For most audiences, the equation is simple. Anton Bruckner = symphonies. And while symphonies may have been the best form of expression for Bruckner, he did write in other genres.
This release features two of his chamber works. Albeit these are early compositions, and it’s easy to hear Brucker’s influences in them. But still, these are well-constructed chamber pieces by a composer of considerable talent.
Bruckner’s string quartet was composed at the request of Joseph Hellmesberger. Hellmesberger was the director of the Vienna Conservatory and the first violinist for the influential Hellmseberger Quartett.
Hellmesberger had been impressed with Bruckner’s student works. Such an invitation (with a premier by the Hellmesberg Quartett) was a major honor.
Bruckner’s quartet shows a composer in development. The four-movement work follows the model of Beethoven — and early Beethoven at that. Parts of it reminded me strongly of Beethoven’s Op. 18 quartets.
But this is Bruckner. The themes are developed thoroughly, and in a more through-composed manner than Beethoven. It’s a work that hints at Bruckner’s potential.
The string quintet was another commission by Hellmserger. By 1878 Bruckner was a seasoned composer. The quintet was written during a break between the creation of his fifth and sixth symphonies.
The quintet is all Bruckner. It’s not a symphony for five strings — but it is an expansive work. And one that’s entirely Bruckner’s creation.
The Altomonte Ensemble performs well. They seem to perform the string quartet in a late classical manner, underlining the work’s debt to Beethoven.
The quintet is (rightly so) played in a late Romantic style. In doing so, the ensemble emphasizes how closely the work fits with the symphonies it was written between.
For many, Bruckner = symphonies. But this release tweaks that equation. Bruckner > just symphonies.
Anton Bruckner: String Quintet; String Quartet