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Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in D minor WAB 109

The unfinished Finale

© Aart van der Wal, February 2006

Anton Bruckner, ca 1896 (oil painting by Franz Antoine, Anton Bruckner Institute Linz)

“See, I have already dedicated symphonies to two majesties, to poor King Ludwig and to our illustrious Emperor, as the highest earthly majesty I recognise, and now I dedicate my last work to the Majesty of all Majesties, to the dear Lord, and hope that He will grant me sufficient time to complete it and mercifully accept my gift. I therefore intend to introduce the Allelujah (probably wanted to say Te Deum) of the second movement again in the Finale with all power, in order that the symphony end with a song of praise to the dear Lord.” [1]

These were Bruckner’s words to his physician Richard Heller, as they simply and convincingly efface the strongly rooted tradition of performing the Ninth as an all-inclusive three-movement body that should finally end with those very last murmuring and utterly moving bars for horns and strings in the Adagio, the movement that so clearly marks the ‘Farewell to life’, its motto appearing for the first time in bar 29.

Apart from the manuscript of the Finale that Bruckner left to posterity, his words to Heller also reveal that the Ninth was in no way intended and conceived solely from the perspective of a musical concept. On the contrary, Bruckner’s unsurpassed semantics were religiously driven, and he commissioned his last work at the very peak of his creative powers to der liebe Gott. He must have known it, as he shaped the symbolism in his ultimate artistic gestures.

God is everywhere in the Ninth, its ample indications demonstrating Bruckner’s devotion to and his recognition of God’s majesty, in glorious moments of retrospection and farewell, adoration and ecstasy, humbleness and absolution, but also the Last Ordeal, Dies Irae, and the reality of the progressing shadows of death, the course of life coming to its closing chapter.

There can be no question that Bruckner’s last Adagio contains the autobiographical elements anchored in his strong religious belief, and therefore his reliance on God’s mercy in the presence of death, a clear and outspoken artistic statement embedded in the complexities of ambiguous harmonic progressions, strong and radically symphonic, not just sanctuary by fits and starts. The great chorale in tubas and horns bears Bruckner’s own description: ‘Farewell to life’, and in this elusive hemisphere, without a completed Finale at hand, it is not hard to understand why the long performance tradition confined Bruckner’s opus ultimum to the first three movements, with the Adagio as the conclusive confirmation that ‘all has been said’.

Do we really need Bruckner’s own words to Heller to feel and to comprehend what the composer wanted to express in his last symphony? Not at all. We notice instantly that this work delivers the gigantic forward thrust with its tremendous semantic expansion of transcendental proportions, that the message reaches out to metaphysical borders, and that we do not need extensive program notes and exhaustive analysis to feel it all. This is the kind of music that has the spiritual resources really to uplift us, as in all great music from a great mind, be it, as in the case of the Ninth, in the familiar three-movement version, or – as it is now gradually recognised – as a full four movements symphony, as it should be.

First performance

Bruckner died in Vienna on 11 October 1896. It was Ferdinand Löwe, one of Bruckner’s admirers and pupils, who conducted the first performance of the three movements at a concert of the Vienna Concert Society (now the Vienna Symphony Orchestra), on 11 February 1903. The performance in the Musikvereinssaal was no less than a triumph for Bruckner and Löwe, but it was seriously flawed by the many changes Löwe had made in the original score. His obvious reasoning was the success he wanted to achieve with this first performance, and in this sense the performance was almost pre- programmed, with Löwe less interested in Bruckner’s originality and more in ‘marketing’ the symphony. By polishing and softening the edgy instrumentation and by remodelling the bold progression of harmonics in the score he thought he could increase the chances to glorify, and the history books would mention it. Löwe succeeded, although at the expense of the purity of Bruckner’s heritage.

However, we should not forget that Bruckner’s music had no fundamental part in Vienna’s musical scene, with the mainstream of musicians and the public being indifferent or even hostile to the composer’s creative output. Prominent critics like Eduard Hanslick had their share in the long and ongoing battle, taking each and every effort to condemn and to marginalise the modest composer, driving him to breakdowns and stimulating this poor man without adequate self-assertion to revise his works. Under these circumstances it was no less than the act of a hero to take the Ninth to the concert hall and to lead the musician through the hardship of long rehearsals to get the best out of them. This was certainly one of Löwe’s great achievements, and despite our criticism we should be grateful for his advocacy of Bruckner’s music, stubbornly knocking and heading against a strongly biased environment.

Löwe’s concert ended with the Te Deum, which was performed after the interval as a solitary work. In the program booklet, Löwe underlined that The Te Deum would be played in the right place and order, in accordance with Bruckner’s wish. [2] He did neither mention the changes he had made in the first three movements nor did he show any substantial interest in what Bruckner had left of the Finale.

Many reviews of this performance – and the interval must have played a part in this – did not mention that the choral work was set in C major, instead of in D major, the tonal scheme that should have concluded the D minor symphony in all its splendour. Bruckner, although one of the great advocates of formal tonality schemes, had indeed suggested that the Te Deum would qualify to serve as the final movement for the symphony, failing a better solution. His decision got some support from Max Kalbeck, one of the leading Viennese critics, who persisted that after the closing bars of the Adagio in E major, the following C major did not sound better or worse compared to the usual D minor, and that there was no reason whatsoever to confine to the formal tonal scheme, with ample spiritual and esthetical arguments to left abandoning tonal unity (of the classical scheme) in this particular case. This was written clearly against the intentions of Löwe and Hirschfeld, who both suggested the symphony should better be performed without the Te Deum at all, and that Löwe followed Bruckner’s own suggestion only with 'piety for the master's decision'.

Hence the discussion focused on the idea that Bruckner’s illness and death deprived him of the opportunity to finish the work, that the Adagio was Bruckner’s real farewell to the world, the heartfelt conclusion of his work on earth, and at the same time the quite moving announcement of the transition from suffering to transfiguration. Just from this perspective the soft drum roll that starts the quirky Finale is hopelessly out of tune... The myth was created hundred years ago and is still alive today, heartily joined by most great Bruckner conductors and their compliant audiences.

In that long history of performing the Ninth, the three-movement version is always predominant. Löwe’s voice still sounds: although the symphony remained unfinished, it does not need to be finished. Or: the three movements say all that needs to be said, period. The myth is a very long preserved one, even after Alfred Orel had published a flow of so far unknown manuscript papers in his rather chaotic edition prepared for the Bruckner Kritische Gesamtausgabe.

Alfred Orel

Already in 1921 the musicologist Alfred Orel had published a review in the Viennese leading music magazine Der Merker on the sketch material of the Ninth: Skizzen zum vierten Satz von Bruckners Neunter Symphonie.

In 1929 the Kritische Bruckner-Gesamtausgabe (Complete Critical Bruckner Edition) was launched and in 1934 Alfred Orel presented both the original score of the first three movements of the Ninth, together with a study score containing drafts and sketches of all four movements (Entwürfe und Skizzen). Orel did not present a correct picture of the Finale manuscripts as already available at that time (Nowak made instant corrections by hand on his copy after its publication). The score was to appear in 1932 already, but the publisher, Filser, collapsed. This turned out to be a good thing for Orel: the first proofs for his edition contained almost no music for the Finale at all, but then in 1931 Franz Schalk died, and Orel got access to the Finale manuscripts through Schalk’s widow. That he would have to prepare the Finale material in such a short time may explain some of his shortcomings.

A substantial number of sketch pages did not appear because Orel had no access or did not find them worthwhile, but it was at least the first attempt to present the Finale to scholars, performers and the public. Although a study score covering the first three movements and The Deum had already been published by Universal Edition in 1911, it did not carry much significance, as it was solely based on Löwe’s edition for the first performance of the work in 1903 (The Te Deum remained untouched in the first print).

The premiere of the original three-movement version took place on 2 April 1932 in Munich, conducted by Siegmund von Hausegger. He conducted two consecutive renditions of the Ninth. In the first he used the only existing printed edition with its typical almost creamy Wagnerian 'soundscape', which was far from Bruckner’s own manuscript. The second performance was based on pre-copies of the new edition prepared for the Kritische Gesamtausgabe. Hans Weisbach conducted the premiere of the Finale’s exposition based on an edition arranged and edited by Fritz Oeser on 12 October 1940 in Leipzig, at the beginning of the concert, just before the first movement took off.

Through the years Orel’s 1934 edition stimulated a mainstream of workshops, piano transcriptions, orchestral schemes or attempts to complete the Finale (in chronological order), but most of these (except ***) have lost their meaning in the course of time:
Else Krüger 2 pianos 1934 (fragments)
Fritz Oeser orchestra 1940 (exposition only)
Hans Ferdinand Redlich 2 pianos 1948 (fragments)
Edward D.R. Neill & Giuseppe Gastaldi orchestra 1962 (fragments)
Ernst Märzendorfer orchestra 1968-1969 (completion)
Hein's-Gravesande orchestra 1969 (completion)
Arthur D. Walker orchestra 1965-1970 (fragments)
Hans Hubert Schönzeler orchestra 1974 (fragments)

Peter Ruzicka

orchestra 1976 (fragments)
Marshall Fine orchestra 1977-1979 (completion)
William Carragan 2 pianos 1979-1981 (sketch for orchestration)
William Carragan *** orchestra 1979-1984 (completion)
Nicola Samale & Giuseppe Mazzuca orchestra 1979-1985
Nors P. Josephson orchestra 1979-1992 (completion)
Samale & Mazzuca, arr. Samale 2 pianos 1985 (completion)
Samale & Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs orchestra 1986-1988 (completion)
Samale/John Alan Phillips/Cohrs/Mazzuca (SPCM) orchestra 1989-1991 (completion)
SPCM, arranged by Phillips 2 pianos 1991 (completion)
SPCM, revised by Phillips *** orchestra 1996 (completion)
SPCM, revised by Cohrs & Samale *** orchestra 1996-2005 (completion)
Phillips *** orchestra 1999-2002 (fragments)
SPCM, revised by Cohrs & Samale, arr. Thomas Schmoegner organ 2005 (completion)
Cohrs *** orchestra 2006 (fragments)

One finale, many arrangements

One of the largest projects ever undertaken was the reconstruction of Mahler’s Tenth symphony, and also here many scholars had – as can be imagined – different views: Krenek, Carpenter, Wheeler, Wollschläger, Mazetti Jr., Barsjaj, Mazzuca/Samale and, finally the one whose edition finally made it dominantly to the concert hall, Deryck Cooke. Indeed, there are still discussions about Cooke’s final performing version, including some changes that had been made after his death (resulting in the well- known Cooke version III, published in 1989), but all other versions have either been forgotten or strongly marginalised. It is the Cooke version that foremost appears on the orchestral desks.

All these editions, be it performing versions or not, bear such a variety in approach and interpretation, defensible or not, that it diminishes confidence in their artistic validity; and even more so when public access to the original sources is either restricted or impossible, with critical annotation non-existent. Under the yoke of such wilfully created obscurity the question of who is right and who is wrong has lost its meaning.

