The audience laughed and hissed and departed in droves during the performance. When the symphony sounded its last notes, the orchestral players (who had never liked the work) immediately bolted for the exits.
Bruckner, who had conducted the symphony, was left alone on his podium to receive a battering of catcalls and sarcastic cries for encores.
He was so traumatised by his experience that a whole year passed before he could resume composing.
But the 3rd Symphony's premier was not the total disaster it had at first seemed. This was because it caused the following three things to happen:
- Bruckner gained a 1st champion for his symphony: a music publisher, Theodore Rattig, offered to publish the symphony and a four-hand piano transcription of it.
- A seventeen year old music student was greatly impressed and influenced by the symphony: his name was Gustav Mahler. Some years later, he gained ownership of the symphony's handwritten score.
- The history of the symphony, the symphony's influence upon Mahler and the ownership journey of the symphony's handwritten score (Mahler's widow inherited the manuscript and smuggled it out of Germany to ensure the Nazis could not use a valuable musical artefact to bolster their cause) all contributed to a story that inspired many people.
(And today, of course, Bruckner's 3rd Symphony has taken its place amongst the established symphonic repertoire.)