Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 in D minor is the last Symphony upon which he worked, leaving the last movement incomplete at the time of his death in 1896. The symphony was premiered under Ferdinand Löwe in Vienna in 1903, after Bruckner's death. Bruckner dedicated this symphony "to the beloved God" (in German, "dem lieben Gott").
(While it may seem logical to call this work "Symphony in D minor, opus posthumous," that usually refers to the Symphony No. 0 in D minor).
The symphony has four movements, although the fourth is incomplete and fragmentary. Of this finale, it seems that much material in full score may have been lost very soon after the composer's death, and therefore large sections exist only in two-stave sketch format. The placement of the Scherzo second, and the key, D minor, are only two elements this work has in common with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
The symphony is so often performed without any sort of finale that some authors describe "the form of this symphony [as] ... a massive arch, two slow movements straddling an energetic Scherzo."
The score calls for three each of flutes, oboes, clarinets in B-flat and A (Adagio only), bassoons, with eight horns (5.–8. Hrn. doubling on Wagner tubas), three trumpets in F, three trombones, contrabass tuba, timpani and strings.
Bruckner's tendency to telescope sonata form development and recapitulation finds its fullest realization in this movement, the form of which Robert Simpson describes as "Statement, Counterstatement and Coda." An unusually large number of motifs are given in the first subject group, and these are substantially and richly developed on restatement and in the coda. Bruckner also cites material from his earlier works: at a point near the coda, Bruckner quotes a passage from the first movement of his Seventh Symphony. The concluding page of the movement, in addition to the usual tonic (I) and dominant (V) chords, given out in a blaze of open fifths, uses a Neapolitan flat (ii) in grinding dissonance with both I and V.
The opening chord of the Scherzo, often cited as prophetic of the harmonic advances of the 20th Century, is tonally ambiguous in regard to the principal D minor tonality of the movement. It could be said that folk elements are still in evidence, as in other Bruckner scherzi, but this music is of such savagery that such naïve elements are easier to ignore, even if they were intended by the composer.
The Trio is in the remote key of F-sharp major, and unusually fast in tempo for a Trio.
Bruckner called this movement his "Farewell to Life." It begins in tonal ambiguity, and is the most troubled opening to a Bruckner adagio yet: though within bars it achieves lyrical serenity and awe. Throughout its course, the movement goes back to some of the troubled moods of the earlier movements. In fact, the final climax, given by full orchestra, concludes on the most dissonant chord. After this, in the most serene coda yet, the music alludes to the coda of the Adagio of the Eighth Symphony, and also hints at the Seventh Symphony. It is these measures of music which conclude most live performances and recordings of the symphony, though Bruckner was insistent that they be succeeded by a final, fourth movement.
Bruckner had conceived the entire movement; whether the manuscripts he left would have made up the final form of the Finale is debatable. Several bifolios of the emerging autograph score survived, consecutively numbered by Bruckner himself, as well as numerous discarded bifolios and particellos sketches. The surviving manuscripts were all systematically ordered and published in a notable facsimile reprint, edited by J. A. Phillips, in the Bruckner Complete Edition, Vienna.
Because of Bruckner's individual composing habits, reconstructing the Finale is in some ways easier, and in some ways harder, than it would be to reconstruct an unfinished piece by another composer. Compounding the problem, collectible hunters ransacked Bruckner's house soon after his death. Sketches for the Finale have been found as far away from Austria as Washington D.C.
Large portions of the movement were almost completely orchestrated, and even some eminent sketches have been found for the coda (the initial crescendo/28 bars, and the progression towards the final cadenza, even proceeding into the final tonic pedalpoint/in all 32 bars), but only hearsay suggesting the coda would have integrated themes from all four movements: The Bruckner scholars Max Graf and Max Auer reported that they have actually seen such a sketch when they had access to the manuscripts, at that time in the possession of Franz Schalk. Today such a sketch appears to be lost.
More importantly than the loss of the score bifolios of the coda itself, composer and Bruckner scholar Robert Simpson asserts in his book The essence of Bruckner, is that the sketches that survive do not support the momentum to support such a conclusion. Some people think that there is no real inner continuity or coherence inherent to indicate an organically growing musical structure. But in fact, the publications of the Bruckner-Gesamtausgabe edited by John Phillips revealed that Bruckner has left an emerging autograph score, numbered consecutively bifolio by bifolio, which constituted the intact score, at least up to the beginning of the coda. Around 50% of this final phase must be considered lost today.
Bruckner knew he might not live to complete this Symphony and suggested his Te Deum to be played at the end of the concert. The presence in the sketches of the figuration heard in quarter-notes at the outset of the Te Deum led to a supposition that Bruckner was composing a link or transition between the two works. In fact, the sketch for such a transition can be found on two bifolios of the emerging autograph score. Some people think, at best this would have been a makeshift solution. The C major setting of the Te Deum conflicts with the D minor setting of the rest of the symphony. Because of this tonal clash, using the Te Deum as the Finale is rarely carried out. Others think one should better follow the composer's own wish and argue, against the tonal clash theory, since the Adagio ends in another key (E major) as well.
Unlike most of his symphonies, Bruckner did not produce multiple revisions of his Ninth Symphony. However, there have been multiple editions of what Bruckner did write, as well as several attempts to complete the symphony's fourth movement, which Bruckner left unfinished.