Not even professional music critics and performers take serious efforts to read all underlying documentation, if available. They express their views without knowing the facts and based on personal taste, preferences or dislike just caught by the ear. This can hardly be stimulating for any editor spending much time and efforts to explore Bruckner’s manuscripts in all their detailing. There is always that basic discrepancy between scholarly craftsmanship and unprofessional critical attitude.

Bruckner's illness

Another controversy refers to Bruckner’s alleged inadequate physical and – even more important – mental capacity to complete the symphony. It wrongly suggests that he was not up to the task of composing a Finale of this magnitude and that the fragmented music that survived was the creation of a more or less mentally disabled man, or at least a composer who had lost track at the end.

In or out of this context there was the kind of ‘catastrophist thinking’ in the early 1980’s based on the assumption that Bruckner had lost his faith from 1892 onwards. The musicologist Harry Halbreich, supported by his colleague Paul-Gilbert Langevin, assumed that Bruckner’s almost daily prayer entries already broke off in 1892, suggesting that Bruckner had lost his faith and consequentially his main incentive to complete the Finale. Whatever it was worth, it became a non-issue anyway when a decade later Elisabeth Maier of the International Bruckner Institute in Linz revealed that at least a portion of Bruckner’s prayer entries had been recovered, including those which Bruckner had written down after 1892, and even on the day before his death. [5]

In March 1890, nearly 2½ years after he had started to compose the Ninth, and five years before he took up the Finale, Bruckner’s doctors diagnosed chronic throat and larynx catarrh together with severe symptoms of nervousness. On 1 July 1892 arterial sclerosis, hepatitis and diabetes were diagnosed (the latter factually a death sentence). In January/February 1893, Bruckner suffered from dropsy while working on the Scherzo movement, but after instant surgery his condition quickly improved. Nevertheless, his general physical condition remained to be so worrisome that on 24 March the last sacraments were administered. He gradually recovered, but the planned reception to mark his birthday, on 4 September 1894 in Steyer, had to be cancelled.

After having completed the Adagio – which took him great pains and effort – on 30 November 1894 he fell seriously ill again and on 9 December last sacraments were administered for the second time. At Christmas he was able to play on the organ in the monastery of Klosterneuburg, but on his way back to Vienna he suffered a pleurisy attack again, fulminating into pneumonia the very next month. The resulting shortness of breath made it impossible to ascend the stairs of his home in the Heßgasse in Vienna. In February Anton Meißner asked the Count Liechtenstein to provide new quarters without stairs for his master. On 4 July (1895) Bruckner moved to the Kustodenstockl (lodge) at the Belvedere estate, where he would remain until his death.

Anton Bruckner (centre), his brother Ignaz (entrance), housekeeper Kathi Kachelmayer and the physicians Richard Heller and Leopold Schrötter (back facing the camera), and Kathi's daughter Ludowika Kutschera (behind Dr. Schroetter - she is barely seen) at the Kustodenstockl, Belvedere, Vienna, 1896

Almost exactly one year later, on 9 July 1896, he had to face another attack of pneumonia and on 17 July the last sacraments were administered for the third time, but his recoup was amazing again. However, his prayer entries from early July onwards show signs of confusion and difficulty in keeping track of days and dates, relieved by clear moments. In August (the last date in the score of the Finale is 11 August) mental degradation was noted and in September Josef Schalk wrote to his brother Franz that Bruckner’s spirit had left him and that he got more and more under the spell of religious delusions.

Between start and finish

Nothing is final unless the composer has decided so. Bruckner’s Ninth does not contain his final musical signature and it remains far from clear whether he was ultimately satisfied with the music he had put to paper.

Then, there the moral issue might be raised, in the sense that we should not touch a work heavily interrupted by sickness and finally stopped by death. It was not completed, Bruckner might have severely encroached it later on (although he did not so with the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh), or might even have drastically changed the overall concept he originally had in his mind (very unlikely), provided he would have lived long enough.

The musicologists Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs and John Alan Phillips have strongly argued that straight from the very beginning, Bruckner maintained a broad perspective of the schematic form, with less focus on the material that needed to be supplemented later. [4] From the outset he drafted all elements on basis of the conceptual form he already had clearly in his mind, and their individual position in the score in coherence with both the preceding and subsequent sections as well as the overall structure of the work. In later revisions, small or large, it therefore sufficed to enter just symbols or markings in shorthand. This methodology reveals indeed that he had a very clear picture of the work’s architecture as a whole. In short, Bruckner knew what he was heading for, although all his manuscripts show that he did not have Mozart’s congenial ability just to write down what he had in mind, without much alteration. Bruckner’s manuscripts commonly betray – like for instance Beethoven’s – a long and difficult struggle.

Whatever the arguments pro or contra reconstructing an unfinished, fragmented musical score, the bare fact is and remains that professional, meticulous and foremost respectful, musicological approach may produce stunning results. And let us be fair: no one can work on such a painstakingly prepared project, which involves many years of intensive labour at high cost, without great love for Bruckner’s music.

Bruckner's methodology

Let us look at Bruckner’s methodology before further discussing the torso of the Finale: [4]
1. Example A Sketch in particello (three to four staves), ongoing musical argumentation, partially scarcely readable (thin and fleeting writing).
2. Example B Fully written-out score in bifolio (or Bogen), notation on staves, with on each page prefixed entries for the instruments from top to bottom in the correct order, together with keys, time and (also fixed) four bar lines (mostly prepared by his pupil and ‘secretary’ Anton Meißner), successively and continuously numbered. clarinets notated in B flat and horns and trumpets in F.
3. Example C As above, but only containing the principal elements (strings, important woodwind and brass entries, often in pencil to facilitate later erasure and subsequent overwriting in ink).
4.Example D Continuity drafts (Satzverlaufsentwürfe) in rudimentary design (Bruckner also entered single melodic lines, mostly the violin part, into the full score formatted sheets at hand).
5. Example E Dates in the manuscripts in Bruckner’s handwriting help to determine the genesis and progression of the composition.

Note: you will find the examples at the end of this article.

The final stage contained polishing such as phrasing, articulation, dynamics and last changes.

These were the basics of Bruckner’s workmanship from the Eighth symphony onwards, with a variety of overlaps when the composer worked his way through from section to section, designing further particello sketches and exchanging bifolios or sheets.

The scoring in the second stage comprised subsequent bifolios (double-folded sheets) with the first page consecutively numbered in the upper right corner. Meißner had prepared these pages with bar lines, indication of instruments, keys and clefs so that the composer could write down the notes instantly. When working on substantial revisions the existing bifolios were simply replaced by new ones. Clean score sheets were used when existing sheets had been severely compromised by heavy corrections. In many cases no distinction can be made between completed sketches and final notation (Reinschrift). Phillips adequately characterised the numbered score pages (including the continuity drafts) in their final, although incomplete shape as an ‘emerging autograph score’.

Deciphering Bruckner’s sketch material is hampered by the quality of the paper and the use of glue and ink. Also, many sketches are scribbled with light pencil strokes or the handwriting obscured by the composer’s unsteady physical condition. Nevertheless it is astounding that age, severe health problems and consequentially his physical weakness did not affect Bruckner’s capacity to design long stretches in an accurate and secure fashion. Philological investigation revealed that even his serious pneumonia in July 1896 did not deprive him of his abilities, and at least a few months prior to his death he was at intervals still able to demonstrate all his skills as a composer. His strict and straightforward working methods did not leave him until the final moment that he was no longer able to work.

Probably the last photograph of Anton Bruckner (according to dr. Heller taken on 17 July 1896)

History of composition

Presenting a reconstruction of Bruckner’s swansong is one thing, but adequately documenting it quite another. Phillips and Cohrs have repeatedly emphasised the importance of proper annotations on the nature and the results of all relevant philological endeavours. The proof is not in eating the pudding (hearing the music), but in disclosing the exact course and particulars of the reconstruction project. Apart from that: no one is able to express meaningful criticism or make relevant observations without a solid basis first. In the same sense it is imperative that the facts are available to anyone who is interested, and that the Brucknerian knows exactly to whom this music really belongs, apart from the equally important question whether the direction it takes in conformity with the composer’s intentions.

Phillips ascertained that for the Finale Bruckner used a variety of six different types and formats of paper, but mainly the upright format with 24 systems from his publisher Josef Eberle in Vienna (‘JE & Co., No. 8./24 linig’). By verifying these papers with the composer’s entries it was fairly easy to establish which papers had been taken first (and last!) from the pile. Incidental inconsistencies in Meißner’s prefixes on the score sheets he had prepared for his master, and the use of different paper do not resemble different versions Bruckner was working on (Orel was definitely wrong here). On the contrary, also these various paper types appeared to be an important factor in determining Bruckner’s genesis and chronology of composition.

Bruckner’s remark on a calendar shows that he started working on the Finale on 24 May 1895. It had been a long way, from the first ideas written down for the opening movement of the symphony, on 12 August 1887, two days after the completion of the first version of the C minor symphony. In October he got the news that not only the conductor Hermann Levi but also the two Schalk brothers had rejected it, which led to a deep mental crisis and subsequently to the second version of the work. He also undertook revisions on his First, Third and Fourth symphonies, at the same time continuing to work on the Ninth. New works were also composed: Helgoland, Psalm 150, Das deutsche Lied, Träumen und Wachen and Vexilla regis.

The first movement of the Ninth was completed on 23 December 1893, the beginning of which must have commenced in an early stage in full score already. The exposition part was repeatedly redesigned as the composition process progressed. Bruckner finished the Scherzo with the final (third) Trio on 15 February 1894, and the Adagio – which took him great pains and effort – on 30 November.

Investigations by Samale, Cohrs and Phillips [4] revealed the following chronology:
24 May 1895 Start of composition.
8 June 1895 Sketches in particello of the first part (exposition) of the Finale, quickly followed by further detailing and working on the score (sheet 1A).
Autumn 1895 Second part up to the beginning of the fugue and completion of the instrumentation of the first part (exposition), including rewriting of specific heavily overwritten and adhered sheets. There are indications that Bruckner decided at this point to introduce the idea of the fugue, as preliminary sketches of the second part consist of a set of variations on the main thematic motives in its reverse scheme, clearly leading to a nonfugato reprise. In the composition process the second part was finally remoulded, with the fugue concept established. The final scoring extended to the very beginning of the fugue ((date in the score on bifolio 17: 12 December 1895).
16 December 1895 Most probably the beginning of the third stage, with drafting the fugue and its progression (the date is mentioned in the score in Bruckner’s handwriting). At this time Bruckner also decided to introduce a new epilogue theme of the fugue and chorale recapitulation, including the significant triplets from the main theme of the first movement. The work process was maintained until early summer of 1896, with the entire second part scored for strings, and incidental markings for the wind instruments. Sketches for the coda date from 18 to 23 May, corresponding with the statement of Franz Bayer, one of Bruckner’s friends, in the Steyrer Zeitung that the composer had (just) completed the sketch of the Ninth’s Finale (10 May 1896).
May/June 1896 Final instrumentation and new parts of the exposition. At that stage he had already reached the coda, but sadly much of it got lost. Drafting part of the coda and final cadenza: 19, (Thursday) 21, (Friday) 22, (Saturday) 23 (this corresponds with May 1896). According to Phillips, Bruckner returned to the beginning of the movement, presumably wrote a clean first bifolio and divided the contents of the second bifolio into two new bifolios, renumbering all subsequent bifolios by one higher. Further detailing of the instrumentation must have begun soon thereafter, revising the development section (date: 14 June 1896).
July 1896 Although Bruckner recovered from his pneumonia and as from mid July started to compose again, it is quite unlikely that he felt vigorous enough to work consistently from mid July onwards. However, the last date in the manuscript, 11 August, marks a very convincing extension of the beginning of the development section on two bifolios (the first numbered “13a” by Bruckner, the continuing one yet unnumbered.)

