Bog off, Bruckner

I’m off to hear my hubby Tom’s orchestra, the LPO, play a programme full of delicious Russian stuff tonight. We may have doubts about the ‘Russian School’, as per last month’s print edition article, but you can’t argue with Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, and especially not with Piers Lane playing the piano.

Well, you probably can argue with those composers – it’s just that I personally wouldn’t, as I love them to bits. What I do argue with is Bruckner. Last Saturday they did Bruckner 8, this Wednesday it’s no.6. People go nuts over this stuff. Including Tom. In the run-up to Saturday he kept saying: ‘It’s a really beautiful symphony, this…Yannick does it so well…’ – ie, heavy hint, you have to come and hear it. Er, I had to wash my hair.

I’ve been attending Bruckner symphonies, desperately trying to like the wretched things, for 25 years. After a quarter of a century of abject failure, enough is enough. I’ve stood through an interminable one in a hot Proms gallery. I’ve wallowed in the first 30 seconds of No.7, then cringed through the pig’s ear that comprised the remaining well-over-an-hour by a composer who could invent the 19th century’s most beautiful musical idea but couldn’t follow it through. I’ve suffered intense attacks of claustrophobia in these attempts in the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie and a nasty ex-communist conference centre in Bucharest on 11 September 2001. I have tried and tried and TRIED, so I am not going to try any longer. I don’t like Bruckner. Get over it.

Remembered: an exam question at uni: “Hanslick once described Bruckner’s symphonies as ‘giant symphonic snakes’. Discuss.” I think I picked a question about something else that time. They wouldn’t have liked it if I’d proposed the thesis that giant snakes swallow rabbits whole, then curl up to sleep through the digestive process for several days on end, and Bruckner symphonies sort of do that too. They’re indigestible, constipated and soporific.


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