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2 • The German Citizen • March - April 2024                  Anton Bruckner turns 200
      Perspectives .
      Perspectives . . . . .                                         By Martin Ederer                                             We can characterize the “Bruck‐

                                                                        omposer Anton Bruckner                                 ner Style” as both contemplative and
                                                                        celebrates his 200 birthday
     Minding our slogans                                          Cin 2024. He stands as a ma‐                                 often complicated. His symphonies
                                                                                                                               tend to be long and typically de‐
        By Martin Ederer                                          jor figure among 19 century Aus‐                             mand a listener’s full concentration.
             e’ve encountered the slogans often enough on bumper stickers:  trian symphonic composers.                         There is always a lot going on.
             Teach tolerance! Coexist! Celebrate diversity! Make America  Bruckner was born in Ansfelden                       Other characteristics include nods
     WGreat Again! But what are these slogans really saying, and how  near Linz. Bruckner’s father and                         to polyphony and contrapuntal
     should we understand them? In and of themselves, the basic concepts here  grandfather were both schoolteach‐              structure. Then there is the silence.
     are solid.                                                   ers there; Bruckner’s father also was                        Few composers did so much with
        In general, it is good to be tolerant and to give people benefit of the  his first music teacher. Bruckner             rests and grand pause and dynamic
     doubt. Coexisting, ie. getting along, is also generally a good idea. Diversity  immediately took to music and             contrast.  Often enough they are
     is what makes life interesting. For German-Americans, what’s the point of  learned the organ. After Bruckner’s            juxtaposed against huge orchestral
     being and sharing who we are if everyone is already just like us? Think of  father died in 1837, Anton Jr., now           outbursts. Small wonder the critics
     how boring things would get very quickly. And who would want America  13, was sent off to the Sankt Florian               struggled with his work.
     not to be great…or at least not to continue to do well? Isn’t all of this more  Augustinian monastery to become a            Nazi Germany had no such trep‐
     about processing reality properly and honestly on all sides?  choirboy and continue his educa‐                            idations. Much like the Nazi fasci‐
        That’s a fundamental problem with slogans. Often they oversimplify  tion.  He was immediately taken  Anton Bruckner wearing the  nation with Wagner, the Nazi Party
     complicated things and therefore distort reality. They can be more about  with the massive organ there. He  badge of the Order of Franz  and even Hitler himself promoted
     political agendas with self-serving motives than about doing some really  received further organ lessons and  Joseph (portrait by Josef Büche).  Bruckner’s (secular) music and en‐
     difficult homework on things.                                also violin lessons. Bruckner’s rela‐  uard Hanslick guaranteed him bad  couraged its performance. By the
        Take tolerance. To simply say tolerance is good with a full stop and no  tionship with the monastery would  reviews – even if some notable con‐  end of World War II, at least some
     more clarification can logically lead us to some rather disturbing conclu‐  continue through his life.  ductors defended and presented his  Germans and Austrians had had
     sions. Are we really to tolerate all sorts of evil? Are we to tolerate mon‐  Bruckner’s mother, meanwhile,  works – usually suggesting revisions  their fill of Bruckner. Fortunately,
     strous political leadership, whether on the left or on the right? All sides of  had other plans. She sent him off to  and edits as they did so. A humble  he never became the kind of polar‐
     the political spectrum have their own lists of things that should not be tol‐  train to become a teacher. Here too  Bruckner  obliged,  revising  his  izing figure that Wagner had be‐
     erated. Could we at least agree that our definitions of tolerance really  he excelled in his studies. His first  works constantly, or simply stood by  come. As a result his reputation
     should not be the disingenuous blank check that the slogan suggests? The  job as teacher in Windhaag thor‐  as they did the edits themselves. As  grew more secure, something that
     same can be asked about coexistence. Are we really to be asked to put up  oughly mistreated him. Bruckner  a result, we have numerous different  evaded him during much of his life
     with everything, no questions asked, in every situation? Throw the slogan  never complained. Still one of his  editions of most of his symphonies  Bruckner, who died in 1896,
     out there without any limiters, and that is precisely what it is telling us.  superiors noticed Bruckner’s strug‐  and a whole complicated list of sym‐  now stands as a giant in the central
     Chaos would quickly ensue.                                   gles, and reassigned him to Krons‐  phonies, some without numbers at  European symphonic tradition. If
        Then there is the celebration of diversity. In the best German intellec‐  dorf an der Enns, where he re‐  all.         you are not familiar with his works,
     tual traditions (think Schiller and Herder), we should celebrate diversity!  mained from 1843-1845. He also               he deserves a listen.