It is likely that Bruckner finished the primary stage of the instrumentation in this period, with the main strings, woodwinds and brass lines noted down in his customary shorthand-writing. We can distil this from the available bifolios (including the continuity drafts or Satzverlaufsentwürfe) and his method of transferring the sketches directly to the score.

At the time of Bruckner’s death, a total number of at least 40 bifolios containing more than 600 bars of music, must have existed (according to Cohrs and Phillips). Both the exposition and large portions of the development section had been fully completed.

Bruckner completed 206 (208) fully instrumented bars and 224 bars with strings and shorthand notes for woodwinds and brass. Furthermore, we have continuity drafts (Satzverlaufsentwürfe) of 122 bars. No such sketches survived of 111 bars, thus the music needed to be construed from both original (68 bars, by sequence, transposition, 1:1 repetition and adaptation) and free material (43 bars), all together about 17% of the Finale, or about 4 minutes of music. This all makes a total of 663 plus 2 optional bars

The Facsimile Edition also offers the closest approach to Bruckner’s overall concept of the Finale, and although they are his last ‘words’ on paper, we need to realise that they reflect his work in progress without the possibility to conclude it. Nothing in there can therefore be considered as final, not even the fully scored and instrumented portions, with passages either boldly overwritten or cut, pasted and glued. Thus, we will never be able to grasp whether he had later on revised the Finale, or even the entire work, more or less. We deal with what is left, and it is of no use whatsoever to start speculating about what is not there. However, one should consider that already the surviving material contains numerous revisions and working phases, for instance, the first theme group survived in at least six different phases. Hence it seems to be appropriate to assume that Bruckner at least came to a more or less ‘final’ structure of the piece as such.

Cohrs and Samale give a full outline of their considerations and decisions in their Main Features of the New Edition by Samale and Cohrs (SC 2004), with the inclusion of tempi, instrumentation, dynamics, phrasing and articulation.


Although the American musicologist William Carragan had met Cohrs in 1985 and Phillips in 1996, he preferred to work on his own, saying that his decisions would be his own, and that he preferred not to share his responsibilities.

Carragan conceived his version of the Finale in 1979, and orchestrated it in 1983, with a minor revision in 1985. The premiere took place in Carnegie Hall in New York on 8 January 1984, conducted by Moshe Atzmon. The European premiere was launched in April 1985 in Utrecht, the Netherlands, by the Utrecht Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hubert Soudant. In 1986 the symphony was performed at St. Florian, bringing this music almost symbolically back home.

After its New York premiere Carragan’s edition carried great impact in all main musical circles, and it put the Finale as a performing version for the first time on the map (although Ernst Märzendorfer had performed his edition of 670 bars already in 1969). This even accelerated after the first recording was released (Oslo Philharmonic conducted by Yoav Talmi, 1985, Chandos CD 7051-2).

Carragan's completion was also highly admired by reputed Bruckner scholars such as Ben Korstvedt and Alan Crawford Howie (UK) and Dermot Gault (Ireland), but not everyone was enthusiastic. After the release of that recording the well-known music critic Dietmar Holland questioned in Neue Musik Zeitschrift (May 1987) the real benefit of hearing Bruckner's sketched music without the presentation of any critical annotation by Carragan, whereas the original sources were not accessible (at that time). He also noted a 'Salto mortale in die Welt des Richard Strauss und am Ende gar der Filmmusik Hollywoods [...], daß einem schier die Spucke wegbleibt'. [3]

Carragan definitely presented his work as a completed version and not as a reconstruction, for performance purposes. He had studied the manuscripts in Vienna, had photographs of inaccessible parts at his disposal, and was - while working his way through the manuscripts - able to correct most of the errors in the Orel edition and beyond.

There were discussions along the road, and particularly in Europe, about Carragan's rather flexible approach to the original score by introducing bars of his own, and most of all his long insertion connecting the Finale’s second and third theme groups in the recapitulation that also marks the point where he brings back the theme of the Adagio. He was of course aware of the problem at that time, but he felt he needed that insertion for structural reasons, longer than the 16 measures for which the numbering seemed to provide. Before applying the 16-measure straitjacket instead he needed to be really sure that the numbering was correct and contemporaneous. At that time Carragan assessed the available sources, and noticed that the numbers on many of the source’s bifolios were heavily overwritten and the actual numbers themselves were highly debatable over a wide range. Also many of the early numbers, and perhaps some of the later ones too, appeared not to be contemporaneous. However, he may not have realised that Bruckner simply used mainly discarded bifolios as sketch paper, sometimes including the continuity of more than one bifolio. It might also have helped when he would have used Bruckner's own metric figures.

He filled the gaps in the song period (Gesangsperiode) with only 8 bars, and at the end of the exposition section he entered 8 bars into the last preserved bifolio 12C (pages 205-208 in the facsimile edition) originating from Bruckner's later adaptation, adding to this the last 6 bars of 12C. He introduced 50 bars of his own at the end of the reprise of the song period, from bar 481, although only one sheet appeared to be missing. These 50 bars were based on Bruckner's own material from the exposition section, but they simply did not sit well in their new frame.

Carragan also entered 143 bars - although partially based on Bruckner's material - to bring the symphony to an aurally convincing end, but overlooking that his predecessor, Orel, had erroneously defined a bifolio as '21. Bg. E', which was in fact part of the chorale reprise, with bifolio 31 (16 bars) just missing. Carragan also used bifolio 32 in his edition's coda (bar 673-688), although it was not part of the choral reprise. However, he was the first musicologist to recognise the importance of the particello drafts of the coda.

So all in all, Carragan’s edition sounds quite impressive, although it contained about 230 bars of his own, and paradoxically without utilising all of the substantial material Bruckner had left. It proved to be a hallmark leaving a great impression on the audience. In this respect, I only recall the performances in the Netherlands, on 14 April 1985 (Amsterdam, Concertgebouw), 16 April 1985 (Utrecht, Vredenburg), and 26–31 January 1987 (Hilversum, radio studio).

See also:


In May, 1991, not until shortly before his death, Leopold Nowak, the great and leading spirit behind the Kritische Bruckner Gesamtausgabe since 1946, after he had taken over Robert Haas’ position as director of the precious music collection of the Austrian National Library, entrusted the Australian musicologist John Alan Phillips with editing Bruckner’s Ninth and particularly the Finale fragment in order to have it officially published as part of the Gesamtausgabe. This was a critical decision for Nowak, as he was always far from being convinced of reconstructing and publishing the basically fragmented Finale. And the more so as Nowak, compared to Haas, had through the years demonstrated a more critical and scientifically attitude to examining and editing Bruckner’s creative output (Nowak is also the author of various essays on Bruckner’s music).

In the wake of his death, Nowak (Herbert Vogg would be his successor) had seriously reconsidered his long-standing resentments, he had made his checks and balances and he decided that Phillips should now go on with the project of the Ninth, but to withhold publication until after still missing parts had been traced.

That was Nowak’s basic idea, Phillips to take up the task of revising and Orel's Sketches and drafts for the Ninth (1934) and not the corrected 1951 reprint, a project that Nowak had originally planned until after finalising the Kritische Gesamtausgabe (Cohrs would prepare a new annotated edition of the first three movements). The final outcome should be in line with Nowak’s principal goal that all of Bruckner's compositions be made available in transparent and reliable musical editions. The accompanying critical reports were to be scientific but nevertheless comprehensive and suitable and attainable for use in musical practice.


Phillips was not the first scholar after Orel to take up the Finale fragment: Nicola Samale and Giuseppe Mazzuca started their own courageous project in 1983 already, at the time that the subject was still under strong taboo, and like Phillips, also in a profound manner.

From the outset it was clear to him that even without Bruckner’s dedication to ‘the dear Lord’ the work contains the religious semantics, which creates the music’s transcendental atmosphere and evokes the metaphysical tendency in most if not all interpretations. Apart from formal and hermeneutic considerations the term ‘absolute music’ fails to comply with what this symphony is really all about.

It became also clear to Phillips that the overall structural coherence of the Finale fragment was not in question and that its specific elements were based on virtually the same melodic and structural components as in Bruckner’s last choral works (Psalm 150, Vexilla Regis, Das deutsche Lied and Helgoland), and – most important – in the preceding three movements of the Ninth. This symphony offers a striking resemblance with the Fifth, both heading toward a huge Finale, which combines sonata, fugue and choral forms. The Ninth’s Finale – and this can be unquestionably distilled from the fragments – delivers at last (sec) the full structural stability for the entire work, radically and profoundly, its melodic and harmonic ambiguities coming close to a purgatory, and even more so after the Adagio with its ‘farewell’ mystifications (another good reason to abandon the ‘workshop model’ with the Finale performed as a solitary entity).

According to Phillips, the reconstruction of the Finale was less a matter of dabble scholarship and more a question of practical implementation, i.e. performing the music, at the same time offering new knowledge to anyone willing to listen and to appreciate a masterwork that was obscured and kept from the public domain for almost a century. This goes beyond the debate whether it was justifiable to take up a work that was left uncompleted. In this particular case Bruckner did not leave some fragments or sketches, but a work in progress containing long stretches in clearly defined form, partly even scored for instruments, with consecutive page numbering and even clear markings in the composer’s handwriting that specific parts in the manuscript were considered finished (fertig). Obvious errors could be substituted by sketch material – also for the coda – or previously completed parts, and all within the discourse and to the benefit of the ongoing musical argument. Frankly, this was already the result of the work by Samale and Mazzuca, as given in their Critical Annotations to the Ricostruzione edition, published by Ricordi in 1986.

Phillips edited the following volumes (some are still under preparation, in particular a text book on the Finale and new transcriptions of the surviving sketches, drafts and discarded score bifolios of the first and third movements):

Facsimile edition of Bruckner’s full autograph, MWV, Vienna, 1996 (ISMN M-50025-133-0)

Accompanying documentation, MWV, Vienna, 1999/2002 (ISMN M-50025-232-0)

Reconstruction of the autograph score, MWV, Vienna, 1994/99 (ISMN M-50025-211-5)

Phillips’ documentary work was solely based on what Bruckner had left and as far as it could be deciphered and interpreted, with no additions of its own, accompanied by extensive commentary. Missing pages remained blank in Phillips’ edition, the composition material gets thinner as the music progresses through the recapitulation section. Phillips also included the drafts for the coda.

