A Report from the 2017 BrucknerTage in St. Florian

A Report from the 2017 BrucknerTage in St. Florian
Some of my Bruckner Buddies L-R: John Berky, Michael Cucka, Stephen Pearsall, John Proffitt, Ken Ward, Dietmar Achenbach and his wife Lilo and Remy Ballot.
My friend Michael Cucka (the new editor of The Bruckner Journal") and I have made it an yearly event to travel to Saint Florian in Austria for the annual BrucknerTage Festival. The Festival is quickly establishing itself as one of the premier Bruckner events in Austria, if not the world.

In recent years, the festival has focused on one of Bruckner's symphonies and this year, the Fifth Symphony was featured. The work was presented in three different formats:

1) A new transcription of the symphony for organ prepared and performed on the Bruckner Organ at St Florian's Basilika. The performance was a tour de force by Matthias Giesen who created the transcription and offered no mercy to himself or any organist who attempts to repeat his feat. The ninety minute performance was so complex that Giesen required the assistance of another organist (in this case Andreas Etlinger) who was on hand to pull the stops since Giesen's two hands and two feet were already fully occupied. It was a remarkable performance and a memorable experience.

2) A performance of the Symphony in its orchestral setting as performed by conductor Remy Ballot and the Altomonte Orchestra. The relaxed setting at Saint Florian allowed for people to sit in on several rehearsals and the orchestra was fully prepared for the sold-out Friday evening performance. Ballot is gradually working his way through the symphonies at these festivals and they are being recorded by Gramola for CD or SACD release. So far, Symphonies 3, 4, 6, 8 and 9 have been performed. Ballot prefers slow tempos in Bruckner and his interpretations usually match the durations that Sergiu Celebidache achieved with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

3) The local composer and Jazz artist, Thomas Mandel who has already performed and recorded two Jazz improvisations of Bruckner's 5th and 7th Symphonies was on stage again for a new take on the 5th Symphony. Being an improvisation by his ensemble, one expected a new approach from his earlier recording.

Unfortunately, my schedule did not allow me to hear this performance, since Dr. Cucka and I needed to be on a return flight early Sunday morning. However, we used our time around Munich to visit the German temple of Walhalla in Regensburg. Walhalla was the site of the infamous June 6, 1937 National Socilaist media event when a bust of Bruckner was added to this temple of German artists thereby completing the Nazi's appropriation of Bruckner and - one year later - Austria.

While we were in Austria we took a few other excursions, including a visit to Bruckner's birth house in Ansfelden and a hard-to-find plage in Leonding which marked the house where Bruckner celebrated his completion of studies with Otto Kitzler.

The final adventure of our trip was the successful transport of a fully framed 24" x 36" antique print and two of the BrucknerTage's lawn chairs as well as a box of over 25 CDs!

My hearty congratulations to Klaus Laczika, Matthias Giesen, Julian Gillesberger and Remy Ballot for organizing and performing at this year's BrucknerFest. Also, sincere thanks to the staff at St. Florian for accommodating this excellent series of events.

A selection of photos from the trip can be seen below.

Photos from the tour
Photos from the tour