Review of Dermot Gault, The New Bruckner: Compositional Development and the Dynamics of Revision (Ashgate, 2011)

Miguel J. Ramirez
2011 Music Theory Online  
1] In recent years music theorists have devoted considerable attention to the analysis of chromatic harmony, delving especially into the complex works of Schubert, Brahms, Wagner, and other nineteenth-century composers. The music of Anton Bruckner, however, presents a special challenge to analysts in that he constantly revised his works-so much so that his scores arguably epitomize the notion of the artwork as an entity in flux. Dermot Gault's The New Bruckner is a valuable addition to the
more » ... ddition to the analyst's library since it sheds new light on the Brucknerian process of composition and revision. After an overview of the book, I will turn to matters of particular relevance to Bruckner analysts raised by Gault's volume. [2] The literature on Bruckner still abounds in myths and misconceptions about his personality and his music. Among the most entrenched misconceptions is the notion that Bruckner's insecurities as a composer prompted him to constantly revise his works and naively follow the advice of friends and disciples regarding his revisions. Gault sets out to debunk these and other misconceptions in The New Bruckner. To be sure, scholars have been unveiling a more accurate image of the composer and his oeuvre for some time already, and Gault himself builds upon work from his dissertation, Anton Bruckner's Concept of the Symphony as Exemplified by his Revision of his Symphonies 3, 4 and 8 (Queen's University of Belfast, 1994). The New Bruckner, however, is the first large-scale study to bring together and synthesize the available information about Bruckner's process of revision. And, perhaps more importantly, Gault's book offers valuable analytical insights and fresh perspectives on the subject. [3] The first feature of The New Bruckner that draws one's attention is its organization, namely, the fact that the individual compositions are discussed in multiple chapters and sections. But the rationale for this apparent redundancy soon becomes evident: because Bruckner's revisions represent steps in a gradual compositional process, the author addresses each version of each work in chronological order. Given the basic premises of the study, the importance of this strategy can hardly be overstated. In fact, one of the central threads in Gault's exposition is the premise that "Bruckner's revisions, far from being merely the consequence of negative reception, reflect clearly thought out and consistently applied compositional
doi:10.30535/mto.17.4.7 fatcat:262o33gqfjdtxfr6zmhh6reuua