It got its first public performance in November 1999, by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, creating a sensation in musical circles and beyond, but the inevitable gaps disrupted the musical argument, in short it had all the virtues and disadvantages of a typical ‘workshop’ version (526 bars or about 18 minutes of fragmented music). It is a pity only that Harnoncourt did not perform the coda sketches (they were only included in the first complete performance of the ‘Documentation’ by the Philharmonia Hungarica, conducted by Benjamin- Gunnar Cohrs, in April 2001 in Dusseldorf).

The first recording (RCA/BMG 82876 54332-2) of this Finale fragment was made at the Salzburg Festival in August 2002, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Harnoncourt, who also acted as the witty narrator during the workshop session. After the interval the familiar three-movement version was performed, in the new critical edition prepared by Benjamin- Gunnar Cohrs.

Samale and Mazzuca

This ‘completion project’ originally started in 1983, initiated by the Italian composer and conductor Nicola Samale, inspired by his French colleague and music critic Paul Gilbert Langevin.

From the very beginning, Samale worked together with the composer Giuseppe Mazzuca. In 1984 they studied Bruckner’s manuscripts at the Austrian National Library in Vienna, whereas Samale also got hold of the photographs of the sketch material, which had been transferred in 1941 from the Prussian State Library to Silezia and finally rediscovered in 1976 in the Jagiellonska Library in Cracow. Their efforts finally led to the critically annotated Ricostruzione edition (1985), performing version (after Carragan’s although completed version) on the subject, published by Ricordi in 1986 (Nowak had refused its publication as part of the Kritische Gesamtausgabe due to the individual additions to Bruckner’s manuscripts for performance purposes), and subsequently recorded by Eliahu Inbal in 1987 (Teldec 4509-91446-2) and Gennadi Rozjdestvenski in 1988 (Japan BMG Melodyia CD BVCX38015/16).

Notwithstanding Nowak’s refusal it cannot be denied that Samale and Mazzuca had executed their job very seriously. Samale punctually calligraphed the score in accordance with the original manuscript (including Bruckner’s own page numbering and metric figures) and clearly separated the original text from the additions by use of different font sizes. One of the new edition’s great virtues was the correction of many of Orel’s mistakes. What was missing in the lost manuscript sheets had been cautiously supplemented with original parts from the material that Bruckner had previously considered but finally rejected, supplemented with ‘raw material’ such as sketches and drafts that were available.

Critics did not render the Samale-Mazzuca edition a warm welcome, as they were focusing on the imaginative solutions the team had adopted, just prior to the coda, culminating in integrating and processing the main themes of all four movements, followed by the famous chorale theme and merging into a cadenza composed by Samale with the subsequent apotheosis on an ostinato model in D, being critically also on incidentally unstylish instrumentation, the unsatisfying ending (instead of a brilliant D major in the empty D minor quint D-A) and spurs of other unidiomatic solutions. However, the greatest asset of the new edition was the kind of ‘pull-down menu’ it offered, the Finale’s first ever full panorama in a performing version that kept the additions – although unmistakably present – to a minimum, with the detailed critical annotations presented by the team.

Work still in progress but without Mazzuca

In the next stage, from 1986 to 1989, when Mazzuca had lost interest in continuing the project, Samale was joined by the Bremen based conductor, musicologist and essayist Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs, which led to two intermediate versions of the score. Their edition was also taken to the Netherlands, where it was performed on 2 and 3 September 1987 by the Dutch Radio Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Hubert Soudant, and broadcast on 6th September 1988.

There is also a live recording from a concert by the Polish National Radio Orchestra in Catowice, on 8 October 1988, conducted by Samale, and prepared with Cohrs’ conducting assistance (Melodram CD MEL 989/1-2).

As we saw before, Nowak had assigned John Alan Phillips in May 1991 with editing Bruckner’s Ninth and particularly the Finale fragment anew, in order to have it officially published as part of this Gesamtausgabe.

Cohrs had introduced Phillips to Samale in the early 1990’s already, and in collaboration with Samale, and later also consulting Cohrs, Phillips conceived a new score, typeset it on his computer and finally published it in Adelaide (his hometown) and Bremen (Cohrs’ hometown) in 1992 in a private impression. This edition became known as the Completed Performing Version Samale- Phillips-Cohrs-Mazzuca or – abbreviated – the SPCM version, which had nothing to do with Phillips’ edition of the fragments only, a workshop version for the Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag in Vienna. The SPCM score appeared in Phillips’ exclusive editorship merely for copyright reasons (the Samale/Mazzuca version was still under Ricordi’s copyright regime at that time, while the publisher was not interested in the SPCM score).

The long title was adopted to give proper credit to the commitment of all the persons involved in the entire project, from its very beginning. The 1991 score (recorded in 1993 by the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz conducted by Kurt Eichhorn / Camerata CD 30CM 275-6) was subjected to a few minor revisions by Phillips, two of them suggested by Cohrs, in 1996, and was recorded again in 1998 (a live recording by the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia conducted by Johannes Wildner / Naxos 2CD 8.555933-34). The differences between the 1991 and 1996 editions are very minor indeed. This performing version remained valid until 2004.

The new Critical Edition by Samale and Cohrs (2005)

Already before 1996 both Cohrs and Samale felt uncomfortable with several passages in the completion and hence they both started a new debate of how to proceed. At that time Cohrs also started his extensive philological work on the Ninth in order to prepare his Critical Report and New Critical Edition of the first three movements for the Complete Critical Bruckner Edition. He tried out various changes when he had the chance to conduct the piece himself, in Tokyo (2001) and Gmunden (2002).

Finally, in 2003 Samale and Cohrs asked Phillips to join them in order to prepare an entirely new version of the performing edition. However, Phillips showed no further interest in a collaboration and thus Cohrs and Samale prepared their own new edition of the Finale-Completion, published in 2005 by Musikproduktion Jürgen Höflich in Munich, as Completed Performing Version Samale- Phillips-Cohrs-Mazzuca (1983-1991): New Critical Edition (1996-2004) by Nicola Samale & Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs. It included also for the very first time a full Critical Commentary in both German and English.

The New Critical Edition also contains the replenishment with material from Bruckner’s own sketches that solves two major gaps in the second theme and the fugue. Cohrs: ”The reconstruction of lost score bifolios, the overall instrumentation, the elaboration of the coda (again, largely recovered from Bruckner´s own sketches), tempi, dynamics and articulation were likewise thoroughly revised. 554 of the 665 bars of this New Critical Edition are original (208 bars finished, 224 bars incomplete scoring, 122 bars of continuity drafts and drafts). From 111 bars of replenishment (ca. 17% of the Finale, 5.4 % of the symphony, or approximately 4 minutes of music), 68 were regained by repetition, sequencing, or transposition of original material. Only 43 bars were synthesised without concrete proof, less than two third of the instrumentation required completion by the editors.” The premiere took place in Fulham Town Hall in Fulham, London, on 3 December 2005 by the Fulham symphony Orchestra conducted by Marc Dooley.

It is fascinating to experience that Cohrs, who, like Phillips, had worked on Bruckner’s Ninth and its sources for many years, found a compelling argument for producing a new score on basis of new manuscript research and some surprise findings, one of these relating to dynamic and agogic detailing, which Bruckner habitually reserved until after completion of the entire work.

Various stages

Bruckner (1824-1896) was already in his forties when he composed his first ‘official’ symphony. Still about thirty years were in front of him. One of his greatest tragedies was that he was led to believe that his symphonies needed ‘improvement’. His work was his life and despite some victories it was vehemently marginalised. He faced one of the severest crises after having composed the Eighth symphony. He plagued himself in these many years with revisions, and major part of his symphonic output appears to us as ‘work in progress’ (he took up the revision of his First symphony as far as in 1891, 25 years after its genesis...).

We also see various phases in the reconstruction of the Finale of the Ninth by Phillips, Samale, Cohrs and Mazzuca: no less than four phases can be ascertained so far, the most recent one already mentioned, the Completed Performing Version Samale-Phillips-Cohrs-Mazzuca (1983-1991): New Critical Edition (1996-2004) by Nicola Samale & Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs.

To some, this may create additional doubts about the Finale’s musical viability in its reconstructive appearance, not quite appreciating that new insights, anecdotes and papers (like a previously unknown sketch paper from June 1895, which was found in 2003 in the estate of a Munich music critic) and a healthy dosis of rethinking and ‘scholar investment’ may direct to specific improvements. It cannot be overlooked that the continuous provisional status of the reconstruction work could degrade either its importance or its values in certain musical circles, but it adorns musicologists who are anxious to partially ‘overrule’ their own previous version(s) in order to make it (even) better. It reveals the kind of flexibility and zest needed as an important contributing factor to get an even more compelling result.

Fact is and remains that the Finale’s material was not treated with utmost care after Bruckner’s death and that the truncated, three-movement form quickly gained momentum as a falsely accepted doctrine ruled by tradition, ignorance and indifference. Time has proven that it took enormous effort to get the four-movement symphony really performed. Even today, most ‘star conductors’ are not willing to go beyond the lines of tradition. Maybe they are through the years encapsulated in the Bruckner clichés and not able to adhere to Bruckner’s unexpected boldness of composition in the Finale, or they have other doubts. Even in this domain there is still a lot of work in progress... and to do…

The workshop model

Conductors have different choices in performing the Ninth: either the three-movement or the four- movement version, or the Te Deum as the apotheosis, or the reconstructed Finale as a separate entity in the kind of workshop environment (as presented by Nikolaus Harnoncourt).

In Bruckner’s lifetime, major part of his music was rejected as being ‘unplayable’. Harnoncourt and the orchestra had virtually the same feeling when faced with the Finale in the Phillips edition for the very first time. When they had to play the music from the score for the first time, their basic feeling was: ”something like this cannot be played.” The fourth movement was new, carried no performance tradition, appeared bold and unpolished to them. Without defending all these encroaches in the very past, there is at least some notion of the reasons why Bruckner’s music was found unplayable. It also explains why Bruckner revised his original concept thoroughly and vehemently, in order to get his work performed.

Bruckner compromised on the performance of his own work just by saying: ”Make the changes you like, as long as you perform it.” However, he knew exactly what he was doing, he did not compromise on his scores (”I shall bequeath my manuscripts to the Court Library in the state as I composed.”)

Appreciating that the Ninth’s Finale is the innovative enfant terrible in Bruckner’s entire output and that it will take time to accept it at length as part of the performance tradition, it is understandable that the workshop model is currently opted for, although it does not stimulate the understanding and appreciation of the Finale as the inseparable part of the four-movement entity.

Conductors should also have a clear understanding of what the Finale is all about. For example, Riccardo Chailly, one of the few well-established Bruckner conductors, missed the point completely when he said: ”I’ve studied it (the Finale) indeed and have spoken to Mr. Samale, who showed me the sketches; I have the score of the Finale. I intended to perform it once but then I changed my mind. I do feel that the Finale is a very interesting issue if it is played completely separately from the symphony. If it’s taken as a workshop concert I could see the point; but to try to sell it as the Finale of the symphony, linked to the rest of the piece, I think is really not right. Samale showed me - the sketches are like playing cards, pages without numeration where you do not see any order and not any feeling of shape of the composition. There’s also the discrepancy of the quality of music - what can you say at the end of the Adagio? The quality of the music is so incredibly high; then you go back to a kind of sketchy, scholastic, almost rhetoric piece. It’s my idea that it should be done in the morning of an evening concert. You do a workshop of one hour about the Finale, explaining the piece, and in the evening you perform the symphony in three movements – that to me is the only possibility. I think that Mazzuca and Samale did a very good job, and I admire their belief in what they did, because they have been very honest and very scrupulous – but that does not mean that the piece should be done with the rest of the symphony.”

