Work of the week - Bruckner 7

By Konzerthaus Berlin Dec. 11, 2023


© Marco Borggreve

A great admiration for the music of Richard Wagner united two such different characters as Anton Bruckner, who severely doubted himself, lived sparsely and completely for his music and God, and the exalted Wagner patron Ludwig II, who liked to pose as the swan knight Lohengrin. The composer dedicated his Symphony No. 7 to the Bavarian monarch, which, as musicologist Kerstin Schüssler-Bach succinctly writes, "brings together both of Bruckner's worlds of faith: the foundation of his strict Catholic piety, but also the mystical experience of Wagner's temple of sound - a religion of art that promised consolation and redemption."

"Very solemn and very slow" is the description of the second movement. Bruckner completed it in March 1883, deeply affected by the death of Wagner, eleven years his senior, the previous month. The famous Adagio of the Seventh had been a premonition for him for some time, as he noted: "Once I came home and was very sad; I thought to myself that the master could not possibly live much longer, then the Adagio in C sharp minor came to my mind."

In this movement, he has four of the eight horn players play Wagner tubas for the first time, which his revered colleague had introduced in the Ring. The last thirty bars are a funeral music "in memory of the highly blessed, dearly beloved immortal master".

Despite that melancholy, Bruckner's Seventh was a success from the outset, the likes of which had never before been experienced by the composer, who had rarely been graciously received or even celebrated by the public and, above all, by critics.

Today, it is the most frequently performed of his nine symphonies. Unlike others, he did not revise the work to any great extent. There is only one version, the autograph of which is kept in the Vienna National Library. However, one of the minor changes in it still puzzles researchers: 

Did the composer intend to mark the climax of the Adagio movement with an additional cymbal crash and triangle or not? Inserted, deleted, marked "does not apply", pasted over - the score reveals that Anton Bruckner had his doubts about this effect. It remains unclear whether the conductor of the premiere, Arthur Nikisch, or one of the composer's pupils suggested the change and what Bruckner ultimately considered to be set. Conductors have the choice!

More on the topic

Audio Concert Introduction

Find out more about Bruckner's 7th Symphony.

Digitales Programmheft

Das Programm der Konzerte am 15. & 16. Dezember mit Arnold Schönbergs „Verklärte Nacht“ und Bruckners Sinfonie Nr. 7

hier entlang


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