The Wiener Symphoniker are among those who have played a significant role in cultivating the works of Bruckner in the Musikverein. Eight of Bruckner’s nine symphonies were premiered there, although not all versions of these works received their premieres in the Musikverein. And the Wiener Symphoniker were part of it from the outset, since they gave the first performance of the Ninth on February 11, 1903 under the direction of Ferdinand Löwe.
Music Director Philippe Jordan has chosen the last three Bruckner symphonies. In doing so, he joins the ranks of other prominent colleagues before him. All of his predecessors conducted Bruckner on the podium of the Wiener Symphoniker in the Great Hall of the Musikverein, including Oswald Kabasta, Herbert von Karajan, Wolfgang Sawallisch and Georges Prêtre, as well as Bruno Walter, Hans Knappertsbusch, Karl Böhm, Otto Klemperer, Horst Stein, and Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
Jordan has placed Bruckner in the context of closely associated twentieth century works that help audiences to perceive the contemporaneity of Bruckner’s symphonic oeuvre. His layering of instrumental groups was based on the composer’s prior experience as an organist. By putting the resultant soundscapes and blocks of sound together in relationships of tension, and by pioneering sound as an independent parameter of music, he widely anticipated the future of music.
Bruckner’s Eighth is juxtaposed with Lontano by micropolyphonic composer György Ligeti. And the Ninth, dedicated to “our dearest Lord,” stands alongside Konx-Om-Pax (Peace) by Giacinto Scelsi, a work that requires powerful orchestral forces, including organ and chorus, that have not beencalled on or heard since the time of Bruckner. Stele by György Kurtag refers to an inscribed memorial stone and is another kind of homage to Bruckner. The work’s unmelodious dissonances and melodious sounds are not at cross purposes. The slow movement of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony was composed as funeral music for Richard Wagner. In it, Bruckner uses four Wagner tubas, and so does Kurtag in Stele. By juxtapositioning familiar works with something new, one can conceivably listen to something familiar in a new way as well.