Bruckner's 9th (Finale)

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RE: Bruckner's 9th (Finale)

50m/JaneEG

I have been a fan and collector of Bruckner for 30 years now (including his choral works which are  a tad less controversial). The recent interest in the Bruckner 9 finale seems to be as a result of the Rattle/BPO recording which I now have in my collection.

I will have to admit that when I first heard the finale I was decidedly underwhelmed, but now I am beginning to think differently. There is something Bruckner is trying to get across to us, his audience, in his last few days of life. Whether he finished it I think is now slightly academic. But what is important is that he very nearly finished it; and that final statement should not just exist within the minds of experts and academics.

 

Samale/Mazzuca/Phillips/Cohrs:

Reading through the documentation it seems that this team have done as much as possible to avoid putting their own personal stamp on the work. They have done the exact opposite of the Shalk brothers and kept within the limits of Bruckner's methodology. It is only in the final few bars that they have had to take an informed guess.

So yes it is a possibility not a probability, but one which should be heard

RE: Bruckner's 9th (Finale)

Also, if you are squeamish about completions, Harnoncourt has recorded the "uncompleted" finale - with gaps, semi-orchestrated sections and so on - on his 2-disc Bruckner 9 with the VPO. Every single note he plays is just as Bruckner left it - no guess work whatsoever. There is, suprisingly, an awful lot of music there and at least fifteen minutes of it is completely orchestrated. Well worth checking out....... After all, an incomplete Bruckner movement is infinitely more valuable than the complete works of many other composers.

According to Harnoncourt, the finale was "completely composed", but not fully "instrumentated". He reckoned that Bruckner needed another four weeks to finish the job. The "theory" that well-wishers took manuscript sheets from his room after his death is more than a theory: they were, in fact, invited to take them by those in charge. These manuscript pages have turned up in all kinds of places and are still turning up today. Very possibly, the whole finale still exists, but is spread out in attics and archives and libraries around the world. We know precisely what is missing because Bruckner numbered every single page and laid out all his phrase markings before writing a single note..... 

RE: Bruckner's 9th (Finale)

Jane

It was said that some of his drafts have turned up as far away as America. Can you elaborate on this further?

 

DSM

RE: Bruckner's 9th (Finale)

..."an incomplete Bruckner movement is infinitely more valuable than the complete works of many other composers". That's a bold statement, Jane!

Allow me to rewrite it with some short comments and questions:

"an incomplete Bruckner movement is infinitely (not even simply better or valuable) more valuable (for whom?) than the complete works (!) of many (!?) other composers (Whom do you have in mind and which works of those "poor composers" exactly?).

Anyway, your bold statement is more "valuable" (at least as literature) than any detailed reply.

Parla

RE: Bruckner's 9th (Finale)

DSM

I don't know that much more about it, but there is no reason why manuscripts wouldn't turn up in America - given the number that are missing and the way they might have filtered down family trees and been transferred from one owner to another. Some also went to libraries and archival bodies and at least some of these have been taken over by other bodies, or have simply ceased to exist (like the Prussian State Library).

At the time of his death, it is thought that there were at least forty numbered "bifolios" containing 600 bars of music. Parts of the finale have turned up in all kinds of places - for example, a bifolio of the finale was discovered in Richard Strauss's estate in 1966; another turned up in in 1971; a sketch belonging to a Munich music critic emerged in 2003. The officially registered or known-about manuscripts now belong to half a dozen different bodies - mainly in Europe - and there is at least one part of the finale which is known about, but has never been seen (!) because the collector (a private individual) is afraid it will complicate his tax position........

The root cause, I believe, lies in the fact that it took the local authorities a full five days before they could get Bruckner's estate under lock and key. 

 

RE: Bruckner's 9th (Finale)

50milliarden wrote:

I think it's got something to do with Bruckner's talent for organic growth of his movements - a talent that's most apparent in his middle period (the major key symphonies), but which appeared to fail him in his later works (the 8th and 9th). There are several spots in the 8th and 9th where the symphonic form starts to "fall apart" into disconnected fragments, and that's something that irritates me, specially when listening to a recording that emphasizes the verticality of the music instead of the horizontal flow. Don't know if I'm making sense here.

No, you're right, but I don't see it as a fault. Despite his rep for formal rigour, Bruckner's finales are often (or at least seem to me) rhapsodic, in which case the important thing is to make the rhetorical line clear.

