Thanks to Alex Ross' blog, I read a fascinating article the other day on Anton Bruckner. Bruckner is the other composer of enormous late-19th century symphonies along with Gustav Mahler. Here is the Wikipedia article on Bruckner.
I have had little contact with Bruckner's music--I used to own a CD of one of the symphonies, perhaps the 7th. But I haven't studied his music or read about him to any extent. So the article in Stereophile was fascinating. It discusses the whole history of attempts to complete the last movement of Bruckner's last symphony and surveys the recordings of those completions. Again, fascinating stuff. I realize that there is a whole world out there of Bruckner lovers and scholars. Bruckner: he's not just for wacky Austrians!
I still don't know if I am going to like Bruckner. But I am sure I should investigate further. My taste regarding Bruckner needs to be developed. Here is the beginning of the 7th Symphony:
Bruckner's symphonies are so long that virtually every movement has to be split up into two or even three YouTube clips. So you should really listen to the music on CD. I remember a science fiction story I read a long time ago where the pilot puts on a Bruckner symphony as he launches out from Earth orbit. Traveling at a great speed, by the time he reaches the orbit of Saturn, Bruckner has only gotten to his second thematic group.
The point here is that there is such a thing as musical taste, of course, but there are different grades or levels. My taste regarding, say, J. S. Bach is well-developed. I have listened to and played the music of Bach for four decades. I have read a lot of books on Bach from Spitta's three volume study to the recent one by Christoph Wolff. I have analyzed many pieces by Bach and read studies of performance practice. So when I talk about Bach, I do know what I am talking about. But you shouldn't listen to my opinions about Bruckner because my taste regarding him is undeveloped. I haven't done the research.
Not all music needs to be looked into. There are some kinds, like grindcore for example, that seem to me not worth investigating, or too painful to investigate. Some kinds of music reveal themselves right away, as either possessing quality or not. With Bruckner, I am curious. I did have a Mahler phase, about thirty years ago and I listened to a lot of his music and did some reading. I don't think I studied any scores closely. At some point I started to find him cloying, like listening to someone plagued by neuroses. Now I tend to find Mahler unlistenable--his musical gestures seem like poses, not credible. I wonder how that happened? And if it is a reasonable reaction? As I've been writing this I have been listening to that Bruckner 7th. While lengthy, it sounds quite interesting. And not neurotic. Let's have a little listen to Mahler:
No, while that is really pretty at the beginning, I still find it neurotic and stopped the clip around 3:40 when the horns started bellowing. Isn't that odd? Is my taste regarding Mahler just askew?