Cohrs responded: ”Regarding Bruckner's unfinished Finale, I should add that Maestro Chailly was wrong in his memory, since I know from my friend and colleague Nicola Samale about their conversation in detail. Chailly mentioned "sketches like playing cards"; in fact, this refers to a set of 13x20 cm photographs of the Cracow sketches to the entire Ninth, which Samale took from the Microfilm for his studying purposes. These photos include only one sketch page for the Finale. In fact, the new philological research shows clearly, that the Finale material consists a) of various particello sketches and drafts, b) several rejected score bifolios, and c) the subsequently numbered, valid score bifolios of the emerging autograph score. Several of the valid score bifolios, however, were stolen by souvenir hunters from Bruckner´s dying-chamber. It was possible to reconstruct what remained from the Finale´s autograph score on a solid philological fundament. The incomplete autograph score (not ‘the sketches’!!!) today breaks off after ca 562 measures, shortly before the coda, which survives in at least further 56 measures, including the final cadenza going back into the tonic. From the manuscript it is evident that Bruckner must have completed the entire score at least in strings some time before his death; also the exposition (13 score bifolios) must have been ready in full instrumentation. Several of the final, valid score bifolios are lost today, most likely also including the very end of the movement, which was originally ca 700 measures long. Therefore, Maestro Chailly is simply wrong where he states that the Finale consists of ‘pages without numeration where you do not see any order and not any feeling of shape of the composition’.”

Of course, it is always an easy ride for any conductor to perform the three-movement version for an audience feeling quite comfortable with about 60 minutes of music, and surely when it concerns Bruckner’s swansong. On top of that the last notes of the Adagio and the subsequent almost sanctuary silence make the flesh creep... The real Finale as it now stands in front of us does not need emphatic pleas but its greatness simply speaks for itself. A workshop environment cannot do full justice to this phenomenon and should only be considered in view of the musicians and audiences getting accustomed to Bruckner´s bold and unpolished concept.

Bruckner's estate

Bruckner died on Sunday 11 October 1896, in the afternoon. The next day, his lawyer, Dr. Theodor Reisch, arrived at Bruckner’s home in the Belvedere lodge, and ordered in his capacity of executor of the Last Will that all books and manuscripts be secured and sealed to prevent arbitrary circulation (Heller: ”The poor man had scarcely closed his eyes, as the authorised and unauthorised fell upon his estate like vultures.”). However, it took a further five days to draft an estate report and to deliver at least part of the manuscripts to Reisch. All other objects were stored in a wall-cabinet and sealed. Today, there is still no exact inventory description available.

In contrast with preliminary drafts and sketches of previous works, the compositional history of Bruckner’s last symphony happens to be well documented by drafts and in part already fully scored fragments. The composer simply did not live long enough to destroy what he considered no longer needed! Almost no sketch material survives of most of the symphonies, only a couple of discarded bifolios and pages. We have only extant, huge materials of the Eighth and Ninth Symphonies. However, it may be possible that already in Bruckner´s lifetime he gave away discarded material for the Ninth´s Finale at least in one case: the four discarded score bifolios found in the estate of Cyrill Hynais, one of Bruckner's former pupils.

The executor failed to hold the estate together until all matters were properly settled. Only the scores of main works, which Bruckner had bequeathed to the Court Library in Vienna went there straight away. As a consequence, acquaintances, friends and societies got their share in this ‘equation at random’.

Schalk and Löwe got the opportunity to verify the manuscripts and other papers that Bruckner had left, and they decided that the less important relics – including books – were transferred to Bruckner’s sister, Rosalie Hueber in Vocklabruck (they were later acquired by Max Auer). In 1902, a small case also containing part of Bruckner’s correspondence was delivered to Bruckner’s first biographer, August Göllerich in Linz. He would return it after use to the St. Florian monastery.

Bruckner had already been through all the paper piles at the time that he was changing quarters, from the Heßgasse to the Belvedere lodge. He ordered Anton Meißner to throw all the ‘superfluous’ papers into the open fire, a rigorous act mainly affecting his early manuscripts. It is the customary act by people when moving to other premises, to get rid of each and everything that is no longer valuable, just to minimise the hassle of toil and moil. (It appears that Meißner kept a part to himself and gave away various manuscripts after Bruckner’s death).

On 18 October 1896, Josef Schalk obtained in concert with Reisch’ equation protocol what was left of the manuscripts of the Finale of the Ninth to study their context. All other scores, drafts and sketches were, as far as they had not ‘disappeared’ or given to other people, transferred to the Court Library in Vienna (currently the Austrian National Library), all in accordance with Bruckner’s Last Will.

After Josef Schalk’s death, on 7 November 1900, the Finale’s manuscripts went to his brother Franz. In 1911 they were lent to Max Auer for analysis. In 1914, four score bifolios were transferred from Cyrill Hynais to the Vienna City and State Library and classified as such on 14 April 1915. Another bifolio, also in private hands, was handed to the Music Academy in Vienna in 1916.

In Bruckner. Versuch eines Lebens (Berlin, 1919) by Ernst Decsey, also one of Bruckner’s former pupils, a total number of 75 bifolios of the Finale is mentioned for the first time. In 1927, Amalie Löwe, the widow of Ferdinand (he had died on 6 January 1925), and Rosalie Hueber (Bruckner´s sister) sold a number of manuscript pages of the Ninth to the Vienna City and State Library. It was in the same year that the Anton Bruckner Gesellschaft was established. In 1933 followed another sale by Amalie Löwe, this time to the Prussian State Library in Berlin, and in 1939 by Lili Schalk, the widow of Franz, to the Austrian National Library.

Due to the pressing war situation in 1941, the archives of the Prussian State Library were moved to Grussau in Silezia, and sketch material of the Finale ‘rediscovered’ in 1976 in the Jagiellonska Library in Cracow.

Despite the various transfers of manuscripts from private sources to libraries, there were and are still parts missing. They may circulate and kept in private circles, or may have finally disappeared in the course of time. In January 1966, the Austrian National Library obtained a bifolio of the Finale from the estate of Richard Strauss. In 1971, another bifolio was transferred to the Austrian National Library. A sketch from June 1895 could be retrieved in 2003 from the estate of a Munich music critic.

The current status of what has been collected, retrieved and subsequently archived is as follows:

Austrian National Library, Vienna: 195 folios

Vienna City and State Library: 10 folios

Vienna Music Academy: 2 folios

City of Vienna Historical Museum: 2 folios

Jagiellonska Library, Cracow: 1 folio

In private hands (registered): 1 folio

Wrong notes

It took more or less a lifetime to prepare the editions covering Bruckner’s music. The continuing story of editing the Ninth alone dates back from 1934, when the (partially erroneous) Orel edition was published. Still today, seventy years later, musicologists are working on the project of the last symphony, but it should be taken into account that a significant portion of the material came to light during several decades.

Nevertheless, it took more than half a century since the publication of the Orel edition (1934) that Nowak simply wanted Phillips to present all the existing material, as it was instantly clear to him after the Orel edition was released that it suffered from many serious flaws (Nowak’s 1951 edition only contained a limited number of minor corrections).

Also, the symphony’s first three movements revealed many – in the perspective of Werktreue important – disparities, edited and annotated by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs in the following editions:

movements 1-3, score, new edition, MWV,Vienna, 2000 (ISMN M-50025-214-6)

movements 1-3, critical commentary, MWV, Vienna, 2000 (ISBN 3- 900270-53-8)

movement 2, study volume, MWV, Vienna, 1998 (ISMN M-50025-182-8)

(Doblinger Verlag in Vienna published Cohrs’ performing version and Kritischer Bericht (1998) of two earlier, discarded trios (ISMN M-012-18489-8). Bruckner had composed two earlier versions of the Trio for the second movement of the Ninth. No. 1 in F major was composed in 1889, No. 2 in F sharp major dates from 1893. No. 3, also in F sharp major, from 1894 is the final version we are most familiar with).

As in so many scores and first editions errors were not timely and properly corrected, and they found their way in following editions until a new generation of musicologists and musicians with a more accurate opinion about Werktreue (instead of Partiturtreue!) made one discovery after the other. Even those well-established scores of Beethoven and Schubert were scrutinized, with often astonishing results.

In the case of Bruckner’s music the substantial discrepancies and their huge variety called for a critical review on scientific terms in order to introduce authentic performance standards. In 1929, after founding the Internationale Bruckner-Gesellschaft – IBG – (International Bruckner Society) in Vienna, an immense workload was waiting. The editing of the Ninth started in 1934 (Orel) and is still in progress, more than 70 years later. It took until 2000 to dispose of a ‘clean’ score for just the first three movements only, meaning that yet there is only one recording that does not contain textual errors (the already mentioned Harnoncourt performance / RCA/BMG 82876 54332-282876).


The Finale of the Ninth is only available in one fashion: the particellos and bifolios in Bruckner’s own handwriting as they have been published in the Facsimile Edition. This is the autograph that should tell us everything, but it does not. First of all a number of pages is (still) missing and so we do not know what is in there, secondly major part of the instrumentation is left blank (Bruckner simply did not reach the process of writing out the full score in detail from start to finish) and thirdly the movement could not be completed anyway.

Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs conducting the Finale

Well – but the manuscript material indeed provides a lot of information, and much MORE information as it is the general belief. What did survive is at about 50% of the emerging autograph score, but also ca 70 % of the music lost from the missing bifolios could be recovered from sketches, drafts, discarded earlier versions and forensic studies – amazing! This score must have been preliminarily finished by Bruckner (at least with all strings and some sketched wind motives), due to one simple fact: the philological studies as in particular undertaken by John Phillips revealed that without doubt Bruckner renumbered the bifolios of the score only in May/June 1896, after he had at least sketched the coda, and we have even a date for this as an evidence – "14.6.96", given on 13E/"14" (Facsimile Edition, p. 225). This renumbering was done, because in this phase of the composition he had decided to split up the very long bifolio 2F (which increased now to 36 bars) into a "2" and "3", all written on the late-used E- paper type, hence all subsequent bifolios had to be renumbered. Most likely his secretary Meißner may have had the task to scratch out the old consecutive numbers with a razor blade, which would be overwritten then with one number higher. We had noted something similar in the first movement already: Only after finishing its score for a first time (which had 23 numbered bifolios in autumn 1892), during a revision in autumn 1893 Bruckner decided to expand the bridge to the recapitulation of the song period and to include a new bifolio "18" (see Critical Report, p. 50ff), which made it necessary to renumber all subsequent bifolios from "18" to "23" into "19" to "24". But – and this is the point – I believe such a procedure of renumbering would make sense only when the entire score was already there!

