Masur Reunites Germany, Gives Not Spectacular Performance of Bruckner

Bernard Jacobson, of the Seattle Times, muses upon his Brucknerian experiences and Masur saves the world.

Who knew that one performance of a Bruckner Symphony could have altered history in such a profound way?

figure Masur: German dictator following the collapse of the German Democratic Republic.

Masur is a master of the Austro-German classics

Wow. Kurt Masur, a German conductor, is a master of German music? Will wonders ever cease?

One of the most memorable moments in my lifetime's experience of Bruckner...

Does one really distinguish lifetime experiences of Bruckner from those of other Austro-German romantic composers?

...was of a soft brass chord in the Third Symphony. It shone like sunlight glinting on the surface of a calm sea.

Ah...the glorious Third Symphony. Sounds sublime.

The conductor was Kurt Masur.

You know what...I think the guest conductor for this concert is Kurt Masur. What a coincidence!

So it was exciting to learn that the great German maestro had chosen music by Bruckner,...

I'm pretty sure "exciting" is not the word I would choose, but to each his own...

...along with Mozart's 40th Symphony, for his long-awaited debut Thursday with the Seattle Symphony.

Excellent. On with the review.

Bruckner's Fourth has none of the wondrous rapt mysticism of his Seventh,...

Well, I have two problems here. First, what the fuck? What a completely random comment. Did you not just get through with a personal anecdote about the Third Symphony? What. The. Fuck.

Second, where do you get off not using the word "symphony" in this sentence? Fourth what?

I'm sure we all know what you mean, but less is hardly more when referencing specific pieces of music.

...the other most popular of his symphonies. It is all nature poetry, and this was a supremely natural performance,...

Well, this would seem to be an obvious sentiment, except, despite having the same root word, "nature" and "natural" aren't really referring to the same thing. Are they Mr. Jacobson?

I assume that by "nature" you mean "the natural world as it exists without humans", and by "natural" you mean "free from affectation" and not so much "formed by nature". Yes?

and this was a supremely natural performance, to such a point that Masur had no truck...

Masur didn't have a truck*?! How else could one traverse "nature" without the 6.1L, 425 horsepower, high octane, 4.06 inch Bore, 90.9 mm Stroke Hemi Engine inside the indestructible Dodge Ram?!

figure hemi: The only way to tackle "nature". Masur strangely doesn't own one.

So...no truck. Not even a truck-like car?

figure el camino: Cars that most definitely don't help you get laid. Also, Kurt Masur doesn't have this.

...with the rather mannered little hesitations that Bruckner wrote into the bucolic horn calls of the scherzo, propelling them instead with exhilarating directness.

So, are they playing the Fourth or the Seventh? I suppose there's an off chance they're performing the Third? I guess it doesn't really matter.

The rest of the article is perfectly cromulent. The performance was recounted with descriptors such as "crisp" and "sonorous". There were "stretches of gorgeously saturated string tone" -- tones? -- and "high artistry". Clearly he must have been speaking about the Bruckner Fourth, for the Seventh just doesn't feature any of these things.

However, reading further I did stumble across one of my favorite features of music criticism, the random and mostly pointless quotation. After lengthy gushing over the performance of the Bruckner, Jacobson went on to add the following:

As a member of the Chicago Symphony commented years ago after we had both heard a Mahler symphony played by Masur with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, "It just went to prove that you don't always have to play everything as loudly as possible."

Okay. I disagree, because loud equals awesome! But, regardless, I have an issue here.

There are six major subjects of importance in this sentence:

Member of Chicago Symphony
Mahler Symphony

Kurt Masur

Gewandhaus Orchestra
Point of Contention That Needs Proving to the Contrary

Don't Have to Play Loudly

Now based on the article that has preceded so far we have established subjects like:

Bruckner Third Symphony, Good
Bruckner Fourth not the Seventh

Kurt Masur

Kurt Masur is German

Something About Nature

Horn Calls

Masur Doesn't Have a Truck

figure bigfoot: Kurt Masur apparently doesn't own this truck either, and it's all Bruckner's fault.

Using my awesome powers of compare and contrast, it would seem that there are only...(counts on fingers)... is only 1 subject in common. Fuck. That would make your random quotation, well...random.
Don't do that.

