The New Bruckner: Compositional Development and the Dynamics of Revision

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In one of the few programmatic explanations to his Symphony no. The characteristic Bruckner tremolo in the string section accompanies a horn cantilena, presented by the solo horn playing piano. This already comprises the basic character of the entire symphony and at the same time forms the crucial thematic starting point. This main theme presented by the horn unites three important elements: firstly, the choice of the instrument that plays it, secondly, the melodic line and thirdly, the rhythmic element that continually places a semiquaver before the semibreve at the end of the phrase, a turn that contributes to the basic rhythm of the entire symphony to an almost incredible extent.

Together with the second descending theme played by the trombones, this first theme almost forms a first episode. This sets in at letter B all letters and bars referred to in the following relate to the score of the A. Bruckner complete edition vol. Nowak, , revised From bar 83 onwards, we can discern a new theme in the string section that is related to the second theme of the first episode. At the same time, Bruckner once more adds the horn calls on top. All the levels and relationships are so complex and multi-layered even at the beginning of the work that Bruckner feels compelled to organise them, to get things straight; and he therefore adds intermediate summaries.

From D to F, the development then takes us to the actual end of the exposition, and the development sets in after a kind of bridge that serves to increasingly reduce the tempo: two bars before letter H. As in the first versions of the Symphonies nos. The composer would later almost completely eliminate the pauses except for one, and he would also streamline the tempo.

In contrast to the Symphonies nos. While a full analysis of the complex structures in this movement is impossible at this point, I would like to point out some peculiarities, as, for example, the sudden appearance of the sextuplet at letter N, or at P, where the recapitulation at the same time presents new thematic material. Bruckner then continues to bring the dynamic development to an extreme head at Q before the recapitulation of the second episode sets in at R, following one of the many structuring rests.


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If one were so inclined, one could claim that from W onwards, there is a development of a pre- or first coda before the actual and, for such an enormous movement, very short coda that is very typical of Bruckner begins at letter X after a general rest and brings the movement to a close. The second movement, a funeral march in C minor, begins with a pizzicato passage in the higher strings while the first theme is presented by the cellos in legato from bar 3 onwards. It is obviously based on the horn theme of the first movement.

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Four bars before letter A, the horn is added in ppp, although it has only rhythmical functions at this point. As in the first versions of his previous symphonies, Bruckner adds a relatively fast tempo instruction to his second movement: Andante quasi Allegretto. The final version dated then only says Andante, with metronome instructions of 66 for a crotchet.

Another typical element for the first versions is that there is an Adagio part suddenly added on after the exposition at letter C that returns to the basic tempo after a general rest at D, where the second theme is introduced, played by the violas. Bruckner later repeats such a tempo bridge at letter H. The version again includes a large number of exactly prescribed changes of tempo. The second movement also adheres to the basic sonata form.

It could be structured in a more precise A1-A2-B-C pattern, although one also seems to discern a rondo form. It is precisely this original third movement that is often used in the argumentation against the ur-versions. On the one hand, this can easily be explained by the popularity the later version gained, but also by our laziness in listening habits.

Upon a first listening, this movement seems ragged, restless, seems strangely unbalanced and difficult to come to terms with. Once one starts to study the movement more closely, it is impossible not to be fascinated by it. In principle, the scherzo is designed according to the classical form of ABA. The movement starts out with a horn call that is answered by an onrush from the orchestra which, however, quickly subsides again.

The horn call resounds once more, again answered by the onrush from the part of the orchestra, this time much more extensive and making use of material referring back to the first movement see the second violins at letter R. This A part of the scherzo has its own little coda from letter D of the third movement. The B part starting at E once again is heralded by the horn call. The first answer is even more abbreviated in comparison with the exposition while the second horn call is answered by the orchestra using new material that will later be re-used in the trio.

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This B part ends at bar 23 1, and is followed by a repetition of the A part. The irregular orchestra replies to the six horn calls which seem somewhat unbalanced upon first listening actually reveal themselves after closer listening as the source of fascination in this scherzo.

In the trio, we find another extreme examples of that typical Bruckner rhythm of The composer leads light pizzicato figures in the lower string section against open fourths and fifths in duplets, thus creating a complete counter line. The second theme of the trio is not really a theme, as the pizzicato figure is merely reversed and led against the legato line. The listener seems to encounter a new theme although no really new material is used. We would like to specifically mention one development a few bars before letter B in the trio where the melodic development in the violins is reduced to a semitone and finds a pianissimo reply at the minor third from the flutes and clarinets in bars 79 to 80, giving the movement its energetic low point.

The coda starts at letter C of the trio. For the first time, Bruckner lets the cellos and double-basses play the theme, with the horn subtly coming in at pp and ppp, a move that prepares the transition to the repetition of the scherzo. The position is pushed forward to new extremes, and the effect is magnified when, 14 bars before the end of the movement, the key rather suddenly reveals itself to be E major. The final movement underwent the most dramatic changes in the course of time, second only to the scherzo.

All three versions use the same thematic material as their base: six themes which, however, are developed in very different ways in the different versions. A staccato passage in the bass section begins the movement. It is followed by one of the most astonishing and, for many, disturbing inspirations Bruckner had: Quaver thirds in the violins squarely running towards each other immediately convey a chromatic character of the piece. The movement in its original form is designed as a movement of majestic dimensions bars in the first versions, compared to in the second and in the third version.

The introduction alone consists of three great rising and subsiding surges.


