Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 (Romantic)

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By the time Anton Bruckner composed his Fourth Symphony in 1874, the Romantic tradition in literature and painting had long been left behind, and in music too. But since music was considered the most romantic of all the arts, and a suitable means of dissociating oneself from the vulgar materialism of the time, it was not without reason that he chose to label his new symphony ‘Romantic’. It is not ‘Romantic’ in the same way as Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings, Joseph von Eichendorff’s naturalistic poetry or E.T.A. Hoffmann’s vivid fantasies, but rather in the manner defined by Wagner. We do not know whether Bruckner was familiar with the latter’s writings, whether he was ‘influenced’ by Wagner, or developed this ‘naturalistic Romanticism’ entirely of his own accord. He was 40 years old when he became acquainted with the ‘master’s’ music. While the score of Wagner’s Das Rheingold starts on a deep E-Flat from which the entire development ensues, the same function in Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony is assumed by the sound of the horn with which the work begins and which, significantly enough, consists entirely of notes in the harmonic series. This germ even includes the ‘inner motive force’, the metric sequence of duplets and triplets. Listeners can trace the way the music takes shape, grows, develops from within itself and evolves its distinctive contours. Unlike the prelude to Das Rheingold, however, this is not a continuous process, but one born of ‘natural contrariness’.

Composer: Anton Bruckner
Artists: Rundfunk-Sinfonie Orchester Berlin, Heinz Rögner (conductor)

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Symphony No. 4 in E-Flat Major, WAB 104 ‘Romantic’:
00:00 I. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell (1886 version, ed. Nowak)
15:16 II. Andante quasi allegretto (1886 version, ed. Nowak)
28:55 III. Scherzo. Bewegt – Trio. Nicht zu schnell (1886 version, ed. Nowak)
39:50 IV. Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (1886 version, ed. Nowak)

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