Four things. I do not intend to give a biography of Anton Bruckner, save
to say that this Austrian composer's reputation is fairly and squarely based
on his eleven symphonies, (0-9 and Symphony in F minor), his masses and a
number of shorter religious choral works. His catalogue also contains some
chamber works and piano pieces. Secondly, he is not a composer to whom I
have ever warmed: his music is too massive (and long-winded) for my taste.
Yet, I recognise that his symphonies are master-works and deserve their
popularity with music-lovers. Thirdly, there are some 133 currently
available recordings of Symphony No. 9. These are in a variety of revisions
with and without the final 'unfinished' movement. Lastly, this 'unfinished'
movement has been completed by a number of musicologists: it is beyond my
ken to state which is preferable, authentic and ultimately most successful
-or if it is even necessary.
Add to all this, the fact that there are two basic versions of the
Symphony No.9 which are available to orchestras. Bruckner only managed to
complete the first three movements before his death in 1896. One early
edition of the work was by his pupil and disciple Ferdinand Loewe. This
heavily edited and considerably revised version was first heard in Vienna on
11 February 1903. Bruckner's own version of the symphony was not heard until
2 April 1932 at a concert in Munich (Alfred Orel Edition). This was at a
private event organised by the Bruckner Society. Subsequent to this
performance, Loewe's version declined in popularity. It was felt that Loewe
had 'drastically altered and perverted the music'. Further editions of the
Symphony were published in 1952 and 2000 which were simply minor corrections
to the Orel edition.
For a full discussion of the composition and completion of Bruckner's
Symphony No.9, see Art van der Wal's major study on MusicWeb International
. The three movements were composed
between 1891 and 1894.
Analysis of the work is well-nigh impossible in a short space. The massive
opening movement utilises some four themes with a series of huge climaxes.
The scherzo is lighter in texture with dance-like music and a relatively
relaxed trio section. This is the shortest movement in the symphony lasting
a mere 10 minutes. The adagio is another huge construction that explores two
principal themes with complex development, a massive climax and a quiet
close. This movement is largely contemplative and melancholy.
At the composer's death various full and short score sketches were left
for the finale. There have been a number of attempts at completing the
movement including those of Carragan (1979-84), Samale and Mazzuca (1979-85)
for two pianos, and Samale, Phillips, Mazzuca, and Cohrs (1986-88). Nors S.
Josephson's was realised over a long period: 1979-92. Josephson has written
that the 'present edition of the finale ... is the result of a ten year long
project.' He has made use of many of Bruckner's musical sketches located in
a number of Viennese libraries. He claims that the composer had mapped out,
in varying detail, the entire finale, save for the coda, and that the
'critical task was to work out the order of the pages with a coherent
structure and then to compose a coda following the example of previous
Nors S. Josephson was born in California in 1942. He received his Ph.D in
Historical Musicology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1970. He
has since followed an academic career as well as being a prolific composer.
His main interests are Renaissance church music, Slavic composers of the
centuries including Smetana, Fibich,
Dvorak and Janacek, He has also made extensive studies of Sibelius'
Symphony and the ancient culture of Easter Island.
His most recent composition is a two hour long St. Matthew Passion
for six soloists and Mozart Choir. It will be premiered in Speyer, Germany
during Good Friday, 2015.
The liner-notes are impressive, even if the font size a wee bit small.
After a brief note by Nors S. Josephson, there is a detailed examination of
the entire symphony by Dominic Nudd. The British composer David Matthews
contributes a study of 'finale'. Finally the conductor John Gibbons presents
an important essay on the recording of this CD. There are detailed
biographies about the conductor and Nors S. Josephson. Historical notes and
a complete discography of the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra are included.
The sound of this imposing symphony is excellently recorded with good
balance between the massive climaxes and the more intimate moments. The
playing sounds impressive and controlled.
Interestingly, David Matthews, in the liner-notes suggests that the
'general view that the three movement version of the symphony is the correct
one.' However, he concludes that the sketches left by Bruckner have such
'artistic value that it demands to be heard.'
As I noted above, I am not competent to judge between the various versions
and completions of this symphony. All I can say is that I was impressed and
moved by this recording. For me the finale is totally consistent with what
has preceded it. I can say that although I will probably never become a
Bruckner enthusiast, I enjoyed this new recording from Danacord and feel
that Bruckner enthusiasts will require this version in their