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Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat – Eugen Jochum conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra

By February 14, 2018March 20th, 2023No Comments

Why, for my first orchestral selection, am I choosing Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat? Possibly because it is tremendous music, possibly because people don’t listen to Bruckner very often, and more than likely because of the conductor, Eugen Jochum. There is some written commentary below about both Bruckner and Jochum. Bruckner was not fully appreciated during his lifetime. Jochum, on the other hand, was a famous conductor who had some trouble with denazification after the war. Commenting on German, Austrian, and Swiss artists’ activities during WWII is something that must be done very delicately and with more specialization than I have. Jochum was denazified by the Americans and the British. He is by far and away the greatest conductor of Bruckner whom I have ever heard.

This piece is not a five-minute aria. It will take over an hour to listen to it. But I encourage you to do so. It is a magnificent work of art, transcendental in its own right.

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat

Josef Anton Bruckner (September 4, 1824-October 11, 1896) was an Austrian composer and organist best known for his symphonies, masses, Te Deum, and, motets. The first are considered emblematic of the final stage of Austro-German Romanticism. It is safe to say that without Wagner, Bruckner’s music could not have existed. Bruckner’s compositions paved the way to contemporary musical radicalism.
Bruckner’s father was his first music teacher. Bruckner learned to play the organ early as a child. He entered school when he was six, proved to be a hard-working student, and was promoted to upper class early.
In 1855, Bruckner, aspiring to become a student of the famous Vienna music theorist Simon Sechter, showed the master his Missa solemnis (WAB 29), written a year earlier, and was accepted. The education, which included skills in music theory and counterpoint among others, took place mostly via correspondence, but also included long in-person sessions in Vienna. Sechter’s teaching would have a profound influence on Bruckner. Later, when Bruckner began teaching music himself, he would base his curriculum on Sechter’s book Die Grundsätze der musikalischen Komposition (Leipzig 1853/54).
In 1861, Bruckner studied further with Otto Kitzler, who was nine years younger than he and who introduced him to the music of Richard Wagner, which Bruckner studied extensively from 1863 onwards. Bruckner considered his earliest orchestral works mere school exercises, done under the supervision of Otto Kitzler. He continued his studies to the age of 40. Broad fame and acceptance did not come until he was over 60 (after the premiere of his Seventh Symphony in 1884). In 1861 he had already made the acquaintance of Franz Liszt who, like Bruckner, had a strong, Catholic religious faith and who first and foremost was a harmonic innovator, initiating the new German school together with Wagner.
In 1868, after Sechter had died, Bruckner hesitantly accepted Sechter’s post as a teacher of music theory at the Vienna Conservatory, during which time he concentrated most of his energy on writing symphonies. These symphonies, however, were poorly received, at times considered “wild” and “nonsensical”.
He later accepted a post at the Vienna University in 1875, where he tried to make music theory a part of the curriculum. At the time, there was a feud between advocates of the music of Wagner and Brahms; by aligning himself with Wagner, Bruckner made an unintentional enemy out of certain influential musicians.


Eugen Jochum (November 1,1902 -March 26,1987) was an eminent German conductor.
Jochum was born to a Roman Catholic family in Babenhausen, near Augsburg, Germany; his father was an organist and conductor. Jochum studied the piano and organ in Augsburg, enrolling in its Academy of Music from 1914 to 1922. He then studied at the Munich Conservatory, with his composition teacher being Hermann von Waltershausen; it was there that he changed his focus to conducting, his teacher being Siegmund von Hausegger, who conducted the first performance of the original version of the Ninth Symphony of Anton Bruckner and made the first recording of it.
By his early thirties, Jochum had already attained a very high level of achievement. In 1934 Jochum succeeded Karl Böhm as musical director of the Hamburg State Opera and the Hamburg Philharmonic. Throughout the Nazi era, Hamburg remained, as Jochum put it, “reasonably liberal”, and Jochum was even able to keep his post despite not joining the party. He performed music by composers such as Hindemith and Bartók, elsewhere banned by the Nazis. In 1944, Joseph Goebbels included Jochum in the Gottbegnadeten list.
In the postwar denazification initiatives, however, British and American authorities had a “high-level disagreement” over Jochum that was “an exception” to the usual pattern of British authorities following the American lead: after “initially clearing” Jochum and selecting him to conduct the Munich Philharmonic in May 1945, the American authorities temporarily blacklisted him on grounds that he “had done exceptionally well” during the war and that his brothers had been “fanatical” Nazis; but British authorities “found no fault” with Jochum, arguing that he had never been a member of the Nazi party, SS or Sturmabteilung, had remained a “convinced Roman Catholic,” and had “not compromised his artistic integrity.” By 1948, the American authorities had determined that they could find no evidence of his joining any Nazi organizations.