Having been raised on classical music, there are lots of composers whose work I like. But there aren’t many I can relate to. I mean it’s hard to feel much in common with someone like Mozart, a genius who wrote his first symphony at the age of eight and his first opera at twelve; or JS Bach, who, in addition to writing what many consider the greatest single piece of music in the western canon (Mass in B Minor), composed so much that his collected work comprises sixty volumes. These men seemed to operate on a whole different level than ordinary mortals.
But I can relate to Anton Bruckner, a humble Christian composer from Vienna. Never heard of him? Blame his more illustrious peers for taking all the limelight. The other famous Vienna composers included Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and Mahler. It’s not easy to stand out in a crowd like that.
Bruckner was a bit of a late bloomer. He wrote nine symphonies in all, all composed between the ages of forty-two and seventy-two.
The man had his share of struggles. At the premier of his Third Symphony, which he conducted at the Vienna Conservatory, the audience was not impressed. First they laughed. Then they began filing out. When Bruckner finished and turned to take his bows, he was shocked and humiliated to find only an empty room. I like to remind myself of this story whenever I feel like my work isn’t appreciated.
Though I may be a late bloomer, and though I have had my share of bitter disappointments (who hasn’t?), and though I’m surrounded by deservedly more famous writers, none of these things are the main reason I feel a kind of kinship with Brother Anton. It’s more about a shared conviction. Bruckner was a devout man who wrote a choral work called Te Deum (“Thee, God”). He is reported to have said, “When God calls me to Him and asks me: ‘Where is the talent which I have given you?” Then I shall hold out the rolled-up manuscript of my Te Deum and I know that He will be a compassionate judge.”* That quote really resonates with me, especially considering the searing memory he must have had of his less-than-compassionate audience for the Third Symphony.
Fighting Back is finished. I poured heart and soul into it. I think it’s good, but I can’t really know what other people will think of it. That’s a little scary. Will I turn around to face enthusiastic applause, or the humiliating echoes of an empty house? Whatever happens, I am willing to put it in the Lord’s hands, and I know that He will be a compassionate judge.
Classical Music: The 50 Greatest Composers and Their 1,000 Greatest Works by Phil G. Goulding. p 357