In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Anton Bruckner

  • Introduction
  • Letters and Personal Datebooks
  • Portraits and Iconography
  • Memoirs of Bruckner’s Contemporaries
  • Chronologies
  • Biographies
  • Collections of Studies
  • Musical Manuscripts
  • Editions
  • The “Bruckner Problem” and “Bruckner Streit”
  • The Symphonies
  • Vocal Music
  • Keyboard Music and Improvisation
  • Style and Compositional Process
  • Performance Practice
  • Bruckner Reception
  • Discographies
  • Research Centers
  • Bruckner Societies and Bruckner Journals

Music Anton Bruckner
Mario Aschauer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 March 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 March 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0290


Bruckner was born in Ansfelden (rural Upper Austria) in 1824 and was originally trained as a schoolmaster. He only left this career path in his early thirties when he assumed the organist position at the Linz cathedral, his first full-time employment as a musician. It was also in Linz that he completed six years of training in harmony and counterpoint with Simon Sechter (1855–1861) as well as lessons in form and orchestration with Otto Kitzler (1861–1863) after which he commenced work on his first symphony in 1865. Bruckner’s three large masses also date from his Linz period. Concert tours to France in 1869 and England in 1871 brought Bruckner major successes as organ improvisor. In 1868 Bruckner became professor of counterpoint and thoroughbass as well as professor of organ at the Vienna conservatory. Success as a composer did not follow suit as quickly. His passionate admiration of Wagner—to whom he dedicated his Third Symphony in 1873—rendered Bruckner the target of hostility from the supporters of Brahms in Vienna, especially of music critic Eduard Hanslick. The latter was also instrumental in obstructing Bruckner’s employment at the University of Vienna until 1875, when Bruckner finally became lecturer of harmony and counterpoint at the university. Despite his fame as an organist and music theorist, Bruckner saw himself, above all else, as a symphonic composer and it is the development of the symphony as a genre that occupied most of his compositional interest throughout his career. Accordingly, the multiple versions of Bruckner’s symphonies have long been a main focal point of Bruckner scholarship. These revisions were variously motivated. Earlier works, including the three masses and symphonies 1–5, underwent reworking during Bruckner’s “revision period” (1876–1880), largely as a result of the composer’s evolving notions of phrase and period structure. Later revisions were often the results of performances or were made to prepare the manuscripts for publication. Bruckner’s former students, most notably Franz and Josef Schalk and Ferdinand Löwe, were involved in these revisions, although the extent of this involvement has never been entirely revealed. Starting in the 1920s, scholars began to raise questions about the validity of the revisions made during the preparations of the editions published during the 1880s and 1890s. While some accepted the authenticity of these texts, other influential figures—among them Robert Haas, coeditor of the first Bruckner complete edition—claimed that Bruckner’s students had urged the composer, wearied by rejection in Vienna, into making ill-advised changes or, worse yet, altered his scores without his knowledge and permission. The resulting debate, the Bruckner Streit, involved serious source-critical issues, but eventually devolved on ideological claims more than factual analysis. The process led to the first Bruckner Gesamtausgabe, which published the manuscript versions of Bruckner’s works starting in 1934, first under the editorship of Robert Haas and later of Leopold Nowak. However, these editions are now largely outdated due to the many manuscript sources that have become available since the mid-20th century. Haas’s work has also been criticized in more recent years for rather subjectively mixing sources. Therefore, two new complete editions have recently been started. Another topic that has fascinated Bruckner scholarship for much of the last century is the unfinished finale of the 9th symphony and its possible completion.

Reference Works

As an up-to-date biography remains one of the most pressing lacunae of Bruckner scholarship, the articles in standard encyclopedias provide the most current overview of Bruckner’s life and works. Several recent handbook projects, one of which is available for free online as part of the Bruckner Online portal (cited under Bibliographies), offer discussions of a variety of more specialized questions. Building on the cursory catalog of works in Grasberger 1977 (cited under Catalog of Works) the creators of Bruckner Online are also working on a revised and appended catalog of works. Austrian Bruckner research institutions have published several printed bibliographies throughout the 20th century, but have now been largely replaced by their digital successor, likewise part of Bruckner Online.

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