But if this renumbering in the Finale indeed happened in May/June 1896, it also gives us a clue to estimate the entire length of the original score, even if now partially lost, at least with a high degree of certainty: In one of the sketches for the coda, we find the famous annotation of Bruckner "Bogen

36. 19. Ces" (FE, p. 45). This would read: On May 19th Bruckner reached the Ces, the beginning of the "Final cadenza", as two days later clearly re-sketched and further established (FE, p. 47: "am 21. Donnerstag, 22. Freitag, 23. Samstag"). If we follow Bruckner’s usual practice, he would write such a bifolio indication precisely at that point of the sketch where the new bifolio (here: 36) would have to start. (We have several other instances in the manuscripts where he did the same, note, for instance, the particello sketch of the exposition, FE p. 33, where Bruckner writes "neuer Bog." precisely at the same spot where the later 4C/"5" started). But this indication was written in May, obviously BEFORE the renumbering; he would have had outwritten the primary score bifolios for the coda perhaps immediately after sketching their content (again: this was part of his usual compositional practice: as soon as a music was clearly sketched, first lay it out in score, for strings; it could be revised later anyway) and only then after returned to the exposition and renumber the bifolios subsequently. Hence the bifolio on which the cadenza had started was later to be a renumbered 36/"37". But this single indication of Bruckner in the sketch allows us now for almost PRECISELY estimate the length of the gap between the final surviving score bifolio 31E/"32" and the cadenza beginning on the lost 36/"37"!! Four bifolios must be missing here (32E/"33", 33E/"34", 34E/"35", 35E/"36"), most likely all on E-paper, prepared with 16 bars each, implying a gap of 64 bars. Furthermore we would know that most likely the chorale Bridge constituting the 8-bar-Period before the Ces-cadenza would be then the second half of the lost 35/"36". What we do NOT know is, where exactly the coda would have started, of which we have the beginning sketched (24 bars), hence we do knot know EXACTLY how much music was between the last bar of 31E/"32" and the first bar of the sketch for the beginning of the coda, and how much music was there between the last bar of it and the first bar of this C major chorale fragment preparing the cadenza. We also do NOT know whether Bruckner himself followed strictly the 16 bar structure of the E paper bifolios, or whether he would have inserted some further bar lines, as, for instance, already on the first page of "2"E which contains 6 instead of 4 bars. On the other hand, this is the only surviving E-paper with such a subdivision at all, and the musical structure of 31E/"32" and the cadenza sketch would only suggest one further of such subdivisions: the last period on 31E/"32" ends with its sixth bar, and we do not know precisely whether Bruckner would have completed it with [-7– 8] in an 8-bar-period or not. But 36/"37" would have started with the first bar of a period. If we consider Bruckner would have continued the lost music in periods of 4, 8 and 12 bars length, it is likely that he somewhere had to include two bars more, if he not decided somewhere to have 10 or 6 bars only, but this is more unlikely. However, the little annotation "Bogen 36. Ces" provides enough information to establish at least a hypothesis, based on facts and some fruitful deduction, and estimate the length of this huge gap, with perhaps only two bars in doubt.

Even more the length of the very end of the coda: Bruckner sketched a D pedal point following the cadenza, doubtless the final tonic. This would have started then on the lost 37/"38". If we consider that all previous movements had a sort of a 'final capstone' of precisely 37 bars length, we can assume with some certainty that this was also planned for the Finale, following the sketched 8 bars of tonic pedal point some more 29 would have had to follow, in all, bringing the score to an end with two further lost bifolios of 16 bars perhaps (37/"38" and 38/"39") and one last page of a 39/"40" with the final five bars. So even if the final double bar-line is not included in the surviving material anymore, we can assume its position and a hint of the music at least from logical deduction.

So regarding the full length of the Finale, we have only a very few question marks: 1.) Was the missing bifolio "1" 16 or still 24 bars long? (We have sufficient arguments for the shorter version, however) 2.) Was the missing bifolio "4" 16 or 18 bars long? 3.) How long precisely was the missing 27/"28" – 20 or 24 bars? (we have again good reason to assume here 24 bars if we compare this passage with the surviving sketch for it, already containing 17 bars, and due to the structure of the periods) 4.) Did Bruckner stuck to the 16 bar standard length in the missing bifolio"33" to "36", or did he include at least two or more further bars? 5.) Was the final section really planned to be 37 bars long? If we summarize the answers to these questions, we may say: 1.) 8 bars in dispute; 2.) 2 bars in dispute; 3.) perhaps 4 bars in dispute; 4.) at least 2 bars in dispute; 5.) certainly not 29 bars in dispute, since the final pedal point would have been at least longer than the 8 bars sketched, in all ca. 47 bars in question. This would bring the movement to a length of perhaps not more than 673 bars (if we accept the 24 bars version of the missing "1").

You may now say: Well, this all sounds very nice, but is sheer speculation. But if we would have no piece of music here, and instead a person killed, with some parts of the corpse missing, and if we would be forensic investigators such as in the TV series "CSI", we would accept the following idea – to collect all information which is still available, bring it together by scientific deduction, and try to establish a hypothesis sufficient enough to find out why the one died, how the person had looked like before the birds of prey have eaten perhaps parts of his face and arms and legs, and then try to find the murderer... And this is indeed all we can do – take every single bit of information from Bruckner´s own music, and present the results of our examination as well established as possible.

How did you proceed from the point where Bruckner did not provide full instrumentation, such as in the continuity drafts? (example bifolio “#”D =“5b”). In other cases Bruckner could have added specific voices at a later stage, where he already writes in full score (example: such as in bifolio 4A, page 3). There are numerous spots in the scoring with failing instrumentation markings, presumably because the composer did not need reminders for later instrumentation, in contrast with others being clearly laid out, for instance for the viola, in case he might overlook or just forget later in the instrumentation process that this specific phrase was to be played by the viola. The divisi markings, where for instance celli need to play in double parts, also served as a reminder. Summarising, how could you fill it all in where Bruckner did not leave adequate hints in his manuscripts (particellos, bifolios).

Actually there are by far more adequate hints by Bruckner himself as one may think! Before starting such a discussion, we need to answer another question: "How full" was the instrumentation intended to be, or better: how much additions does the music require at all? Regarding the bifolio"#"D, which you have mentioned, Samale and I now simply regard it as an erroneous attempt to re-copy 4C/"5", and don´t share Dr. Phillips’ construction of this as an indicated 16 bar expansion, as explained in the Commentary of our new edition: This idea is simply not in line with the particello sketch and also not with Bruckner’s usual style, if you compare the first part of the song period in exposition and recapitulation in all previous symphonies (and the first movement of the Ninth): However, the surviving 4C/"5" indicates a finished instrumentation with whole bar rests in all parts except strings and 1.2. horn (see also the first two pages of 4A); it was renumbered in June 1896 into "5" and even marked as "giltig" (valid) by Bruckner. Even if Bruckner may have changed this music any further, we have no reason to assume that he would have added more instruments, because the instrumentation remained unchanged in all previous phases of the composition. Or take the first two pages of 7C/"8" (FE, p. 181f) in comparison with 7B (FE, p. 177f): In the last version of the bifolio, Bruckner gave all the whole bar rests with the exception of the upper strings, and on the next page he eliminated the first four horns supporting the dotted motive of the viola, sketched on 7B, 2nd page, to make the scoring even thinner. So we can gain much information about the instrumentation by simply comparing the various surviving compositional phases.

A very important insight about instrumentation was provided by John Phillips during his work with Samale in 1990/1: Bruckner would often add melodies or motives only if the counterpoint fabric would allow such an addition, or if certain motives would undergo a process of mutation. A good example is the added counterpoint of the solo horn at the beginning of the Trio in the song period, which would rhythmically compliment the fabric of the other parts and provide precisely the one missing element. This section is also an example for another significant idea: When Bruckner repeats such material more or less literally in the recapitulation, he would enrich it with added instrumental colours, as for instance can be seen in the first movement. In this case we have taken also the very similar Finale of the Sixth symphony as a model to provide a fuller instrumentation of the Trio in the recapitulation. On the other hand, Bruckner did not think in terms of "instrumentation" as we often do think about it – simply like giving a nude person a dress. His idea on this is more like this: If you freeze, you would need a scarf and a hat and gloves. So a particular musical situation would require a certain instrumentation.

For instance: the Crescendo in the recapitulation, preparing the chorale theme from C flat major / A flat minor, is in the sketch only one single line in the violins, plus at the beginning a sketched self- imitation in diminution, both making use already of the chorale theme. Alone from the character of the music we have already clues for the instrumentation: It should obviously start soft, and build up an effective crescendo in order to prepare a violent break-through of D minor, as at the end of the sketch marked "Schluß d-moll" by Bruckner, with the heavy weight of a first bar of a period. This is only a first climax, because the surviving 28E/"29" brings a much more exalted, second crescendo to prepare the chorale plus Te Deum. But if we imagine the D minor to be a tutti climax, we need to find stylistically appropriate models of how to build up the crescendo itself. We find these models in the main theme itself (dotted rhythm in all strings, supporting, resonant line in the brass) and as well in a similar passage in the Finale of the Eighth symphony, after the recapitulation of the first theme group..

To give a voice in the score to a specific instrument or a combination of instruments is an important decision for any composer. Individual instrumental colours determine the music’s mood to a great extent. How did you know that a specific voice line should be given to the oboe instead of the flute? How did you establish that Bruckner had written a specific line for specific brass instruments, for instance for the horn?

In some cases it is simply guesswork, and we don´t know of course whether Bruckner would have chosen the same instrument, or not. But at least we have many clues how Bruckner wrote for his instruments, studying the music, finding similar passages, if possible firstly from the Finale itself, then from the other three movements, then from music composed at the same time, and also considering the Te Deum and earlier symphonies. Bruckner had some very particular habits to write for his orchestra, which were also thoroughly examined by Dieter Michael Backes recently, in his dissertation Die Instrumentation und ihre Entwicklung in Anton Bruckners Symphonien (Mainz 1993).

Take, as an example, the instrumentation of the chorale recapitulation (bifolio 28E/"29"), of which we have only Bruckner’s strings and the first trumpet with the chorale melody: many other completers have interpreted this as a soft reminiscence, but the manuscript provides in the two bars before the trumpet entry whole bar rests in BOTH trumpet systems, which is a typical shorthand writing of Bruckner to indicate that all three trumpets should later play the melody, so he simply left out the doubling in the lower system for writing convenience. The string texture itself, with the powerful Te Deum figure and viola tremolo, is a typical forte design, not soft, and most important is also Bruckner’s own diminuendo ("dim."), to be found in the eighth bar of the trumpet line, indicating that it should be loud earlier, but here become softer. So we finally have simply adopted the brass-parts from the exposition, and in order to bring out the diminuendo from the 9th bar onwards have thinned out the instrumentation, reducing the harmonic support to trombones, double bass-tuba, and starting the trumpet writing in three parts, leaving out the horns. The last two bars of the bifolio provide further information: The melody is taken over by the 1st oboe, the viola gives up its tremolo, and goes with celli, double basses suddenly rest. This suggests a change of register and a further reduction of the dynamics. Since it would be untypical to have such a figure as the strings here without harmonic support by sustained notes, we have supported the oboe chorale with lower woodwinds, because in such a soft passage certainly this can´t be the brass anymore.