50milliarden wrote:

As for the 8th, the recordings that get the tempi "right" in my opinion are the relatively fast ones: Schuricht, Furtwängler, Jochum (DG and EMI) and Barbirolli (1970, my favorite for this work). In line with my preference for a natural flow and strong forward drive in Bruckner. Performances in the "let's take it easy and enjoy the pretty sounds" tradition tend to bore me to death. Haitink, with his penchant for this symphony I find unlistenable, same for Celibidache. I listened to Wand's much-praised 2001 performance with the Berliner recently, and it does close to nothing for me.

I too find the 8th works better in tighter performances. I most often listen to Tennstedt, Bohm/Koln (live) and Solti. Also, Celi's EMI recording has many point of interest. There's a part of the finale which he turns into a wild-eyed death march - I find it hugely impressive, and think it should become part of the performance tradition.

'Art doesn't need philosophers. It just needs to communicate from soul to soul.' Alejandro Jodorowsky

RE: Bruckner's 9th (Finale)

Jane

It sounds like you know more about this issue than most (which might I suggest is possibly connected with your surname). The last point you make about the missing bifolio/sketch is very interesting indeed.

Going back to the symphony itself, I would strongly suggest that the agnostics here should give the "unfinished" finale a very thorough listen. Imperfect it may be, but there is something hidden deep down inside the music, which only reveals itself after repeated listening. In parts it sounds like the soundtrack to a disaster movie with some very peculiar sounding dissonant chords. What is Bruckner trying to say?

 

DSM

RE: Bruckner's 9th (Finale)

"What Bruckner is trying to say", DSM?

Perhaps, that the "soundtrack of a disaster movie" might be a "hidden" tribute to our "dear Lord" and...a pleasant message to the "agnostics".

It is not surprising that so many Bruckner loyals are non-believers, while quite a few believers do feel alienated by his Symphonies , at least. It is so interesting, if not intriguing, that Bruckner decided to specifically dedicate his Ninth Symphony to his Dear Lord. A Symphony so perfect to be dedicated to...the gloom of the inevitable Death.

So, now we have another question to answer: what did he actually mean with this dedication?

Parla

RE: Bruckner's 9th (Finale)

I've been travelling for a few days and missed much of this interesting discussion, the third on this subject. By chance, I was listening again to the Rattle version during my flight home.

I don't want to repeat my thoughts from earlier posts but it might be worth repeating, for newer contributors, that there is a very comprehensive description of the available material for the last movement, as well as details of the reconstruction, written by those responsible. it can be found at:

http://www.abruckner.com/articles/articlesEnglish/cohrsB9finale/

(then click on the download).

Only 3 minutes of music of the finale had to be 'composed', the rest is all to be found in the bifolios or in sketches.  There are even notes for the unwritten coda, which make it quite clear that Bruckner did not intend a quiet conclusion.

I strongly suspect that the biggest problem associated with all completions including this one is what might be called 'The Uncertainty Factor'. Imagine for a moment the (highly improbable) case that the completion is exactly what Bruckner himself intended.  The problem is, we'd have no way of knowing it. And that's the same with all reconstructions.  It's all but impossible not to be thinking and questioning the reconstruction as one listens, however perfect it is. The automatic reaction is to attribute any perceived weakness to the reconstruction, isn't it? This makes it much harder to just listen objectively. Certainly I find this, and most others I suspect too, to different degrees. Many critics have found problems in several of Bruckner's finales anyway.  Imagine we only had the finale of the 8th (just as it is now) as a reconstruction from drafts.  I can already hear the comments that Bruckner would never have left it like that etc.

And that's not a problem just for listeners. The conductor and performers too, dealing with problems that they know to be there in Bruckners music are willing and determined to solve them. When looking at a reconstruction, it seems to me that they may be less confident, simply because they do not know for sure where the problem lies, with Bruckner or with the reconstruction, and the natural inclination is to blame the reconstruction.

Does anyone else agree that, how to put these doubts aside and just assess the music objectively is a barrier to both listening and performing reconstructions.  One of the great merits of Simon Rattle is his seeming ability to achieve this. Like his performances or not, his Mahler 10 and Bruckner 9 performances, exude belief in the music. Or so it seems to me.

Chris

 

 

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Bruckner's 9th (Finale)

Chris, allow me to second your so well thought and developed post. I almost entirely agree with you. Some shadows of doubt on minor points cannot change my geuine support to the overrall thrust of your post.

Parla

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