Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 is an impressive, expansive, melodic work that requires a supersized orchestra, and for many members of the orchestra it’s a real work out.
If you’re a percussionist however, your entire part for this epic masterwork fits neatly onto a single page of music.
The percussionists’ sheet music (pictured) indicates that the triangle and cymbal parts are tacet (silent) for the first movement. For the second movement, there are 170+ bars of rest (the other notes on the page are just there as cues so the percussionists don’t get lost while waiting) before the long awaited moment of glory, circled in red: a triple forte SINGLE EPIC CYMBAL CRASH AND TRIANGLE FLURRY, which reputedly marks the moment Bruckner learned of the death of his hero, composer Richard Wagner.
That’s followed by more tacet rest until the end of the movement, and movements 3 and 4 are also tacet. Percussionists might as well go out for a cheeseburger after the second movement.
Here’s how it plays out in this one minute animated clip by the London Philharmonic.
The internet has not let us down in celebrating this fact.
1. TwoSet Violin—”DON’T MISS IT”
You may have seen this Australian YouTuber duo’s take on the Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite played on squeaky rubber chickens, or perhaps Pachelbel’s Chicken featuring a rubber quicken quartet? Here’s their contribution to the Bruckner Hates Percussionists debate, in 1 minute and 16 seconds.
2. Bruckner Hates Percussionists social media forum
Yes, this is a thing. In fact on Reddit, there is an entire thread on the subject where musicians share conflicting points of view, along with a few stories from the trenches:
I heard about a performance where the cymbal player stood up to play this one crash, and at the moment where he was supposed to play, he froze, and didn’t do anything. He put the cymbals down, sat back down, and listened to the rest of the concert.”
As a percussionist, if you think this is bad, you don’t know our rep very well. This is somewhat standard and better than the rest as you don’t have to wait until the 4th movement to play.”
I feel especially sorry for the triangle player, as their only note co-incides with the only note for the cymbal and, as such, is not even heard on the recording.”
I remember seeing BPO/Rattle perform this at the Proms in 2007 (I think) – cymbal player leant forward, big flourish and literally jumped as he performed the note. Then sat down for the rest of the performance. Biggest “bravo” of the night from the Prommers come the applause.”
Whatevs. Best seat in the house and a paycheck for being there.”
3. 12 Things Not To Do When You’re Playing Bruckner 7
The captions may be in German but it turns out that comedy, like music, needs no language. Our favorite among this video compilation by music students is number 8. Number 10 is a close second.
4. Oh the Irony!
Someone thought it would be funny to upload to YouTube a video of the Munich Philharmonic playing Bruckner’s 7th Symphony where the sound is muted except for the epic cymbal crash. And it kind of is!
And it has 2,900 views!
Go on, give them another. (Spoiler: you can fast forward to the 46:46″ mark to enjoy *the moment*.)
A final word from percussionist Victor Avdienko.
I don’t feel Bruckner “hates” percussionists. He simply used the color and texture of the percussion sparingly to increase the emotional impact. Contrast this style with Tchaikovsky, who composed very busy and exuberant cymbal parts. Both have the similar emotional release, but they were just master chefs using a single ingredient in differing amounts.”—Victor Avdienko
Victor gets to play the cymbal part in Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in the May 5 season finale. You can read more about the surprising degree of thought that goes into performing this piece in his guest-authored blog piece, Telling an epic story with one note.
You can hear Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in the EPIC BRUCKNER May 5 season finale concert at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. Tickets and information available online or by calling the Lesher Center Box Office at 925.934.7469. Tickets are $42-$72 and the price for students 25 and under is $20.