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Tomas Cohen Photography

Bruckner Symphony No. 7

New York Philharmonic
Orchestral Series
Tuesday, July 25, 2023 at 6pm Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater

A champion of Bruckner’s work, van Zweden conducts the Philharmonic in the composer’s expansive Symphony No. 7—a work Bruckner wrote to honor his late mentor, Richard Wagner.

The New York Philharmonic returns to Bravo! Vail for its annual summer residency, performing works both fresh and familiar with its signature brilliance and power.

All artists, programs, and pricing are subject to change.​

Program Details

Jaap van Zweden, conductor

BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7

PRE-CONCERT TALK 5:00PM - Marc Shulgold (former music critic, Rocky Mountain News), speaker in the Gerald R Ford Amphitheater Lobby. 

This performance has NO INTERMISSION

  • Concert begins promptly at 6:00PM with no intermission.
  • Late seating will be permitted only after the first movement.
  • Latecomers arriving after the first movement, and those who leave their seats during the performance, may enjoy the concert from the Borgen Plaza, standing room only.
  • We recommend you use the facilities prior to the beginning of the concert.
  • Concessions will close at the start of the concert at 6:00PM.

Guest Artist

Jaap van Zweden


Program Notes

Symphony No. 7 in E major (1881-83, rev. 1885)

(1 hour, 4 minutes)


Symphony No. 7 in E major (ed. Nowak)
     Allegro moderato
     Adagio: Sehr feierlich und sehr langsam
        (Very solemn and very slow)—
     Scherzo: Sehr schnell (Very fast)—Trio:
       Etwas langsamer (A little slower)
     Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht schnell
       (Moving, yet not fast)


The case of Anton Bruckner makes clear that precocity is not a prerequisite for exalted achievement in music. Not until 1864, when he was 40 years old, did Bruckner compose a work that he seems to have considered a fully mature product— his D-minor Mass—and the first of his nine canonical symphonies followed in 1865-66. Nonetheless, he had kept busy during his first four decades. The son of a schoolmaster in the village of Ansfelden, he grew up surrounded by music, since in Upper Austria at that time schoolmasters were also expected to double as parish organists. He received a good musical education, and when his father fell ill in the autumn of 1836, the young Bruckner filled in as organist in the local church.

His father died the following June. That very day, Bruckner’s mother swept him off to the nearby monastery of St. Florian, where he continued his musical and other studies. His entry into the Baroque halls of the monastery represented the turning point of his life; he would never really break away from St. Florian. Following his student years there, he served for a decade on the school’s music faculty. Even after he left to seek his fortune in nearby Linz, in 1856, and eventually Vienna, Bruckner returned for regular visits. Today visitors to St. Florian will find his tomb in the monastery’s crypt, surrounded by the skulls of departed monks, directly beneath the organ loft in which he spent countless hours from his thirteenth year on.

By the time he reached the period of his Seventh Symphony (composed from 1881 to 1883, and revised in 1885), Bruckner had been writing symphonies for more than a decade and had staked a firm place in Austrian musical life. He had distinguished himself especially as an organist, an almost peerless improviser on that instrument; he had settled in Vienna (in 1868) to teach harmony, counterpoint, and organ at the Vienna Conservatory and had confirmed his sympathies with Wagnerian esthetics. This earned him a place on the blacklist of Vienna’s most influential music critic, the virulent anti-Wagnerian Eduard Hanslick, who let flow a stream of malicious ink with the appearance of each new Bruckner opus. On a personal level, he was growing into an eccentric personality, an odd mixture of naïveté and political canniness, an obviously gifted figure who alternated between absolute conviction and self-doubt, who was generally successful in his undertakings but who entered into unknown professional waters with the greatest reluctance. He also developed the curious habit of proposing marriage to teenaged girls and then being miffed when they turned him down.

The Seventh was the only one of Bruckner’s symphonies that was greeted with unquestionable success, and it remained relatively popular throughout his life. Following its premiere, in Leipzig at the end of 1884, with Arthur Nikisch conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra, it was quickly presented elsewhere in Germany and in Vienna, London, Budapest, New York, Chicago, and Amsterdam, invariably to a warm response. Hanslick did not fail to savage it, but in this case his was a minority opinion. His stance was all the more predictable for the fact that the famous and oft-extracted Adagio movement seems to have been conceived as a lament for Wagner. “One day I came home and felt very sad,” wrote Bruckner to the conductor Felix Mottl in 1883, just as he began composing this movement. “The thought had crossed my mind that before long the Master would die, and just then the C-sharp-minor theme of the Adagio came to me.” The premonition proved true, and a month later Wagner was dead. In fact, Bruckner revealed that he reserved the real “funeral music” for the movement’s coda. “At this point,” he told a friend, “the shocking news of the master’s death reached me.” In that second movement, and again in the Finale, Bruckner further underscored his admiration for Wagner by including in the orchestration four Wagner tubas, instruments devised by Wagner himself to be played in the operas of his Ring cycle, their sound combining the bronzed power of trombones and the mellowness of French horns. It falls to the members of the horn section to master these instruments. In this symphony, the two tenor and two bass Wagner tubas normally join with bass or contrabass “regular” tuba to create a formidable brass foundation; add four French horns, three trumpets, and three trombones, as Bruckner does, and you get a brass choir that is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Bruckner’s symphonies exist in competing editions. Most derive at some point from well-intended interventions by his student-acolytes, who sought to bring his symphonies more in line with what resistant audiences might embrace as “correct” music. The first edition of the Seventh Symphony incorporates emendations by two of them, Franz Schalk and Ferdinand Löwe, as well as by Arthur Nikisch, who conducted the premiere. Bruckner apparently approved these changes, perhaps enthusiastically, perhaps not. Around 1930, the International Bruckner Society began issuing new editions grounded on the original manuscripts, including, in 1944, one of the Seventh Symphony that eliminated these alterations. A decade later, however, the Society published an edition by Leopold Nowak, used in this performance, that restores the “first edition” changes but presents some of them as options that conductors may use or not, according to their musical preference.

Program to be performed without intermission.

The New York Philharmonic returns to Bravo! Vail in 2023 for its 20th annual summer residency, performing works both fresh and familiar with its signature brilliance and power.

All artists, programs, and pricing are subject to change.

Presented at

Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater