Monday, May 25, 2015

Malicious Review of the Week

Via Norman Lebrecht I ran across this rather amusing review. Or rather, allegorical satire of a review. Instead of an actual review of an actual concert with actual performers we have a Personal Experience of a Performance of a Bruckner Symphony directed by a Famous Conductor! Here is a sample:
“I was somewhat ambivalent about staying for the second half,” she recalls, “especially after Legendary Violinist gave a great reading of Obscure 20th-Century Piece That No One Else Wanted to Hear. But I had heard that the Famous Conductor is a Bruckner specialist, so I thought maybe he could make it listenable.”
But McBrahmsFan was wrong. “Basically I had forgotten how bad Bruckner is,” she explains, sipping a comforting cup of tea in her apartment. “Even in that historic hall with a great symphony orchestra, there was no saving the music from itself. I’d say Bruckner is a lot of ‘sound and fury signifying nothing,’ but that is too poetic a phrase for its sprawling expanse of Wagnerian brass clichés and proto-minimalistic repetitions of diatonic tetrachords. I almost died.”
“At one point I caught myself thinking, ‘How did this man ever write four-part motets? He can’t even write basic soprano-bass counterpoint.’ The one time the bass did anything it was that tired descending line borrowed from Meistersinger, which created only a momentary interest of passing dissonance. And that trite scherzo – I spent the whole time wishing Mahler had written it.”
Heh. But as funny as this is, it is a mere Shadow on the wall of the cave of what might have been an even better, and even more merciless, scourging of Bruckner.

I was just listening to the Symphony No. 6 of Bruckner yesterday and yes, I was wondering to myself, as I was trying to stay awake, why isn't this better music? Why are the rhythms either sodden plodding or disquieting nasal marches? I hear this music and it just seems to imply gargantuan Imperial German militarism (which, historically, was just around the corner). But, pace the allegorical Sally McBrahmsFan, I was not wishing Mahler had written it, I was rather thankful that it was just Bruckner and not Mahler who seems to have most of Bruckner's failings with an added dose of fervid neuroticism.

I know that there are lots of Mahler fans among my readers--it is one of those rare aesthetic items about which we differ. Perhaps in time I will come around. Or they will...

Let's have a listen to the Bruckner Symphony No. 6. This is the BBC Philharmonic with Juanjo Mena conductor at the 2012 Proms:

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