Löwe edition (1906)
This was the first published edition of the Ninth Symphony. It was also the version performed at the work's posthumous premiere, and the only version heard until 1932. Ferdinand Löwe made multiple unauthorized changes to the Symphony amounting to a wholesale recomposition of the work. In addition to second-guessing Bruckner's orchestration, phrasing and dynamics, Löwe also dialed back Bruckner's more adventurous harmonies, such as the complete V13 chord in the Adagio. Today this version is considered an inauthentic travesty of Bruckner's intentions and is virtually never performed or recorded. It includes only the first three complete movements. It is available in recordings by Hans Knappertsbusch and F. Charles Adler.
Orel edition (1932)
This was the first edition that attempted to reproduce what Bruckner actually wrote. This version was first performed in 1932 by Siegmund von Hausegger with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. In the concert, the symphony was performed twice, first in Löwe's edition and then in the Orel version. It includes only the first three complete movements.
Nowak edition (1951)
This is a corrected reprint of the Orel edition of 1932.
Cohrs edition (2000)
This new edition of the complete three movements has been recorded by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. It contains only minor differences from the Orel and Nowak editions, but corrects several printing errors and includes extensive comments in footnotes, explaining some of the editorial problems. The separate Critical Report of Cohrs contains numerous facsimili from Mvmts. 1-3.
Completions of the fourth movement
Although Bruckner suggested using his Te Deum as the finale of the Ninth Symphony, there have been several attempts to complete the symphony with a fourth movement based on Bruckner's surviving manuscripts for the Finale. Indeed, Bruckner's suggestion has been used as a justification for completing the fourth movement, since it shows (according to some scholars such as John A. Phillips), as well of the sheer existence of the Finale fragment, that the composer did not want this work to end with the Adagio.
Carragan completion (1983/ rev. 2003 / new rev. 2005)
The first attempt of a performing version of the Finale available on disc was the one by William Carragan (who also has done work editing Bruckner's Second Symphony). His 1983 completion was premiered by Moshe Atzmon conducting the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in April 1985. The European premiere by the Utrecht Symfonie Orkest conducted by Hubert Soudant (Utrecht, April 1985) was the first to be recorded (on LP). Shortly afterwards, this version was recorded for CD release by Yoav Talmi and the Oslo Philharmonic. The revision of 2005 was subsequently recorded by Akira Naito and the Tokyo New City Orchestra.
Samale/Mazzuca completion (1987)
The team of Nicola Samale and Giuseppe Mazzuca put together a new realization from 1983 to 1985, which was recorded 1986 by Eliahu Inbal and fits in with Inbal's recordings of early versions of Bruckner's Symphonies. The coda of the Samale & Mazzuca realization has more in common with the corresponding passage of the Eighth Symphony than it does with the later Samale/Mazzuca/Phillips/Cohrs realization. The authors don't wish this version to be performed any longer.
Samale/Mazzuca/Phillips/Cohrs completion (1992 / rev. 1996 / new rev. 2005)
For this venture Samale and Mazzuca were joined by John A. Phillips and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs. This completion proposes one way to realize Bruckner's intention to combine themes from all four movements. This version has been recorded by Johannes Wildner for Naxos and also by Kurt Eichhorn, with the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz, for the Camerata label.
A new, revised edition of this completion was published in 2005 by Nicola Samale and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs (www.musikmph.de). Cohrs´ latest research made it also possible to recover the musical content of one missing bifolio in the Fugue fully from the particello-sketch. This new edition, in all 665 bars long, makes use of 569 bars from Bruckner himself. This version has been recorded by Marcus Bosch for the label Coviello Classics. A revised reprint of this was first performed by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Harding, Stockholm, in November 2007.
The oldest complete performance (of the three completed movements) preserved on record is by Otto Klemperer with the New York Philharmonic from 1934. The first commercial recording was made by Siegmund von Hausegger with the Munich Philharmonic in 1938 for HMV. Both recordings used the Orel edition.
The inauthentic Löwe version is available on CD remasterings of LPs by Hans Knappertsbusch and F. Charles Adler. These can be as short as 51 minutes.
A recording of the three movements in the Orel or Nowak edition on average lasts about 65 minutes, though a fast conductor like Carl Schuricht can get it down to 56 minutes. The earliest recordings of the Orel edition were Oswald Kabasta's live performance with the Munich Philharmonic in 1943 for the Music and Arts label, and Wilhelm Furtwängler's live performance with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1944 (multiple labels). After Bruno Walter's studio recording with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in 1959 for Sony/CBS, the Nowak edition was preferred. The most recent Orel edition recording was Daniel Barenboim's live performance with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1991 for Teldec.
Recordings of Finale realizations are usually coupled with the Nowak edition for the first three movements. Some of these also include recordings of the fragments Bruckner left so that the listener may determine for himself how much of the realization is what Bruckner actually wrote and how much is speculation by the editor. Yoav Talmi's recording of the Carragan completion is one example of a recording that includes the fragments. With the exception of the Inbal recording of the Samale & Mazzuca 1987, any recording that includes a realization of the Finale occupies 2 CDs.
In 2003 Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Wiener Philharmoniker recorded the Ninth as well as the Finale-Fragment for BMG/RCA, but unfortunately without the Coda sketches. In the same year, Naxos published a recommendable live-recording with the New Philharmonia Orchestra of Westphalia under Johannes Wildner, including the Samale-et-al-Version 1992/rev. 1996
^ Kenneth McLeish & Valerie McLeish, The Listener's Guide to Classical Music: An Introduction to the Great Classical Composers and Their Works. New York: G.K. Hall & Co. (1986): 49
^ John A. Phillips, essay in booklet of Camerata CD B000001ZJ3, Kurt Eichhorn conducting Bruckner Orchester Linz