A colleague at work describes Bruckner’s output as ‘washing machine music’. No surprises there, I think to myself when he tells me, he’s a Wagner fan. He also pours scorn on Britten. I’ll forgive him that.
Maybe my colleague’s analogy was inevitable. Aren’t all Wagner fans convinced of the man’s greatness to the exclusion of all else?
“I’d always rather liked Bruckner,” I said rather desperately, well aware my defence wouldn’t wash. “You know, Locus Iste and number four.”
Truth is, that’s all I know. So I start listening to the opening of Symphony No. 4 this morning at the gym – the first visit after giving myself a week to get over a back injury. Take it gentle. This isn’t a race. Twenty minutes of cardio, some crunches and some stretches. That will do for today.
In the time I’m on the cross-trainer I get the first movement under my belt. Shimmering beauty, defiant and triumphant throughout. The horn calls in the main theme that echo throughout the first movement conjure up something magical. It’s electric. Forget Beethoven 6. This is pastoral beauty.
At the same time I realise its transporting me back to the first time I heard it – rehearsals at Snape Maltings back in 2007 or 8. Come and make a short video, they said. OK, I said. Rented the equipment and the car and drive up to Suffolk. Capture some cracking shots inside the hall of the band rehearsing. At the same time I arrive at the shockingly straightforward realisation why the orchestra sounds so much better than when I managed it ten years before. Yes, of course, there are different players, but now this bunch have got more money for rehearsals, conductors, players and accommodation. All we needed was money. Why the hell hadn’t I realised that when I was doing the job? Maybe I might have stood a better chance and stayed with it and stayed in the arts.
When I get back to London with the footage I’m pleased. Some beautiful wide angle shots of inside and outside the hall. But hang on, what’s wrong the sound? Everything is recorded on the onboard mic, meaning the rehearsals are great but the interviews need to be done again. There then follows some hasty phone calls to rearrange the interviews in London. Fortunately, the resulting package works well cutting between rehearsal footage and player interviews. I’ve salvaged it. And I’m proud of it. All done with the soundtrack of the first movement from Bruckner 4.
And then the phone call, and the email, and another phone call (and eventually, a painful sidestepping to avoid the person outside the Albert Hall the following summer). They don’t really like the package, after all. It’s not what we commissioned. Well, what would you like? Not that. Could we just have the raw footage and we’ll cut it the way we want it?
Ouch. There’s nothing worse than shooting something and then discovering that all they wanted was for you to operate the camera. Like asking the playwright to put all the words on the page so the actors can reassemble them, come up with the plot.
Sod them. I hesitated. Dug my heels in. Things soured. What I’d originally seen as an rapprochement with my own past quickly faded.
I can’t remember what happened in the end. All I remember is the opening of Bruckner 4. How I’ve never to anything past that point. And, when I did this morning, I realised that my colleague from work was in fact correct.