Meine Achte ist ein Mysterium!Anton Bruckner
Bruckner's Eighth Symphony, the last he completed, embodies the composer's work, with all of its complexities and contradictions, in its late flowering. This symphony, at once extensive and distilled, has attracted the passionate attention of listeners, musicians, scholars, and critics, yet it remains fascinatingly inscrutable. Bruckner was correct: the Eighth Symphony has proven a mystery. Of all of his symphonies, it poses the most elaborate questions. Musically it stands in complex relationship with the symphonic genre. The grandeur, expressive intensity, and scope of the work directly confront the problem of the symphony after Beethoven and after Wagner, and with its vaguely articulated program it inhabits the crucial space “between absolute and program music.” In performance, the symphony has always challenged both interpreters and listeners, and has engendered both exuberant praise and vociferous criticism.
Nowadays to address the Eighth Symphony, or indeed any facet of Bruckner's work, critically means inevitably attending to modern traditions of reception. Our perceptions of Bruckner are mediated by the conceptual residue of preceding generations of interpreters; this is true of any artist, but with Bruckner the situation is particularly acute. Images of Bruckner as a simple genius, an unwitting mystic, a Parsifallike naïf have long shaped attitudes toward him and his music. His music is also shadowed by a long tradition of negative criticism. In the nineteenth century, one important body of opinion decried Bruckner's compositional approach as illogical, incapable of supporting large-scale structures, and thus fundamentally unsuited to the genre of the symphony.