Utah Symphony Presents Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 Conducted by Music Director Thierry Fischer

Grand scale performance brings complex harmonies reflecting the composer's unique perspective.

By: Mar. 24, 2023


The Utah Symphony's performance of Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 brings themes of trust and reflection to center stage. Two evening concerts will take place this weekend, Friday, March 24 at 7:30 PM and Saturday, March 25 with an earlier performance time of 5:30 PM, at Abravanel Hall in downtown Salt Lake City. Due to the grand scale nature of this piece-and Maestro Fischer's expert interpretation-Bruckner's Fifth Symphony will be the only work performed by the Utah Symphony this weekend.

This program's repertoire is especially significant as it is one of Thierry Fischer's final concerts with the Utah Symphony as Music Director before the conclusion of his 14-year tenure (Three more performances with Fischer remain this season after Brucker's Symphony No. 5). Following the 2022-23 season, Fischer will become Music Director Emeritus. Throughout the duration of his tenure, Fischer has brought creative innovation and elevated the artistic excellence of the orchestra. He has heightened the musical experiences of audience members and has created lasting relationships throughout the state-supporting education and community efforts alongside his role leading the orchestra.

Composed during circumstances that were less than ideal, Bruckner's Fifth Symphony has become one of the strongest showcases of mental triumph, highlighting the idea of mind over matter. After giving up his stable position in Linz as a cathedral organist, Bruckner was still struggling to adjust his lifestyle to that of a teacher, especially since his salary didn't equivalate his past financial compensation. However, these trials helped shape the composition into a grand scale masterpiece that not only reflected the struggles of Bruckner's current situation, but also his gradual acceptance-leading to an uplifting mindset that echoes in the final notes of the music.

The entirety of the piece expertly reflects the mindset of its composer, beginning with the first movement, which mirrors Bruckner's bleak outlook on his situation. "All the joy and pleasure have gone out of my life; it seems utterly pointless and futile," stated Bruckner. The introduction for the Fifth Symphony is slow and almost methodical, plodding along as some of the string instruments insert a soft chord of dissonant harmonies. This type of slow and melancholy beginning was relatively unique to Bruckner's compositions. In fact, he only used such musical strategies a handful of times, with the Fifth Symphony easily being the most recognizable.

Following the despondent introduction, Bruckner instantly builds a richness of sound. New melodies alternate back and forth-returning with longer and more elaborate passages that build beauty and showcase Bruckner's mental ascension from his despondence. However, the melodies never quite reach the highest peaks possible until the triumphant finish.

And triumphant it is! The finale blends together, in a euphoric chorale, themes echoed from throughout the symphony. This majestic ending illustrates all the tale-tale signs of Bruckner compositions, including depth, breadth, and a transcendental nature. Within this final movement, Bruckner combines both a traditional sonata form with an imposing double fugue-adding richness to the work's nearly celestial ending as well as highlighting his successful rise above his living situation.

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