Inspired by Tapkaara's thread *contrasting* Sibelius to Mahler, I'd like to pose the question to this board. Of the following supremely self-conscious symphonists, whose music do you prefer?:
.... or ....
*The obsessive-compulsive, devoutly religious, socially inept Anton Bruckner, or...
*The anxious, thrice-homeless, irredemiably nostalgic Gustav Mahler.
Both wrote 9 (+ 2-3 depending on who you ask) symphonies and varying amounts of large scale vocal music. Both inhabit basically the same stylistic idiom (atonal hints in late Mahler 9 notwithstanding) and share many of the same aesthetic preoccupations. And it's certainly not hard to hear the influence of the former on the latter. So what draws you to one over the other (even if you can't get enough of both!).
I'd like to emphasize the personal preference angle for this thread. Sure I'm interested in hearing whose symphonies you think are objectively better, but I'm more curious in hearing what you think it says about you that you prefer one to the other. For example (all things being equal), what is it in your musical taste or personality that leads you to treasure, say, the jagged scherzi of Bruckner or the Ländler-infused fast movements in Mahler? I think because there is such respect and love for these two on these boards, we could keep this a largely positive thread. If you hate one or both, perhaps suggest another late romantic composer of similar style (Zemlinsky, Strauss, Schmidt, Hausseger, Elgar, Langgaard, Atterberg come to mind).
For me, the broad, slow waves of Bruckner tap something deeper in me than generally does Mahler. That is not to say I don't adore Mahler's symphonies, especially moments of the eerie calm he is able to achieve throughout his work. I think what I like in Mahler is the morbidity -- constant funeral marches, weird orchestrations, snatches of melodies he wrote 20 years ago now cloaked in bitter irony and regret. But sometimes the irony in Mahler is too much to take. At no point (even in the ridiculous scherzo of the 9th) do I think Bruckner isn't being upfront and honest with me. Perhaps that means at the core I prefer straightforward emotion to masked or layered emotion. But I'm not trying to say Bruckner's naive (although perhaps I am!). More, I find his inability to lie musically very appealing.
I'm also drawn to his colossal and sturdy grasp of form, his harmonic gravitas, and those goddamn aching slow movements -- I'll take the Adagio of the 8th over the Adagietto of the 5th any day. I'm not sure I would take him over Mahler as a spinner of tunes, but as a spinner of *sequences* there is surely no better.
So what do you all think?