Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bruckner's Te Deum

Bruckner is difficult.

His idiom is so necessarily tied to Wagner that he tends to be overlooked (or merely dismissed). His symphonies, Masses, and choral works are deeply and profoundly Wagnerian. In fact, it is only in the last decades that Bruckner has come into his own. Furtwängler and Von Karajan really helped that transition. The lack of a comprehensive critical edition doesn't help his cause, either.

In any event, I have been listening to his setting for the Te Deum quite a bit of late. The frequent metaphor for his symphonies is a "cathedral of sound." That's a bit facile, but it works. The Te Deum, though, genuinely evokes the majesty and glory of a Gothic cathedral. The soaring buttresses and vaults are mirrored in Bruckner's musical language. What Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres or Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen is to architecture, the Te Deum is to choral music.

On a somewhat less poetic - and certainly less serious - note, the Te Deum has the perfect vibe to be in the soundtrack for a highly-stylized horror film in the Gothic idiom. The emotional extremes that the piece has are perfect for establishing a stylish and menacing mood. There, never say I didn't give you anything.