Celestial bodies

On the bicentenary of Bruckner’s birth

(Photo: Heribert Schindler)

The music of Anton Bruckner has been a regular part of the programmes of the Berliner Philharmoniker ever since the orchestra was founded in 1882 and so it goes without saying that we shall be marking the bicentenary of his birth with a cycle of his symphonies. These performances will be spread over two seasons. In 2023/24 audiences will have an opportunity to hear the famous “Romantic” Symphony as well as the rarely performed “Nullte”.

It is unnecessary to be a believer in the religious sense of the word to play and listen to Bruckner’s music. And yet there is something about these monolithic works that encourages us to view the world through different eyes. Bruckner’s symphonies could be described as a form of extreme sport since they demand great powers of endurance, resolve and concentration from performers and public alike, but the effort is rewarded by an immense feeling of happiness and by a profound insight into the beauty and fragility of our lives as well as into something that lies beneath the surface of our quotidian world.

For Bruckner composing was a divine mission

In the light of today’s internet-driven age, it seems almost inconceivable that these towering works could have been created by a loner. Although Bruckner was far from cutting himself off from the world, his ties with other people and his failure to form any kind of relationship with women were invariably subordinated to his mission, a mission to which he clung with remarkable tenacity, no matter how much and how often his music may have been rejected: “They want me to write differently,” he once confessed. “I could do so, but I’m not allowed to. Among the many thousands of people God has favoured me and given this talent to me and to me alone. I need to be accountable for this.”

This comment by a profoundly devout Catholic composer sums up his artistic creed. Although he had trained as a teacher, he never saw himself as a well-read intellectual – even his friends described him as having “the obstinacy of a native of Upper Austria”. But the one-sided picture of Bruckner as a sort of musical holy fool badgered by well-meaning colleagues wanting him to rework his symphonies is now a thing of the past. Bruckner was a very thoughtful composer with a heightened concern for structural subtleties who did not write selflessly for his own private satisfaction but a musician who was always looking for recognition and seeking opportunities to have his works performed.

Bruckner’s bouts of depression, his obsessive-compulsive disorders and what he himself called his occasional “complete enervation” appear to have found no counterpart in his music. A late developer, he remained impressively consistent in maintaining his personal style. He described his “Nullte” as “merely an experiment”, using all his symphonies after his First to explore the possibilities of an alternative symphonic concept, but the qualities that had distinguished his handwriting from the outset continued to assert their all-powerful sway.

Bruckner’s crises seem barely to be reflected in his works

Bruckner’s experiences as an organist influenced the structure, tone-colours and polyphonic complexity of his symphonies. Time and again his music builds to monumental climaxes, creating majestic mountain peaks in music, but there are also moments of tranquillity, of meditation and of poetic humour. There is also the note of longing associated with the Romantic period from which Bruckner emerged as a composer, a quality found in its most intense form in his popular Fourth Symphony. The way in which his musical language veers between individuality and the style of the period as a whole and the interaction between his own human emotions and a rapt spirituality combine in ever new ways to create an oeuvre that can be approached from an infinite number of angles.

The Bruckner focus of the 2023/24 season

Thursday,

29 Feb 2024,
20:00

Main Auditorium

Series: G – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Thu 29 Feb 2024, 20:00
Main Auditorium

Berliner Philharmoniker

Christian Thielemann conductor

Works by Anton Bruckner

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Friday,

01 Mar 2024,
20:00

Main Auditorium

Series: M – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Fri 01 Mar 2024, 20:00
Main Auditorium

Berliner Philharmoniker

Christian Thielemann conductor

Works by Anton Bruckner

Read more

Saturday,

02 Mar 2024,
19:00

Main Auditorium

Series: N – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Sat 02 Mar 2024, 19:00
Main Auditorium

Berliner Philharmoniker

Christian Thielemann conductor

Works by Anton Bruckner

Read more Watch online

Saturday,

18 May 2024,
19:00

Main Auditorium

Series: L – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Sat 18 May 2024, 19:00
Main Auditorium

Berliner Philharmoniker

François-Xavier Roth conductor

Works by Vito Žuraj and Anton Bruckner

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Sunday,

19 May 2024,
20:00

Main Auditorium

Series: A – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Sun 19 May 2024, 20:00
Main Auditorium

Berliner Philharmoniker

François-Xavier Roth conductor

Works by Vito Žuraj and Anton Bruckner

Read more

Thursday,

30 May 2024,
20:00

Main Auditorium

Series: C – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Thu 30 May 2024, 20:00
Main Auditorium

Berliner Philharmoniker

Sir Simon Rattle conductor

Stefan Dohr french horn

Works by Jörg Widmann and Anton Bruckner

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Friday,

31 May 2024,
20:00

Main Auditorium

Series: B – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Fri 31 May 2024, 20:00
Main Auditorium

Berliner Philharmoniker

Sir Simon Rattle conductor

Stefan Dohr french horn

Works by Jörg Widmann and Anton Bruckner

Read more

Saturday,

01 Jun 2024,
19:00

Main Auditorium

Series: I – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Sat 01 Jun 2024, 19:00
Main Auditorium

Berliner Philharmoniker

Sir Simon Rattle conductor

Stefan Dohr french horn

Works by Jörg Widmann and Anton Bruckner

Read more Watch online