The famous central panel of his "Isenheim Altarpiece" forms the capstone for my latest YouTube video - the greatest four minutes of music ever composed, performed, & recorded:
Well, obviously that's far too strong a claim to make for any composition, performance, or recording.
I had known Bruckner's Fourth Symphony for about twenty years when I heard The Munich Philharmonic perform it under the direction of Sergiu Celibidache, on one of their rare foreign tours, during my student days in Ann Arbor. And suddenly I realized that I had never known it at all. Here was a perfect union of composer & performer the like of which I have never encountered before or since.
The distinguished English symphonist & Bruckner scholar Robert Simpson seems to have had a similar experience - he rewrote his profoundly insightful book The Essence of Bruckner after hearing Celibidache conduct the Fourth, and withdrew many of his earlier criticisms of that symphony's finale.
But never mind all that. I hope that this snippet will inspire somebody or other to check out the whole piece, in one or another of the many fine recordings out there.
Bruckner, by the way, was a devout Roman Catholic, of the rural Austrian variety - and his religious faith inspired every note he ever wrote. Hence the prominence of some of Caspar David Friedrich's religious paintings (not to mention the Eisenheim Altarpiece) in my video.Yet he idolized the arch-heretic Wagner. He was, perhaps, the strangest of all the great composers: deeply naive - almost a simpleton - in day-to-day life. Yet the harmonic sophistication of his last two symphonies (the 8th & 9th) surpassed anything written before them.