The Internet, which makes life so much easier that I never get anything done, allows me to keep up with critics I'd otherwise seldom read. One I've enjoyed getting to know is Tom Strini of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who recently wrote:
The tour bus is high in the Austrian Alps. The guide, Mr. Bruckner, is going on in the most earnest and expansive poetic terms about the Alpine grandeur and its proximity to God. The tourists ooh and aah and nod in solemn agreement with the insights of the mystic commentator. The mood breaks when a plaintive cry from the back of the bus — Are we there yet? — rises from the squeaky voice of a lone dissenter. That would be me, again encountering the music of Anton Bruckner at a Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concert.
Alan Rich, too, is a card-carrying Anti-Brucknerite: he defiantly states that "the right of exit and re-entry during performances of Bruckner symphonies remains my prerogative." Speaking for myself, I worshipped Bruckner as a youngster, but in recent years I've sometimes struggled with him. One problem is the lack of wit: Bruckner's Scherzos are stocked with Humor of the banging-the-beer-stein variety. Still, a fiery, vital Bruckner performance can be a glorious thing. Jascha Horenstein's live recordings are a case in point, as are Otto Klemperer's EMI discs of the Fourth and Sixth Symphonies. I'm not ready to join the Bruckner-haters, though one more turgid performance by a Club World Maestro might put me over the edge.
Update: Brendan McNamara leaps to Bruckner's defense. He says that Bruckner's symphonies are "an antecedent to modern minimalist music, at least in the 'expansion of our awarenss of time' and the 'slowly unfolding over time' aspects.'" I hear you. For me, the problem isn't so much the music itself as the prevailing style of performance — bloated, monumental, self-solemnizing. We need to get away from the image of Bruckner as a "real Cyclops," to quote from Goebbels' diaries.