The Rheingau Music Festival 2022 ended with Anton Bruckner´s Symphony Nr. 8

The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra has been inspiring audiences around the world with its characteristically dark, round and radiant sound since 1946. With well over 7,300 concerts in more than 500 cities and 63 countries, they have become the cultural ambassador for all of Germany as the Bavarian State Philharmonic./Photo: Ansgar Klostermann

With Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C minor, the 2nd version, played by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach, the Rheingau Music Festival 2022 came to an end on September 3 in the Basilica of the Eberbach Monastery in the Rheingau.

At the time, Bruckner’s audacities were grist to the critics’ mill and animated them to make catty comments.  “It is not impossible,” said the influential music critic and Bruckner opponent Eduard Hanslik, “that the future belongs to this dream-addled catcalling.” He would never have thought that he would be so right with his prognosis for the future.

Except for a short rain shower before the concert began, it was a balmy summer evening in this wonderful and magical place. Again and again, this impressive setting fascinates. The nearly 900-year-old former Cistercian monastery and its surroundings exert a very special attraction. The simplicity of the Basilka, in which many concerts of the Rheingau Music Festival 2022 were  performed, also has a very special charm. The acoustics are ingenious. It allows the musical works, by Bruckner for example, to be fully appreciated because nothing distracts. Attention is focused on the orchestra. On the clouds of sound that it creates.

Conductor was delighted with the new, enormous work

The 8th Symphony in C minor, the Upper Austrian Anton Bruckner completed in its first version on July 3, 1887, after three years of work, and dedicated it to Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. After presenting the first version to the conductor Hermann Levi, the latter expressed his horror at the new, enormous work. The distraught composer did what he so often did: he prepared a second version, which was completed in 1890. In between, however, he temporarily put the work aside again. The actual work on the new version of the 8th Symphony began in April 1889 and continued until March 1890. The extraordinarily successful premiere of the second version of the 8th Symphony did not take place until December 18, 1892, when it was performed by the Vienna Philharmonic.

Christoph Eschenbach: active worldwide as conductor and pianist, famous for the breadth of his repertoire and the depth of his interpretations, promoter of young musical talent, conducted the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra./ Photo: RMF

The symphony consists of four movements. The first movement begins in a mysterious mood with an F in the strings and horn, immediately followed by a dark-toned motif with double dotting in the low strings.

The 2nd movement (Scherzo. Allegro moderato) strides along pithily in its steady rhythm, but the tender and even dreamy episodes are not neglected either.

In the 3rd movement (Adagio), Bruckner used harps, as in both the first and second versions. Harps do not appear elsewhere in Bruckner’s symphonies.The final climax of the movement uses the cymbal crash, which was also a highlight on this evening of the final concert in the basilica of the Eberbach monastery. The brightly polished cymbals shone like two golden suns held high in the basilica, drawing all attention for seconds during the flourish.

The monumental fourth final movement opens with tremendous brass chords after a brief introductory crescendo by the strings. In the development, which definitely requires a concentrated listener, great dramatic climaxes take place, as is usual with Bruckner, before the recapitulation bursts in with a vengeance. The crowning conclusion comes in the last 13 measures when all the main themes of the four movements are heard simultaneously. The main theme of the first movement receives its reconciling variant in C major at the very end.

As mentioned at the beginning, there were many spiteful comments from music critics at the time about this wonderful work! . “It is not impossible,” said the influential music critic and Bruckner opponent Eduard Hanslik, “that the future belongs to this dream-addled catcall.” He would never have thought that he would be so right in his prognosis for the future. So to read in the program booklet of the Rheingau Music Festival.

Thank God it turned out that way!

That was the last of 134 concerts of this year’s Rheingau Music Festival. A summer full of music, 105,000 visitors and 94 percent occupancy – that’s the wonderful balance sheet for 2022!

Johanna Wenninger-Muhr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *