Anton Bruckner

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String Quartet in c minor

Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) is, of course, one of the great symphonists of the last half of the 19 century. He also wrote two fine works of chamber music, which unlike his symphonies are rarely if ever performed in public. This is a shame as they have many fine qualities which, in part, shed a different light on this composer.


Brucker was originally trained as a organist and as a composer of church music. The quality of his playing was such that he was eventually able to obtain the prestigious position of cathedral organist of Linz. Although already in his mid thirties, he undertook a study of conducting and was exposed to the music of Richard Wagner. At the same time, he was allowed to regularly travel to Vienna where he continued his composition studies with famous teacher of counterpoint, Simon Sechter. These two events were of signal importance in Bruckner's life. Up until this point, he had been devotee of Bach, and to some extent the classical composers such as Mozart and Haydn.


At the time he wrote his quartet, in 1862, he was completing his studies with Sechter and putting the finishing touches on his technique of orchestration and instrumentation. The Quartet arose from these studies and shows the mastery of form and technique that Bruckner had attained as a result of them. Though classical in form, the thematic material is highly romantic. The opening Allegro consists of a conversational interplay between two themes, the first reminiscent of Bach, the somewhat mysterious second already showing Bruckner's later style. The second movement, Andante, begins in a subdued fashion, later a Schubertian interlude leads to the rhythmically interesting second theme. The Scherzo which follows is quite typical of Bruckner's later symphonic style. The theme comes in wave like episodes heightened by the syncopated dotted rhythm. The trio consists of a lovely Austrian Lšndler (country dance). The exciting finale, Rondo-Presto, is characterized by brilliant passages, voice leading and fine string writing.

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