week36: bruckner's symphony #9: plucked strings and little else


“symphonic boa constrictors” were the choice words once awarded by brahms to the character of anton bruckner’s symphonies, and to that extent his ninth symphony is an anaconda as many meters long.

sticking with the serpentine analogy: one could trace a finger from the bulbous head to about the mid-section of this symphony and would only have made it to the halfway point of the Feierlich, the first movement. it’s an overly cerebral thing, unbearably uneventful, too much of an interior to it, barely does it step outside into nature. the strings groan and drone, mumbling and excising various lengths of musical material that are--even with an almost surgical concentration--difficult to commit to memory. (and to what extent is it music if it lacks the possibility of mnemonic registration?).

the comparatively brief Scherzo, when it finally arrives, begins as pizzicato plucked over an marvelously sustained note on trumpet, evolving into a majestic prance. then a melody, at last! but piped reluctantly on principal oboe. the rest of the second movement takes place outside in the form of a buzz and bumble between flute and oboe. oscillating between tempos, the orchestra’s stamina is nearly exhausted by the time it reaches the rumbling climax of the movement. the third movement---almost as long as the first---takes a turn towards the majestic sustaining a strain that seldom finds relief, a sharp contrast from the character of the Feierlich.

unable to find the record i actually wanted (dvorak’s Symphony No. 9) i settled instead for the bruckner’s Ninth, and my opinion of it hasn’t changed much in the year since:

wagner once wrote a letter to nietzsche to dispense a piece of advice the depth of which nietzsche uncharacteristically underestimated, something along the lines of: one has two equally good options as treatment of neurosis: either get married or write an opera. (wagner felt himself well versed on the causes of nietzsche’s neurological maladies: he also wrote a letter to nietzsche’s doctor attributing these maladies to excessive masturbation: an example of how easy it is to invert cause and cure…). point being: if nietzsche had been smart enough to take such excellent advice (he tried marriage but lou-andreas salome said fuck no) and if he wrote a symphony instead of an opera: he might have written something the likes of bruckner’s 9th symphony. what i really mean: it’s the type of artwork borne of an artist’s complete devotion to the breadth of their artform rather than the onset of an urgent idea eager to be expressed in any artform readily available. “” excerpt from week36, 2018



Seraphim recording   // Anton Bruckner // Symphony No.9

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Carl Schuricht

Symphony No.9

  • - Feierlich, Misterioso

  • - Scherzo (Bewegt, lebhaft) & Trio (Schnell)

  • - Adagio (Langsam, feierlich)