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Anton Bruckner was born in Ansfelden on September 9, 1824. His father was a schoolmaster and organist with whom he first studied music. He studied at the St. Florian monastery, becoming an organist there in 1851. He continued his studies to the age of 40, but his most crucial contact was with the music of Richard Wagner which he first experienced in 1863. His other major influence is commonly considered to have been Ludwig van Beethoven. In 1868 he accepted a post as a teacher of music theory at the Vienna Conservatory. At this point he concentrated most of his energies on writing symphonies. However these symphonies were poorly received, considered 'wild' and 'nonsensical'. He later accepted a post at Vienna University in 1875 and beginning in the 1880s with Symphony No. 7 his work began to be accepted. He died in Vienna on October 11, 1896.

Despite his contemporary image as a bumpkin from the provinces, Bruckner (1824-1896) was a powerful, visionary musical thinker whose symphonies were among the monumental accomplishments of the late 19th century. Bruckner was the first symphonic composer to take up what Deryck Cooke called the "metaphysical challenge" of Beethoven's Ninth. He thereby renewed the symphony as an expression of transcendent emotion and a confession of personal faith. Here are his essential recordings.

recommended recordings
Bruckner: Symphony no 4 / Salonen, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Composer: Anton Bruckner
Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen
Ensemble: Los Angeles Philharmonic
Sony Classics - #63301 / July 28, 1998

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Esa-Pekka Salonen is an amazing conductor. He has won a sterling reputation as an interpreter of contemporary music, but here he turns in a totally idiomatic, magnificently poised Bruckner performance. The Los Angeles brass play with a burnished glow recalling the great Central European orchestras, only with more security, while the strings have all the weight that Bruckner demands. The interpretation is magisterially slow--rather like the old Karl Bohm/Vienna Philharmonic version--but never...Read more

  Bruckner: Symphony no 4 / Karl Böhm, Wiener PO

Composer: Anton Bruckner
Conductor: Karl Böhm
Ensemble: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Uni/Decca - #466374 / August 10, 1999

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This is regarded by many experts as "the" recording of Bruckner's Fourth (as far as any can be so called) and it does not disappoint. The sound on this Decca disc is flawless, as has the others I've listened to in the "Legends" series. Sadly, Decca, like DG and EMI (esp. EMI) has a sad history of letting great recordings go out of print...don't miss this one if youre looking for a recording of this will be a long time before such a series is again seen.

Furtwängler conducts Bruckner: Symphony no 9; Wagner

Composer: Anton Bruckner, Richard Wagner
Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwängler
Ensemble: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Music & Arts - #730 / August 6, 1992

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Furtwängler's connection with Bruckner's Ninth Symphony went back to the dawn of his career: in fact, it was the featured work on the program with which he made his symphonic conducting debut in 1907, at the age of 20. But only one of Furtwängler's performances of the Ninth was ever recorded, and this is it--a soulful reading with the Berlin Philharmonic from a concert given on October 7, 1944, in the dark final year of World War II. Furtwängler was always, in his ...Read more

Bruckner: Symphonie no 8 / Karajan, Vienna Philharmonic

Composer: Anton Bruckner
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Ensemble: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #27611 / September 12, 1989

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Herbert von Karajan identified with the Eighth perhaps more intensely than with any other score in the repertory; it is significant that in February 1989, in what proved to be his last performances outside of Austria, he brought it to New York with the VPO and made it the centerpiece of a three-concert engagement. The air of finality was heavy at those concerts, and Karajan, determined to go out as a conqueror, did just that. This 1988 recording comes very close to recapturing the experience of...Read more

Bruckner: Mass in D minor, Te Deum / Best, Corydon Singers
Composer: Anton Bruckner
Conductor: Matthew Best
Performer: Keith Lewis, Alastair Miles, et al.
Ensemble: Corydon Orchestra, Corydon Singers
Hyperion (UK) - #66650 / September 21, 1993

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This extremely impressive disc contains music from the beginning and the end of Bruckner's composing career. The Te Deum is one of five great 19th-century settings of the text (the others are by Haydn, Berlioz, Verdi, and Dvorák). In form it follows a pattern similar to Haydn's, though on a much larger scale; but musically it's unique. Bruckner's preference for unison melody and modal harmony make the piece sound like a huge Gregorian chant for chorus with orchestral accompaniment. The piece was...Read more

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