruckner

 

CHAPTER 1

Carinthia: Hochosterwitz Castle • Styria and Carinthia: Landscape

Burg Hochosterwitz, the castle of Hochosterwitz, in Styria (Steiermark), a region of Lower Austria, is remarkable in its siting, set, as it is, on a rock at a height of some 540 feet above the surrounding valley. The castle was built by Georg Freiherr von Khevenhüller in the third quarter of the 16th century on the site of an earlier building dating from the 9th century. There are fourteen gates on the road winding up to the castle, before the entrance itself is reached, and the castle itself preserves historic weapons and other reminiscences of its past. Styria is adjacent to Carinthia, regions of the south of Austria.

Music Bruckner: Symphony No 4 ‘Romantic’ – I. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell

Anton Bruckner was born in Ansfelden, near Linz, in 1824, the son of a schoolmaster and organist and descendant of a longer line of Austrian schoolmasters. He was originally destined by his father for the same profession and was admitted as a student to the Augustinian monastery of St Florian as a chorister. Three years later, in 1840, he went to Linz to train as a teacher, and the following year became an assistant village schoolmaster. In 1845 a vacancy was found for him at St Florian, and six years later he was appointed organist there, later to become organist at Linz Cathedral and undertake further musical study in Vienna, where he eventually assumed teaching duties at the Conservatory. His remaining years were spent largely in Vienna and were not without troubles and disappointments. His admiration for Wagner aroused the antipathy of that composer’s enemies, champions of Brahms, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra refused at first to play his symphonies, although the opposition of the musicians was eventually overcome. These setbacks led Bruckner, never too certain of himself, to undertake revisions of his work so that the symphonies now exist in several versions. Bruckner’s Symphony No 4 in E flat major, was written in its first version in 1873 and 1874, further revisions, as always, taking place in the following years. The opening theme is one that we should do well to remember in listening to the first movement, contrasted as it later is with a more gemütlich Viennese style of melody. The critic Eduard Hanslick, a supporter of Brahms, writing of Symphony No 8, remarked on the repetition of short chromatic motives again and again, higher and higher in the scale and on into infinity. The organist’s improvisatory device of sequence is, in fact, also used here by Bruckner to great cumulative effect.

CHAPTER 2

Ansfelden • St Florian • Styria and Salzkammergut: Landscape

Born at the village of Ansfelden, where the house of his birth is preserved in his memory, Bruckner is buried in the crypt of the Abbey of St Florian, where he had his early training, served for some years as organist. His memory is preserved in a portrait, his piano, and pages from his compositions. The abbey building, erected on the site of earlier foundations, dates largely from the early 18th century on Baroque plans by Carlo Carlone, succeeded by Jakob Prandtauer. Outside is the courtyard Eagle Fountain and in the Abbey Church is a historic 18th century organ by Franz Xaver Krismann.

Music Bruckner: Symphony No 4 ‘Romantic’ – II. Andante quasi allegretto

The second, slow movement opens with a flowing melody in the lower strings, to which others soon have something to add, against a plucked bass accompaniment.

CHAPTER 3

Linz: Hohenbrunn Castle and Hunting Museum • Upper Austria • Salzburg

Hohenbrunn, a dependency of St Florian, is a Jadgschloss, a hunting-lodge, and exhibits trophies of various kinds associated with hunting and shooting, in a Hunting Museum.

Music Bruckner: Symphony No 4 ‘Romantic’ – III. Scherzo: Bewegt

The Scherzo follows, with a hunting-song, in the 1880 version of the work here recorded, contrasted with the horn motive of the gentler pastoral Trio. The movement is, of course, prolonged to a length commensurate with the proportions of the whole symphony, conceived on a massive scale.

CHAPTER 4

Vienna: Schönbrunn Palace • Belvedere: Festival Hall and Marble Hall • St Florian • Upper Austria: Landscape

Originally a hunting-lodge, then lying outside the city of Vienna, the Palace of Schönbrunn dates from 1730, the favourite residence of the Empress Maria Theresia. The Gloriette, with its open portico, on a slope in the surrounding park, was built for Joseph II and the Empress, his mother, in 1775. The Neptune Fountain dates from 1780 and the Palm House was built in 1882. The Belvedere, consisting of two Baroque palaces, was built in the early 18th century for Prince Eugen of Savoy, whose victories against the Turks are commemorated in reliefs and frescoes. Bruckner, Court Organist, was given quarters there by the Emperor for the last sixteen months of his life. The Sala Terrena has four Herculean statues supporting its ceiling. After the death of Prince Eugen in 1736, the palaces were sold off by his heir and eventually acquired by the Emperor, used, as now, to provide the public with an art gallery.

Music Bruckner: Symphony No 4 ‘Romantic’: IV – Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell

The Finale is the longest of the four movements of the symphony and the weightiest. It has something of the steadiness of a march in its rhythms, soon to be interrupted by more lyrical ideas, those Viennese intrusions into what is, on the whole, a more serious world. At a later stage Bruckner suggested programmatic titles for the movements of the symphony. These are of such banality that they are best ignored, as they do nothing so much as trivialise the music, whatever personal associations it may have held for this most unliterary of romantic composers.

Keith Anderson

Recording

Royal Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Günther Neuhold [Naxos 8.550154]


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