WNO Dramaturg Sophie Rashbrook guides us through Bruckner's 8th Symphony and what shaped his extraordinary music.
‘Bruckner’s 8th symphony offers us the chance to step outside the hectic pace of everyday life and immerse ourselves in an epic spiritual journey, guided by the immense forces of the symphony orchestra. From the very first moments, listeners will be plunged into a world of shifting melody and harmony that is richly informed by Bruckner’s own undying, inborn, and passionate religious faith. Yet this symphony is no solemn sermon: it is very much music for our more secular age. From the soaring strings to the tremulous woodwinds and darkly malevolent brass fanfares, the wordless drama of the symphony plumbs the depths of human experience, and offers us a glimpse of the sublime. Bruckner’s melodies are constantly teetering on the edge of oblivion, but their sheer beauty will take your breath away.’
Who was Bruckner?
Listening to Bruckner’s 8th symphony is like witnessing the construction of an enormous cathedral in sound: a setting which aptly reflects the composer’s religious roots. An ardent Catholic and the son of a church organist, Anton Bruckner’s (1824-96) symphonies are hugely influenced by sacred music, from the resonance of the choir to the earth-shaking bombast of the organ. Hijacked by the Nazis forty years after his death, Bruckner’s music is an outpouring from the soul that infuses the orchestra with all the drama and revolutionary scope of a Wagner opera.