     But why then are people so serious, even angry, about our differences,  managed to study more music there.
     politicize them, and forget the joy that we actually could be getting from  He also began composing works,
     said differences? Agreed that there are problems everywhere, and that peo‐  mainly as a self-taught composer.
     ple regularly hold each other’s differences against one another. Still, a bit of  In 1845 Bruckner returned to
     tolerance in how we approach diversity might best allow people to celebrate  Sankt Florian to continue studies.
     it and express it in numerous ways, not just in the way people who have  In 1848 he was appointed as organ‐
     placed themselves in charge of it say that we must.          ist at the great monastery organ. He
        Making America great again also raises questions. On the surface who  also continued his studies. From
     can be against that? But when in recent memory has America not been  the mid-1850s into the late 1860s,
     great, even if we have vigorously disagreed with its policies and direction?  Bruckner continued his musical
     One constant in American politics has been the political jeremiad that  studies in Vienna and began com‐
     America has descended in a morass of mediocrity, often enough contrary-  posing more ambitious works,
     to-fact. Perhaps America has slipped several times in recent history, but  which included masses and a num‐
     the fact that America manages to power through all that attests maybe bet‐  ber of symphonies. Through most
     ter than anything else to America’s greatness. Granted, we should never  of this time, Bruckner continued to
     assume that American greatness will be forevermore, but do exaggerations  work between Vienna and Sankt
     and overstatements help, or mainly keep the pot boiling?     Florian.
        These are all things worth bearing in mind as we enter what will prob‐  Well into his 40s, Bruckner re‐
     ably be yet another bizarre and contentious election year. Granted, the  mained largely undiscovered. What
     stakes are high. But let’s keep defining our terms carefully.  Common  was also becoming clear is that he  St Florian's Priory, where Bruckner lived on many occasions during his
     sense, fair play, mutual respect – and maybe most importantly a sense of  had a contemplative side that craved  life.
     humor – are every bit as important as ideologies and slogans.  the peace of the monastic setting. By
                                                                  the 1870s, Bruckner had held posi‐  The views of columnists and letter writers do not necessarily reflect the
                                                                  tions at the Vienna Conservatory  views of the German Citizen. Letters to the editor are welcome at
                         German Citizen                           and also at the University. He also or by mail:
                                                                  became famous as an organist, re‐  The German Citizen, 3620 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga, NY 14215.
                                                                  ceiving invitations to perform both
            January - February           March - April            in Paris and in London. Despite
            May - June                   July - August            Bruckner’s reputation as an organ‐
                           Oktoberfest Guide                      ist, he composed no major organ
            September - October     November - December           works.
                                                                     Recognition for his symphonies
                                                                  was much more elusive. In Vienna,
                                                                  Bruckner found himself in the mid‐
                                                                  dle of a huge conflict between the
                                                                  groupies (?) of Johannes Brahms’
                                                                  and Richard Wagner’s visions for
                                                                  central European composition stan‐
                                                                  dards. Bruckner admired Wagner’s
                                                                  vision and works, although he could
                                                                  not have been more different. Wag‐
                                                                  ner was all about ego, scoring
                                                                  women   and  in-your-face-every‐
                                                                  thing.                                     The German Citizen
                                                                     In contrast Bruckner struggled
                                                                  throughout his career with self-con‐      Published by Buffalo Standard Printing
                                                                  fidence, an inferiority complex and                 3620 Harlem Rd.
                                                                  depression.  Although he had a                  Cheektowaga, NY 14215
                                                                  habit of falling in love with teenage                716-831-8013
                                                                  girls that he taught, nothing came of
                                                                  the infatuations except one un‐                   Editor - Roger Puchalski
                                                                  founded accusation and a subse‐                Consulting Editor - Martin Ederer
                                                                  quent decision to avoid teaching fe‐             For Advertising Sales call:
                                                                  male students. He was devoted to             Michelle Kisluk or Steve Kroczynski
                                                                  his Catholic faith. Many of his biog‐
                                                                  raphers characterize him as an
                                                                  unassuming man.                      January - February               March - April
                                                                     The Brahms faction that domi‐      May - June                      July - August
                                                                  nated the Vienna music scene led by  September - October     November - December
                                                                  leading Viennese music critic Ed‐
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