As Backes further pointed out, Bruckner’s writing is so characteristic that even from a single line in the sketch we could very often easily deduce for which instrument it was intended. Very important here is the ambitus of the instrument, the lowest and highest note possible – this already limits the choice. But this is all basic knowledge of instrumentation: If you double a viola, you may use a horn, a bassoon or a clarinet, then consider dynamics and the colour, and make your choice. One of the reasons for us to reconsider the entire instrumentation, however, was the insight, that we would have to take in account those instruments which Bruckner himself wrote for – that is, not our days’ modern, wide-bored brass instruments, for instance, but thin, handmade Viennese horns, the large trumpet in F, Viennese tenor bass-trombones in E flat, Viennese doublebass-tuba, the wooden, old Viennese flute, the Viennese oboe, clarinet and bassoon – instruments which sounded totally different from ours. You need to know about these instruments, how they sound, where their limitations are, and how Bruckner wrote for them, in order to accurately write for them in a Brucknerian way. For instance, for the flute, Bruckner would avoid tones above b´´´ and also the lowest register (d´is the lowest note in the Ninth, and it appears only in the main theme of the first movement) which are no problem for a modern flute. In particular due to my own interest in period performing practice, we have changed many passages in our new edition, in order to bring it in line with Bruckner’s habits, overlooked in our earlier working phases.

I find it amazing that until this day no great Bruckner conductor – apart from Nikolaus Harnoncourt – has taken a serious effort to perform a four-movement version of the Ninth, as if it does not exist. The latest news I got on the subject was that the Bamberger Symphoniker under the baton of Jonathan Nott had planned a performance on 20 April using the latest SPCM edition, but it was cancelled without any explanation. I also understood that Nott got all the documentation to support the reconstruction, but it appeared to be in vain. Why do you think it is so difficult to get this greatest of Bruckner Finales performed? Has it something to do with those many doubts that still exist? That too much in the score is unclear, needs compromising, and that we shall never know the truth?

In defence of Mr. Nott I must say that recently he wrote me an e-mail, explaining that to study the matter thoroughly would have required much more time as he had since he got the materials, and he is a very busy man; the April 2006 concert was simply too early for him to come to a definitive decision, as he explained. But he remains to be interested, as he wrote. I would also like to point out that many at least quite well-known conductors in fact did the completed Ninth, as for instance Philippe Herreweghe, Johannes Wildner, Lawrence Renes and Günter Neuhold. But basically you are right. The reasons are manifold. It is perhaps impossible to overcome those prejudices of 100 years of reception: As much as the Mozart-Süßmayr Requiem became a beloved part of the standard repertoire, as much Loewe’s campaign was effective to establish the general belief that the symphony is in itself complete as a torso, even if this is against the composers will and simply a habit. Even worse: he also successfully established that, against Bruckner’s wish, the Te Deum should better NOT be performed following the symphony, despite that some great conductors (even Karajan) occasionally performed the Ninth and after a concert break the Te Deum, which to me seems to be at least an appropriate solution better, and better than the torso alone. Another point is the radical nature of Bruckner’s music itself: It is not easy to understand that the pathetic Adagio should be followed by a harsh, toccata-like 'Inferno', postponing the final salvation until the very last moment. There are simply too many misunderstandings and resentments against the music and the entire undertaking.

The performance of the Finale as an integrated part of Bruckner’s last ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ is still in its infancy and needs full recognition before a performance tradition can hold. How do you think this can be established in time? Great Bruckner conductors must have studied your score in the meantime, but there seems nobody yet – except Harnoncourt - to take up the baton. I asked Hartmut Haenchen but he was not interested. There is still a lot of opposition against touching a musical torso and when people do not know the real facts behind what Bruckner left and how the reconstruction process goes, they are probably not going to give up their resistance. Conductors are the first to make it happen, to create an electrifying event in the concert hall, and to explain to the audience what they are trying to accomplish. Not in some kind of a workshop scenario, but in the four-movement version Bruckner had it in mind. To understand and appreciate the real greatness of the Finale needs the three preceding movements. Where are they?

There is perhaps not enough common knowledge about the facts, but on the other hand too much information: imagine a poor jetset-maestro would have to study a pile of books and scores first – the Facsimile, the 'Documentation', the Completed Performing Version and then to decide what he should do. Those people even don´t find the time to learn new repertory, travel around the world, do 120 concerts a year and endlessly repeat their standard pieces. Why, how and when should they relearn the Ninth in four movements? What we would need is two or three well-known, open-minded chaps with major orchestras who would like to do the completed Ninth in a major capital, perhaps Harnoncourt (if he is ever to do the Ninth again), Claudio Abbado, Mariss Jansons, Esa Pekka Salonen, Seiji Ozawa, Pierre Boulez, Simon Rattle, or Paavo Järvi, who could do the piece so successfully that the simple fact would convince others that it is no crime any longer to use the Finale. This already worked remarkably well in the case of Mahler's Tenth: Even Michael Gielen, who only a few years ago confessed he would never do anything else than the first Adagio, recently presented a fantastic new recording of the 'Cooke et al' completion.

But note: After I had conducted the workshop concert on the Finale in Tokyo in 2001 with the Royal Flanders Philharmonic, Philippe Herreweghe came to me and said: "You know – the more often I hear the piece, the more I like it." Then he took the completed Ninth on tour through Japan, and he did it, I think, four times there. But the reviews were rather conservative about the matter, and since 2001 he never again did the Finale at all, although he does Bruckner a lot ... Which brings me to the next point: The symphony in four movements lasts ca 90 Minutes; it would have to be programmed usually without anything else. Bruckner concerts are hard to sell anyway, and if then the beloved Mozart-Concerto could NOT happen in the first part, and no intermission for drinks and chat, people would not come. And if then a quarter of the piece appears to be 'second hand Bruckner', it may be even more difficult to programme it in ordinary concert life. So all we can hope for is that the quality of the music itself sooner or later would make the round. If I would be as rich as Gilbert Kaplan, who paid orchestras in the entire world to conduct solely his beloved Mahler Two, I would go on tour to conduct the completed Ninth wherever I could, but I am not rich. And which orchestral manager would dare to invite a no-name-conductor for a Bruckner Nine? Unfortunately we even were unsuccessful so far to raise enough money to give at least a proper performance of the completed Ninth on period instruments with the fantastic New Queen´s Hall Orchestra – an idea we try to work out now for already seven years, without success, and we would need only ca. 75.000 Euro for a proper concert and live CD-recording project ...

Mahler once said: ”Tradition ist Schlamperei.” This perfectly fits the performance tradition of Bruckner’s symphonies in their various versions. The first version of the Eighth – and I think it is superior to the second – is rarely played, as is the first version of the Third and the Fourth. It seems to me that when a tradition has really established itself, huge powers are needed to change patterns, but it simply does not happen. This is not really hopeful when it comes to the Ninth’s Finale…

Don´t lose your hope! We may not forget that the initial versions of the Third, Fourth and Eighth were only published 30 years ago. Inbal’s CD recording of them was a pioneer's work, discussed highly controversial by the critics. But now, the initial version of the Third is more and more recognized as a great, independent and coherent argument of the piece. Even Celibidache had planned to perform it (unfortunately he died before this could be realised). I think the Fourth and Eighth will be likewise recognized sooner or later. Now take the Finale of the Ninth – perhaps it is simply still too early to come to lose hope. But I have hope – I receive so many letters and e-mails from Bruckner-admirers in the entire world, offering support, asking for more performances, and some of them even took the initiative to write permanently to concert organisers and conductors regarding the matter. And I am also happy that interested writers like yourself study the matter, come to their conclusions and publish their new insights. All this is very much of help for Bruckner’s music.

How do you see 'Werktreue' in the perspective of the reconstruction process?

This is a totally misunderstood concept, preserved from the late-romantic aesthetics. The word represents the strange idea that a performance could come as close to a 'correct' 'interpretation' of 'the text' – a relict from the secularisation in the age of enlightenment, when culture became a surrogate for religious activity in society. This is as much against the nature of music as the common believe is against the human nature, that in our entire life we would need the-one-and-only-person which would make all our dreams come true. But in fact we live in a net of relationships with various people we continue to meet, relationships of all kind of quality. But why don´t we learn to simply live 'in love', not to the-particular-one-and-all, but as a way of life? Likewise musical interpretation: We can and we should learn as much we can about the nature of the music, but basically we should 'live in music'. Reconstruction is part of our daily musical life and practice – in fact, every interpretation is a reconstruction: the musician reconstructs an experience in sound from the music he reads on the paper. Already the various versions of Mahler's Tenth are basically also interpretations of their editors and arrangers. The reconstruction and completion of the Bruckner Finale is precisely the same: we try to make it possible to experience Bruckner's own music in sound, to make it performable. If you wish so, this is 'werktreu'. Definitely it is not 'werktreu' to undermine the ideas of Bruckner himself. If we dispense with the finale of the Ninth, why then not as well with that of the Seventh, for instance? Let´s take away the finale, put the Scherzo in the second place and end with the Farewell to Wagner – who the hell would need a Finale for the Seventh? An absurd debate ...

Do you think that your reconstruction work contributed to a much better understanding of the first three movements? Why?

Many processes from the first three movements did not come to an end yet with the end of the Adagio. In fact, the end of the Adagio stimulate even some new processes continued in the Finale. This idea was actually very important for us – observing the motivic development and see where it needs to be reconstructed, in order to bring it to a sufficient end. It is particularly fascinating how Bruckner carefully seems to prepare the return of the main theme from the first movement in the Finale, by establishing its principal motives: Note that the motto from the beginning of the Finale already contains the inversion from the famous horn call at the beginning of the symphony, then the prominent triplet from the main theme is used. Note that the string figuration of the chorale theme seems to be directly taken from the figuration of the coda of the first movement, again containing the triplet core. Note how the Epilogue theme of the Finale, first following the fugue, then following the chorale recapitulation, contains the ‘Non confundar / Alleluja’ and again the triplet feature of the main theme. And this is only a small excerpt from the manifold processes of development which all aim for what already Samale and Mazzuca had realised in their 1985 edition – the synthesis of all main themes of the symphony. We have a simple argument for this: It is perfectly possible to do so, following the structure of the themes as used, and as predictable as the famous idea of Nottebohm, that for the lost part of Bach’s quadruple fugue the main theme was intended to be added. And, significantly, going beyond the argument at the end of the Eighth, because there Bruckner only combined the head of the themes, and not original, but in a truncated manner, transposed into C major. But here we can combine the themes in their original condition! The Scherzo-theme is certainly merely a rhythm, even if containing the important triplet. But if we take the augmented Adagio theme it matches perfectly well with the main theme of the first movement. The Finale theme would NOT match as in the exposition, but note that when Bruckner re-designed it four the fugue, he changed the first note of the third bar from E to E flat, and this would allow now to use it precisely in combination with the other themes, bringing the substantial D / E flat clash. Likewise we have tried to bring out other resolutions as indicated in the music. But this is only possible because Bruckner’s own architectural thinking was so strong. Notice only that even the small choral fragment, preceding the cadenza Sketch for the coda, is nothing else than the inversion of four bars at the end of the exposition of the main theme, shortly before this Choral-Bridge to the Song period! So in particular in the coda we have tried to tie together things that remained to be unsolved yet: For instance, the way how we re-introduced the Te Deum motive in woodwinds is very similar to how Bruckner used it in the Development section, serving as a model for our coda realisation. Or take the ‘Non confundar / Alleluja’, referring to the trumpets in the Adagio theme. (By the way: your quoted lines from Dr. Heller seem in fact refer to the slow movement, and not the Scherzo, since I am sure Heller was simply confused about the order of the movements: Note that Josef Schalk, who made the piano arrangement of the symphony, gave the Adagio as a second movement and the Scherzo as third. I assume that Schalk worked from copies of the movements which are lost today, originally containing "Scherzo" and "Adagio" titles only, but not marked explicitly as "2. Satz", "3. Satz". It is even possible that Bruckner himself was not entirely sure about the position of the inner movements for some time, since it seems that on the first page of the Adagio autograph, the third beam of the roman "III" in "III. Satz" has been added later!)