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He later accepted a post at the Vienna University in , [ 5 ] where he tried to make music theory a part of the curriculum. Overall, he was unhappy in Vienna , which was musically dominated by the critic Eduard Hanslick. At the time there was a feud between advocates of the music of Wagner and Brahms; by aligning himself with Wagner, Bruckner made an unintentional enemy out of Hanslick. However, he was not without supporters; Deutsche Zeitung' s music critic Theodor Helm , and famous conductors such as Arthur Nikisch and Franz Schalk constantly tried to bring his music to the public, and for this purpose proposed 'improvements' for making Bruckner's music more acceptable to the public.

While Bruckner allowed these changes, he also made sure in his will to bequeath his original scores to the Vienna National Library, confident of their musical validity. Another proof of Bruckner's confidence in his artistic ability is that he often started work on a new symphony just a few days after finishing the previous one.

Anton Bruckner - Wikipedia

In addition to his symphonies, Bruckner wrote masses , motets and other sacred choral works, and a few chamber works, including a string quintet. Unlike his romantic symphonies, some of Bruckner's choral works are often conservative and contrapuntal in style; however the Te Deum, Helgoland, Psalm and at least one Mass demonstrate innovative and radical uses of chromaticism.

Biographers generally characterize Bruckner as a very simple man, [ 6 ] and numerous anecdotes abound as to his dogged pursuit of his chosen craft and his humble acceptance of the fame that eventually came his way. Once, after a rehearsal of his Fourth Symphony , the well-meaning Bruckner tipped the conductor Hans Richter : "When the symphony was over," Richter related, "Bruckner came to me, his face beaming with enthusiasm and joy. I felt him press a coin into my hand. Bruckner was a renowned organist in his day, impressing audiences in France in , and England in , giving six recitals on a new Henry Willis organ at Royal Albert Hall in London and five more at the Crystal Palace.

Though he wrote no major works for the organ, [ 7 ] his improvisation sessions sometimes yielded ideas for the Symphonies. Indeed, the orchestration in his symphonies often involves abrupt switches and call-and-response between multiple groups of instruments, much like switching manuals on an organ. He taught organ performance at the Conservatory; among his students were Hans Rott and Franz Schmidt. Gustav Mahler , who called Bruckner his "forerunner", attended the conservatory at this time Walter n.

Bruckner never married; he was attracted to teenage girls, who turned down the proposals of the older man. One such was the daughter of a friend, called Louise; in his grief he is believed to have written the cantata "Entsagen" Renunciation. His affection for teenage girls led to an accusation of impropriety where he taught music, and while he was exonerated, he decided to concentrate on teaching boys afterwards. His calendar for details the names of girls who appealed to him, and the list of such girls in all his diaries was very long.

Symphony No. 8

In he fell for a year-old peasant girl in the cast of the Oberammergau Passion Play. His interest in girls appears to have been based on the assumed virtue retained through their being young, and lasted as long as they seemed worthy of marriage; he feared sin. His unsuccessful proposals to teenage girls continued into his seventies; one potential relationship that might have been suitable when he was older came to nothing because the girl would not convert to Catholicism.

Bruckner: 1. Sinfonie (Linzer Fassung) ∙ hr-Sinfonieorchester ∙ Paavo Järvi

Bruckner died in Vienna in , of natural causes. He is buried in the crypt of St. Florian monastery church, right below his favorite organ. The Bruckner Orchester Linz was also named in his honor. The revision issue has generated controversy. A common explanation for the multiple versions is that Bruckner was willing to revise his work on the basis of harsh, uninformed criticism from his colleagues.

It was however sharply criticized by scholars such as Haas's successor Leopold Nowak , Benjamin Korstvedt and conductor Leon Botstein who argue that Haas' explanation is at best idle speculation, at worst a shady justification of Haas' own editorial decisions. Also, it has been pointed out that Bruckner often started work on a symphony just days after finishing the one before.


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  • In the Eighth, Ninth, and one version of the Second, the slow movements and scherzi are reversed. They are scored for a fairly standard orchestra of woodwinds in pairs, four horns, two or three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani and strings. The later symphonies increase this complement, but not by much. Notable is the use of Wagner tubas in his last three symphonies. With the exception of Symphony No. Bruckner's works are trademarked with powerful codas and grand finales, as well as the frequent use of unison passages and orchestral tutti.

    His style of orchestral writing was criticized by his Viennese contemporaries, but by the middle of the 20th century musicologists recognized that Bruckner's orchestration was modeled after the sound of his primary instrument, the pipe organ. Some have classified him as a conservative, some as a radical.

    Really he was neither, or alternatively was a fusion of both Bruckner took Beethoven 's Ninth Symphony as his starting-point The introduction to the first movement, beginning mysteriously and climbing slowly with fragments of the first theme to the gigantic full statement of that theme, was taken over by Bruckner; so was the awe-inspiring coda of the first movement. The scherzo and slow movement, with their alternation of melodies, are models for Bruckner's spacious middle movements, while the finale with a grand culminating hymn is a feature of almost every Bruckner symphony.

    Bruckner is the first composer since Schubert about whom it is possible to make such generalizations. His symphonies deliberately followed a pattern, each one building on the achievements of its predecessors His melodic and harmonic style changed little, and it had as much of Schubert in it as of Wagner His technique in the development and transformation of themes , learnt from Beethoven, Liszt and Wagner, was unsurpassed, and he was almost the equal of Brahms in the art of melodic variation.

    Despite its general debt to Beethoven and Wagner, the "Bruckner Symphony" is a unique conception, not only because of the individuality of its spirit and its materials, but even more because of the absolute originality of its formal processes.