Los Angeles Music Preview: BRUCKNER NINTH WITH BLOMSTEDT (LA Phil at Disney Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on January 28, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles


On a website which attempts to list every Anton Bruckner orchestral recording offered to the public (www.abruckner.com), the discography collector and annotator John F. Berky states that the Austrian composer “expanded the concept of the symphonic form in ways that have never been witnessed before or since. When Anton-Bruckner.-Portrait-by-Josef-Büche.listening to a Bruckner symphony, one encounters some of the most complex symphonic writing ever created. As scholars study Bruckner’s scores they continue to revel in the complexity of Bruckner’s creative logic.”

Yet most of us are not scholars, and we listen to music because it moves, touches and inspires us as little else on the planet does. So when you attend the concert of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9, presented by legendary maestro Herbert Blomstedt with the LA Phil at Disney Hall this week, you may go ahead and analyze this inimitable work just like any other great classical work; you may point out harmonic and melodic motifs; you may admire the orchestrations; and you may notice phrases that are regular and irregular. But when all is said and done, none of that will explain either Bruckner’s absolute virtuosity or the emotional impact of this towering work. Free your brain, open your senses and prepare for an experience so awe-inspiring and transporting that analysis will only result in keeping you earthbound.

Herbert Blomstedt

“Romantic” is not the word that springs to mind when I hear Bruckner’s Ninth. Certainly it is mesmerizing, but many refer to this symphony as a religious experience (a devout Catholic who never married, Bruckner dedicated this symphony “to the beloved God”). Some may find themselves hearing one giant Biblical journey, while others (myself included) sense it as a spiritual explosion, especially in the way it ebbs and flows, pulling you in ever closer to another dimension. (If you think I’m being dramatic, wait until you hear it live.)


In 1926, American critic Paul Rosenfeld stated that “Bruckner’s symphonies have scarce commenced heaving their mighty volumes through time, before we know we are come into a world of deep breaths and far vistas and profound experience. Bruckner’s works are large in form as in conception.” Indeed, Bruckner found that he couldn’t complete his Ninth Symphony, even though he had been at it for nine years, leaving the last movement incomplete at the time of his death in 1896. (Also on the program is Richard Goode interpreting Mozart’s sublime Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat; it is the composer’s final work in the form, and took nearly three years to complete).

Richard Goode

Again, scholarly historical insight needn’t be your concern. Rosenfeld goes on to say that Bruckner’s works “bring us into contact with an elemental strength. The lung capacity of the man, the vast span of his themes and thematic groups make the majority of composers seem asthmatic. Once the slow, ox-like power is gotten into motion, once the Bruckner orchestra begins squaring its great monoliths of tone, then mountainous things begin to happen. The great battering rams are slowly gotten into action. But, once heaved forward, they crash walls down.”

You have been duly prepared.

photos courtesy of LA Phil

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor
Richard Goode, piano
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 27, K. 595
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Friday, January 30, 2015 at 11am
Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 8 pm
Sunday, February 1, 2015 at 2 pm
Upbeat Live pre-concert talks with Lucinda Carver
for tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit www.laphil.com

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