In all, to present the symphony without Finale seems to me like presenting a body without its head. Not a very nice picture indeed. The entire character of the work is changed by accepting the Finale – from a pathetic Adagio of Farewell into a last struggle of life and death. The Finale is a toccata-like "Inferno", an apocalyptic picture of the last judgement. Bruckner struggled hard to achieve at least a compositional coherence. He could not know that the material for the Finale would be obscured soon after his death. Should his last battle remain to be unacknowledged? Hence we also understand our reconstruction as an attempt to compensate for the respectless treatment of Bruckner’s heritage. Imagine that perhaps some respectless autograph collectors may keep the lost bifolios in their possession and hide them from us (if not already some of the bifolios have been destroyed immediately after Bruckner’s death, for instance, by the religious fanatic Meißner, perhaps from a false understanding of piety): In this case I have to admit to feel an almost diabolic pleasure that it was possible to STILL recover the Finale to such an extent from Bruckner’s own backup-material, by following forensic methods and observing a strict methodology! And I dare to predict that even if some or all of the lost bifolios would once come to light again, we may already have found at least the right music in many instances, even if we of course cannot have guessed everything all right. But even if we get an idea of the covering of only ca 80 % of the original whole movement (and I don´t talk about instrumentation now, only the composition itself), we would have regained much more of Bruckner’s music as if 20 years ago we could have ever dreamed of!

Click the images for full size graphic

Example A: Sketch in particello (three to four staves), ongoing musical argumentation, partially scarcely readable (thin and fleeting writing). Page 45 from the Facsimile edition of Bruckner’s full autograph, MWV, Vienna, 1996 (ISMN M50025- 133-0). With kind permission of the Austrian National Library, Vienna.

Example B: Fully written-out score in bifolio (or Bogen), notation on staves, with on each page prefixed entries for the instruments from top to bottom in the correct order, together with keys, time and (also fixed) four bar lines (mostly prepared by his pupil and ‘secretary’ Anton Meißner), successively and continuously numbered. clarinets notated in B flat and horns and trumpets in F. Page 110 from the Facsimile edition of Bruckner’s full autograph, MWV, Vienna, 1996 (ISMN M-50025-133-0). With kind permission of the Austrian National Library, Vienna.

Example C: As above, but only containing the principal elements (strings, important woodwind and brass entries, often in pencil to facilitate later erasure and subsequent overwriting in ink). Page 231 from the Facsimile edition of Bruckner’s full autograph, MWV, Vienna, 1996 (ISMN M-50025-133-0). With kind permission of the Austrian National Library, Vienna.

Example D: Continuity draft (Satzverlaufsentwurf) in rudimentary design (Bruckner also entered single melodic lines, mostly the violin part, into the full score formatted sheets at hand). Page 167 from the Facsimile edition of Bruckner’s full autograph, MWV, Vienna, 1996 (ISMN M-50025-133-0). With kind permission of the Austrian National Library, Vienna.


Example E: Dates in the manuscript help to determine the genenis and progression of the composition. Page 47 from the Facsimile edition of Bruckner’s full autograph, MWV, Vienna, 1996 (ISMN M-50025-133-0). With kind permission of the Austrian National Library, Vienna.


Example F: Dates in the manuscript help to determine the genesis and progression of the composition. Page 225 from the Facsimile edition of Bruckner’s full autograph, MWV, Vienna, 1996 (ISMN M-50025-133-0). With kind permission of the Austrian National Library, Vienna.


Publications by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs on Bruckner's Ninth symphony (Finale):

.. Essay 1 (pdf)

.. Illustrations (pdf)

.. Tables (pdf)

.. Essay 2 (pdf)

.. Forum

Important links:

.. Tamino Klassik Forum

.. Musikproduktion Jürgen Höflich, Munich

.. Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag, Vienna

.. Doblinger Music Publishers, Vienna

.. Anton Bruckner discography

.. Anton Bruckner Institute, Linz

..Austrian National Library

.. The New Queen's Hall Orchestra

Selected literature:

[1] Max Auer/August Göllerich: Anton Bruckner. Ein Lebens- und Schaffensbild, volume IV/3, Regensburg 1928-36. John Alan Phillips: Study score, Vienna 1994.

[2] Robert Hirschfeld: Anton Bruckner. Neunte Symphonie. Uraufführung in Wien. Vienna 1903. Max Auer: Anton Bruckner. Sein Leben und Werk. Zurich/Leipzig/Vienna 1923.

[3] Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs & John Alan Phillips: Übersicht der Aufführungs-Versionen des Finale- Fragments in Bruckners Neunte im Fegefeuer der Rezeption. Musik-Konzepte 120/121/122, Munich 2003.

[4] Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs & John Alan Phillips: Einführung in die erhaltenen Quellen zum Finale in Bruckners Neunte im Fegefeuer der Rezeption. Musik-Konzepte 120/121/122, Munich 2003.

[5] Elisabeth Maier: Verborgene Persönlichkeit. Anton Bruckner in seinen privaten Aufzeichnungen (Anton Bruckner. Dokumente & Studien 11). Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag, Vienna 2001 (2 Volumes).

[6] Dieter Michael Backes: Die Instrumentation und ihre Entwicklung in Anton Bruckners Symphonien. Mainz 1993.

Anton Bruckner Symposium: Publications of the Anton Bruckner Institut Linz [Reference: Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag]:

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1977. »Anton Bruckner zwischen Wagnis und Sicherheit«, Linz 1978.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1980: »Die Fassungen«, Linz 1981.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1981: »Die Österreichische Symphonie nach Anton Bruckner«, Linz 1983.

Klassieke Muziek, Opera & Operette, Ballet pagina 33 van 34

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1982: »Bruckner-Interpretation«, Linz 1983.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1983: »Johannes Brahms und Anton Bruckner«, Linz 1985.

Bruckner Symposium Budapest 1983-84, Linz 1985.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1984: »Bruckner, Wagner und die Neudeutschen in Österreich«, Linz 1986.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1985: »Anton Bruckner und die Kirchenmusik«, Linz 1988.

Bruckner Symposium Rom 1986, »Anton Bruckner e la musica sacra«, Rom 1987.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1986 »Bruckner, Liszt, Mahler und die Moderne«, Linz 1989.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1987: »Bruckner und die Musik der Romantik«, Linz 1989.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1988: »Anton Bruckner als Schüler und Lehrer«, Linz und Wien 1992.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1989: »Orchestermusik im 19. Jahrhundert«, Linz und Wien 1992.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1990: »Musikstadt Linz-Musikland Oberösterreich«, Linz und Wien 1993.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1991: »Bruckner-Rezeption«, Linz und Wien 1994.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1992: »Anton Bruckner -Persönlichkeit und Werk«, Linz und Wien 1995.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1993: »Zur Frage einer Osterreichischen Symphonik«, Linz und Wien 1996.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1994: »Bruckner-Freunde - Bruckner-Kenner«, Linz und Wien 1997.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1995: »Zum Schaffensprozess in den Künsten«, Linz und Wien 1997.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1996: »Fassungen - Bearbeitungen - Vollendungen«, Linz und Wien 1998.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1997: »Bruckner- Vorbilder und Traditionen«, Linz und Wien 1999.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 1998: »Zur Problematik von Künstlerbildern im 19. Jahrhundert«, Linz und Wien 2000.

Bruckner Symposium Linz 2000: »Die materielle und soziale Situation des Künstler«, Linz 2002.

Bruckner-Tagung Wien 1999, Wien 2000

Selected publications of Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag, Vienna:

Cohrs, B.-G. (Hrsg.): Anton Bruckner, IX. Symphonie d-moll, Scherzo er Trio, Studienband zum 2. Satz, Wien 1998.

Anton Bruckner, IX. Symphonie d-moll (1. Satz -Scherzo er Trio -Adagio), kritische Neuausgabe unter Berücksichtigung der Arbeiten von Alfred Orel und Leopold Nowak, Partitur und Stimmen,Wien 2000.

Anton Bruckner, IX. Symphonie d-moll (1. Satz - Scherzo - Trio - Adagio), kritischer Bericht zur Neuausgabe, Wien 2001.

Grasberger, R.:Bruckner-Stätten in Osterreich. Mit einem Anhang.- Bruckners Auslandreisen (ABIL Informationen 5), Wien 2001. Harrandt, A. und Schneider, O. (Hrsg.): Anton Bruckner, Briefe 1852-1886, Wien 1998.

Anton Bruckner, Briefe 1887-1896, Wien 2002.

Phillips, J. A. (Hrsg.): Anton Bruckner, IX. Symphonie d-moll, Finale (unvollendet), Rekonstruktion der Autograph-Partitur nach den erhaltenen Quellen, Studienpartitur, Wien 1994/99.

Anton Bruckner, IX. Symphonie d-moll, Finale (unvollendet), Rekonstruktion der Autograph-Partitur nach den erhaltenen Quellen, Dokumentation des Fragments, Partitur einschl. Kommentar & Stimmen, Wien 1999/2001.

Anton Bruckner, IX. Symphonie d-moll, Finale (unvollendet), Faksimile-Ausgabe sämtlicher autographen Notenseiten, Wien 1996.

Anton Bruckner, IX. Symphonie d-moll, Textband, Wien (published after 2003).

Anton Bruckner, IX. Symphonie d-moll, 1. Satz, Studienband, Wien (published after 2003).

Anton Bruckner, IX. Symphonie d-moll, Adagio, Studienband, Wien (published after 2003).

Anton Bruckner, IX. Symphonie d-moll, Finale, Studienband, Wien (published after 2003).

Schönzeler, H. H.: Zu Bruckners IX. Symphonie. Die Krakauer Skizzen. Eine Bestandsaufnahme, Wien 1987.

Anton Bruckner, Auswahl-Bibliographie (1982-2002)


This article first appeared in Klassieke Muziek, Opera & Operette, Ballet pagina 1 van 34


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