Okay. Still not a bad article. Let's see how it ends. Tie it all together for us, Jacobson.

Perhaps the most spectacular thing about this Fourth was that there was nothing spectacular about it.

I love sentences that say nothing. Well done, sir. Plus, way to continue not being specific about the composition titles. Love it.

Paced without a trace of affectation, it was simply human and warmly spiritual.

Ah, there you go again using the definition of the word "natural"...that's nice the way you brought it back for us, for a bit of symmetry.

These are qualities that almost define Bruckner,...

You might say the Bruckner was Brucknerian? Yes?

...and it was no surprise to find them in the work of a conductor...

Composer. Bruckner was a composer.

...whose moral authority...

Moral authority?

...helped materially to prevent the collapse of the East German regime in 1989 from turning violent.

Masur did what now?

figure anti-riot: Masur's elite force of anti-riot police, directly preceding the bloodless coup and beginning of his fascist regime.

He was widely regarded at the time as a potential first president for the reunited Germany,...

Being the history buff that I am, I would elaborate that this was because of the immense popularity of Masur's proletarian policies that he was able to facilitate a peaceful dismantling of the East German government. Little did everyone know that Masur secretly planned not to return the executive power to the people, but instead to seize control and use his position to build a Utopian society where Austro-German composers are valued above all else. It all seemed so promising and harmless at the time.

...but decided he wanted a more challenging job, and became music director of the New York Philharmonic instead.

Oh, right. That never happened.


So, to recap:

Bernard Jacobson likes Bruckner 3, but Bruckner 4 is not Bruckner 7. Bruckner 4 is based on "nature" which inspires "natural" performances of which Masur is a master (because he's German), despite not having a truck. The orchestra played Bruckner with "saturated string tone" which goes to show you that you don't have to play loudly. Also, the Bruckner wasn't spectacular (in a good way), but it was "natural" (because Masur made it natural, because, Bruckner wrote it "naturally", because, as I can only assume, that they're both German) and that's why East Germany collapsed non-violently.

* Yes, I realize that truck also means "dealings" in informal conversation. It's a joke people.


Sator Arepo said...

In fairness, when discussing Bruckner, or, as he's sometimes known, "bruckner," it's only reasonable to refer to his symphonies by number alone.

Because, I mean..."Bruckner's Seventh" could also refer to his seventh...what, quartet? Sonata? Horn Trio? Concerto for, uh, some instrument-type deal?

I suppose that it could mean "seventh never-, ever-, ever-performed sacred choral work," but those are usually referenced by title and not The Great Cardinal Numbering System reserved for Massive Works of Personal Statement and Import.

It's also worth noting that only Bruckner has a "Symphony No. 0" to his credit. That's a nice trick, if you can pull it off.

Gustav said...

Of course, and I know we all know what he means...but those sorts of colloquialisms in a major newspaper review just seem questionable. Not that I think there's an issue of misunderstanding here, but why err on the side of less clarity? Plus, when the rest of your article is all over the map, we need those sort of anchors to help us poor readers out.

AnthonyS said...

Are "trucks" 2010's answer to 2009's "socialism" on the DR?

I suppose it is truck month, in any case. Or maybe in the Chinese calendar, we're coming up on the Year of the Truck.

What other conductors can boast moral authority?

Gustav said...

I think that socialism will always be funny. But Masur's transportation issues are pretty funny as well.

And "moral authority"...I just love the way the author dropped into a sentence about the performance of a Bruckner symphony. Fabulous. I guess I should have noted that Masur's facist regime was socialist! Those words mean the same thing, right?

Sator Arepo said...

Also, does Brucker 4 + Bruckner 3 = Bruckner 7? Or do they work like exponents, or logarithms?

I think I've heard it insinuated, at least, that (for a concert program) X + Brucker = 0, a property usually reserved for multiplication.

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Empiricus said...

Thanks Carrie. Your contribution to the discussion was invaluable. I hope you will continue reading and providing us with your thoughtful comments in the future.

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Man. I was gonna go to Carrie's blog and see what else she had to say! Unfortunately, and unexpectedly, her profile isn't public. What gives?