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Anton Bruckner the Lost, or the ultimate orchestral experience

The year 2024 marked the centenary of two major disappearances from the classical world: that of Gabriel Fauré and that of Giacomo Puccini.

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Anton Bruckner the Lost, or the ultimate orchestral experience

The year 2024 marked the centenary of two major disappearances from the classical world: that of Gabriel Fauré and that of Giacomo Puccini. But 2024 was also the 200th birthday of one of the greatest symphonists of Germanic culture: the Austrian Anton Bruckner. Long misunderstood, even despised by a part of the musical world, the man whose work we have continued to rediscover and evaluate over the last ten years nevertheless remains too often in the shadow of a Mahler who admired him. , or of a Beethoven whom he admired (to the point of defining him as “the incarnation of all that is great and sublime in music”).

Certainly, there are between Beethoven and Bruckner, beyond the number of symphonies (nine) which connect them, as many worlds as there can be between the transparent sound cathedrals of the “genius of Saint-Florian” and the landscapes abundant works of the father of the Symphony of a Thousand. But the composer nonetheless continues to fascinate conductors and performers, from the devotion of a certain Furtwängler for “Brucknerian theology”, that of “a Gothic mystic lost by mistake in the 19th century”, he said. For Daniel Barenboïm, who did not hesitate to return to the profession, a few years ago, the complete of his symphonies which he had already recorded twice in the past, “there is an exalted and twilight, and a sense of dramatic twist that we do not sufficiently suspect, and which often remain misunderstood.”

Quebec chef Yannick Nézet-Séguin experienced this incomprehension personally. The one who recalls that he hated the composer so much as a teenager that he ended up throwing away one of his discs containing the Fourth Symphony is today one of the most committed cantors of his generation in favor of the music of the Austrian master. To the point of having recorded the complete symphonies with his Orchester métropolitain de Montréal. And to have returned there regularly, whether with the Rotterdam Philharmonic or the Staatskapelle of Dresden, with whom he recorded his Third Symphony a few years ago, a true tribute to Wagner.

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He does not hesitate to describe the work of symphonist Bruckner as “ the ultimate orchestral experience.” Invoking the sense of the almost sacred collective that this music requires, unlike the immediate “individual gratification” on which Gustav Mahler relies. A sense of the collective that the composer did not hesitate to work on in the body and the heart, tirelessly returning to his scores of which he almost systematically proposed new versions, as if to better polish their inner fervor.

It is therefore no surprise that this season we will find Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the stage of Avenue Montaigne, as part of the vast symphonic cycle that the latter has rightly decided to dedicate to this bicentenary. The conductor will give the Third Symphony there in March (the 23rd). But this time with the Rotterdam Orchestra, to bring its epic dimension into dialogue with the Four Last Songs of Strauss, carried by the American soprano Angel Blue. Before that, it is with the future musical director of the musicians of the Radio France Philharmonic, Jaap van Zweden, that their colleagues from the National de France will open the ball of tributes, bringing into dialogue the devotion of the Seventh Symphony (and its sublime adagio in the form of a theatrical coup) with the Mozartian lightness of his Piano Concerto no. 21, entrusted to David Fray (November 15).

They will give way, in January, to two other formations: the Paris Chamber Orchestra which, under the baton of its new musical director, Thomas Hengelbrock, will tackle (on January 16) the rare Symphony No. 6. While that the return to the top of the Vienna Philharmonic (on the 17th) will be the scene of another monumental confrontation in every sense of the word: that of Zubin Mehta with his Ninth Symphony, a masterpiece of syncretism, at the same time as distant echo of the Ninth of his idol Beethoven.

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