Gold veins or glowing columns of smoke?

Bruckner Sym8 2
Gold on grey. © Charles Thibo

“It remains a psychological mystery how the most gentle and peace-loving of all men […] becomes an anarchist while he is composing, throwing over board logic, clarity of development, formal unity and tonality. His music changes its shape like an unwieldy, glowing column of smoke.” This is the harsh judgement of Eduard Hanslick, a Viennese music critic, over Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C minor. Hanslick himself did not exactly have a reputation as a gentle critic. His measuring stick was the Vienna School, i.e. Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven. Anyone daring to deviate from that line would face instant and complete annihilation in the press.

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