The Music Plays On — Bruckner Symphony №7

Donato Cabrera
4 min readMar 21, 2020

When people ask me what my favorite piece of music is, I find that question to really be a non-starter because I consider the entire artform indispensable. It’s sort of like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite. I normally respond with the somewhat canned response of, “I’m absolutely in love with whatever music I happen to be conducting this week.” While that’s certainly true, there are a couple of desert-island works that I simply couldn’t be without, and Bruckner’s Symphony №7 is one of them.

Bruckner was, without question, an ardent admirer and absolute acolyte of the music of Richard Wagner. He had been present in Munich for the premiere of Tristan und Isolde in 1865, and visited Bayreuth practically every summer, seeing the premieres of Der Ring des Nibelungen in 1876, and Parisfal in 1882. There’s a lovely silhouette of their encounter in 1873, when Bruckner presented both his second and third symphonies to Wagner.

However, I do not believe that Bruckner’s music is Wagnerian in the sense that people think. Wagner’s music is dramatic — music for the stage — and entirely thematic and character-driven (that’s the understatement of the century). Bruckner’s music is entirely symphonic and abstract in nature. And I mean abstract in the sense that there is never an overt thematic or dramatic message. We are left to come up with…