Chamber Choir of Europe & Württemberg Philharmonic, Reutlingen, Nicol Matt
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‘Half genius, half idiot’ was Mahler’s description of the reclusive and strange Anton Bruckner. Peasant-like and socially awkward, with a weakness for teenage girls throughout his life, he was a tortured soul. A small-town musician, he struggled to establish his musical voice, but when he did, it would become one of the most distinctive and influential in classical music. Bruckner was by any standards a late developer. Although he had composed a sizeable amount of music before he reached 40, if he had written nothing else, it is unlikely that any of it would be remembered today. Only one or two glimpses of the mature composer can be detected in these works, but certainly nothing of the great symphonies that would follow. It is with the D minor Mass that his unmistakable style first made itself known. Up to this point, he had been living the life of a provincial musician, a choir master and organist. His influences were Joseph and Michael Haydn, and he had yet to encounter in any significant way the music of Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt and Wagner. By the time the D minor Mass was completed in 1864, Bruckner was under the spell of the Bayreuth master, Richard Wagner. Though the mass is not overtly ‘Wagnerian’ (it is still based on a Haydnesque model) the exposure to Wagner unlocked in Bruckner a sense of individuality and daring that must have surprised his provincial circle. There is a sense of anguish in the music that on the basis of the early works appears to come from nowhere.
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