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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No 000 in G minor (1864-5) reconstructed Beckenbauer (2002-4)
South West German Radio Orchestra/Otto Beckenbauer
Rec. Markuskirche, Munich in May 2005 DDD
SAXON SXN001 [43:48]

Given the chequered history of the scores of Bruckner’s symphonies, we should not be too surprised that almost 110 years after his death, the full picture is still being discovered. This release is one of two from the new German label Saxon that provide first recordings based on material recently discovered, in this case in a library in Linz in 2000, causing quite a stir at the time. The other – a new completion of his Ninth symphony – has been reviewed by John Quinn.

Bruckner’s G minor symphony, here dubbed No 000, was never completed although the composer did get as far as sketching out four movements in short score. In this respect the situation is not unlike that for Mahler’s Tenth Symphony. Why he didn’t complete the work is unclear but may relate to his lack of confidence during the mid-1860s in which period this and three other symphonies were written. Since the score has lain buried in an archive for over a hundred years, the mystery will probably never be solved. The score is undated but stylistically the work is clearly an advance on No 00 in F minor of 1863 – the so-called Study Symphony. It was probably written after the first version of No 0 and before the first version of No 1, i.e. in late 1864 and early 1865. The standard four movement pattern is used and there are quite a few pointers to the developing characteristic style of the composer. Of most interest is the central fugal section in the finale, this seems to point towards the great Fifth symphony of almost 15 years later.

Realising a performing version of the work has been the task of the distinguished Bruckner scholar Otto Beckenbauer, Professor of Musical Theory in Munich. The aural evidence suggests he has done a fine job in conjuring up a realistic sort of sound picture. He also conducts the South West German Radio Orchestra in a decent performance that all lovers of the composer will surely want to hear. There are notably fine contributions from the brass in the outer movements and the some melting string playing graces the adagio. However, not even Beckenbauer can rescue the scherzo from banality, Bruckner just hadn’t cracked this yet. He provides detailed notes on the reconstruction in the booklet although Saxon has spoilt the presentation by giving Bruckner’s date of death as 1986 on the front cover.

The problem with the introduction of this work to the Bruckner canon is that the numbering of his symphonies, already a mess, has become frankly ludicrous. Calling this work No 000 is being unreal in my view. The evidence available suggests that, at least in terms of first versions, No 00 was first, No 0 second and No 000 third, followed by No 1. About thirty years ago Dvorak’s symphonies were in a similar state and somebody had the good sense to sort it out. I suggest that the same be done for Bruckner now (in the ordering indicated above). To get the right number after No 1 you would just add three and, for example, the Ninth would become the Twelfth.

But I digress, Bruckner’s G minor symphony (which should now be known as No 3) is a work of considerable interest and we should be very grateful to Professor Beckenbauer and Saxon for bringing it to fruition.

 

Patrick C Waller

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See also: Bruckner Symphonies: an Introduction and Review of Selected Recordings by Patrick Waller and John Quinn



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