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Interesting anecdotes about Bernstein and Bruckner
From: "The Label, The Story of Columbia Records," by Gary Marmorstein. (Thunder Mouth Press, 2007; pp. 406-407):
"Peter Munves was always investigating why conductors favored one composer over another. So one evening he went backstage at Philharmonic Hall to find Bernstein sitting in his dressing room holding a glass of scotch and a cigarette - his usual post-concert pleasures - and he brought up the age-old issue of Mahler and Bruckner.
'The difference between Mahler and Bruckner,' Munves said, 'was that Mahler all his life was searching for God, and Bruckner had found God.'
'Bullshit,' said Bernstein
'What do you mean bullshit?'
'Look, there are no real orgasms in Bruckner's music,' Bernstein said. 'He doesn't reach a climax. He's always gonna be, but it never happens. He takes so long to make his points. He's very loquacious. No matter what you say about Mahler, he made his points'."
From a letter to Aaron Copland:
"Impossibly boring without personality, awkward & dull, masked in solemnity."
A personal experience from Henry Fogel:
"Bernstein only performed two Bruckner symphonies in his career - the Sixth and the Ninth, although he performed the Ninth frequently, and recorded it twice (once with New York and once, later, with Vienna Philharmonic). He did not care for the other Bruckner symphonies. I had the privilege of working with Bernstein over a period of about ten years, and touring with him and the New York Philharmonic in Japan in 1979. One night after a concert, and after he had signed autographs, I asked him why he didn't do other Bruckner besides the Ninth - particularly the Eighth, which I thought would be magnificent in his hands. He made a face and told me that it was a terrible piece -- too long, too many "false climaxes", etc. I argued with him, and he proceeded to drag me over to a piano (this was about 11:00PM or so), and play through the entire symphony (though he didn't take the Scherzo repeat), commenting along the way on what he found wrong with it. What I find most remarkable about this, if you think about it, is that he didn't like this piece, never conducted it, yet knew it well enough to pull it out of his head and play through all of it at the piano, not having been prepared to do so at all! He was one of a kind."