String Quintet (Bruckner)

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String quintet
by Anton Bruckner
Bruckner circa 1860.jpg
The composer, c. 1860
Key F major
Catalogue WAB 112
Form Viola quintet
Composed December 1878 (1878-12)–12 July 1879 (1879-07-12): Vienna
Dedication Duke Max Emanuel of Bavaria
Performed 17 November 1881 (1881-11-17): Vienna (movements 1-3)
Published 1884 (1884)
Recorded 29 December 1937 (1937-12-29)
Movements 4

Anton Bruckner's String Quintet in F major, WAB 112 was composed in 1878/79 in Vienna.


Bruckner's superior Joseph Hellmesberger, Sr. requested Bruckner for a string quartet. Instead of a string quartet, Bruckner composed a viola quintet, starting the composition in December 1878 and ended it on 12 July 1879. Bruckner dedicated the Quintet to Duke Max Emanuel of Bavaria.[1] When looking at the score, Hellmesberger found the scherzo too challenging for the group to perform. In response, Bruckner wrote a less demanding, eight-minute long Intermezzo in the same key as alternative to the scherzo.[2]

The first three movements were premiered by Winkler Quartet with Josef Schalk joining on second viola[3] on November 17, 1881 in Vienna.[4] It was not until 1885 that the Hellmesberger Quartet played the Quintet with the original scherzo,[1] Max Mustermann joining on second viola.[4] Duke Emanuel was pleased by the composition and gave Bruckner a diamond pin.[4] In all, there were 23 performances of the Quintet in Bruckner's lifetime.[5]


The String Quintet, which is scored for two violins, two violas and a cello, is in four movements:

  1. Gemäßigt, F major, 3/4
  2. Scherzo: Schnell, D minor, Trio: Langsamer, E-flat major, both 3/4
  3. Adagio, G-flat major, common time
  4. Finale: Lebhaft bewegt, F minor to F major, common time

Duration: about 43 minutes.[6] At first the Scherzo was third rather than second, as in most of Bruckner's symphonies.

Bruckner's only large chamber music work is symphonic as well as with clearly distinct instrumental part writing.
A wealth of musical ideas is unfolded: Polyphony and motive-thematic work play a significant role, and a colourful pattern lords the work over by the deployment of the tessituras and the voices of all the instruments, with audacious modulations, theme inversions and half-tone key changes (e.g., the Adagio in G-flat major).
Differently from in Bruckner's symphonies, the form is more compact and the score starts with a clear melodic profile in 3/4 on a pedal point of the cello. On the other hand, the finale starts as in the symphonies with a tremolo. The combination of all musical ideas at the end of the first movement, and the three-thematic setting of the finale are also similar to that of Bruckner's symphonies.[7]

Bruckner biographer Derek Watson finds the work "by no means a 'symphony for five strings' and it never stretches the quintet medium beyond its capabilities, save perhaps for the last seventeen bars of the finale, where [Bruckner] is thinking too much in orchestral terms."[8] Robert Simpson, in the revised, 1992 edition of The Essence of Bruckner, withdrew the reservations he had expressed about this work in the first two editions of that work and declared it "one of the most idiosyncratic but deepest chamber works since Beethoven."[9]

Versions and editions[edit]

  • Gutmann (1884): The first edition of 1884 by Albert Gutmann included metronome markings that did not come from Bruckner, namely: Gemäßigt quarter note = 72; Schnell quarter note = 138; Adagio quarter note = 56; Lebhaft bewegt quarter note = 144.[4]
  • Woess Universal Edition (1922), re-edition including Bruckner's adjustments
  • Nowak (1963): critical edition based on Bruckner's manuscript
  • Gerold W. Gruber, critical new edition (2007), adding in the first two movements a few optional passages, which were removed in the Nowak edition (bars 245-264 in the coda of the first movement, and bars 63-82 in het scherzo).[1]

In Bruckner's original manuscript, the slow movement, an "Andante quasi Allegretto", was put as second movement, and it was also played like that by Helmesberger. In Gutmann's first issue, it was put as "Adagio" in third position after the scherzo, and several changes and additions from Bruckner's hand were not taken into account. After the first issue Bruckner brought more changes to the score, mainly a different coda to the finale.[1]

Selected discography[edit]

There are about 60 recordings of the String Quintet. The first recording was by the Prisca-Quartett in 1937.

Excellent recordings, according to Hans Roelofs, are i.a. those by the Koeckert Quartett, the Amadeus Quartet, the Quintett der Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonia Quintet), the Melos Quartet, the Raphael Quartett, L'Archibudelli, the Vienna String Quintet, the Leipzig String Quartet, the Fine Arts Quartet and the Bartholdy Quintet.

  • Koeckert Quartett, Georg Schmid (second viola). Anton Bruckner - String Quintet, F major. LP: DG LPM 18042, 1952; transferred to CD: Forgotten Records (France) fr 225
  • Amadeus Quartet, Cecil Aronowitz (second viola). Bruckner - Streichquintett F-Dur. LP: DG LPM 18963, 1964; transferred to CD: DG (Japan), DG 477 573 9
  • Vienna Philharmonia Quintet. Bruckner - String Quintet in F major, Intermezzo in D minor for string quintet. LP: Decca STS 15400, 1974; transferred to CD: Decca 430 296-2 (without the Intermezzo)
  • Melos Quartet, Enrique Santiago (second viola). Bruckner - Streichquintett F-Dur. CD: Harmonia Mundi HMC 901421, 1992
  • Raphael Quartett, Prunella Pacey (second viola). Bruckner: String Quintet; Rondo; Intermezzo. CD: Globe 5078, 1992
  • L'Archibudelli. Anton Bruckner: String Quintet. Intermezzo. Rondo. String Quartet. CD: Sony Classical Vivarte SK 66 251, 1994 - on historical instruments
  • Vienna String Quintet, Bruckner: String Quintet in F, Intermezzo in D. CD: Camerata 30CM-399, 1994
  • Leipzig String Quartet, Hartmut Rohde (second viola). Bruckner: String Quintet F major / String Quartet C minor. CD: MDG 307 1362-2, 2005.
  • Fine Arts Quartet, Gil Sharon. Bruckner: String Quintet in F Major / String Quartet in C Minor. CD: Naxos 8.570788, 2007
  • Fitzwilliam Quartet, James Boyd (second viola). Anton Bruckner: String Quintet / String Quartet. CD: Linn LC 11615, 2011 - on historical instruments
  • Bartholdy Quintet, Bruckner – Zemlinsky String Quintets – CD: CAvi Music 8553348, 2013


  1. ^ a b c d C. van Zwol, pp. 683-684
  2. ^ U. Harten, pp. 216-217
  3. ^ D. Watson, p. 33
  4. ^ a b c d L. Nowak
  5. ^ D. Watson, p. 46
  6. ^ Anton Bruckner Critical Complete Edition - Chamber music
  7. ^ U. Harten, pp. 406-407
  8. ^ D. Watson, p. 74
  9. ^ R. Simpson, p. 149


  • Anton Bruckner: Sämtliche Werke: Band XII/2: Streichquintett F-Dur / Intermezzo D-Moll, Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag der Internationalen Bruckner-Gesellschaft, Leopold Nowak (Editor), Vienna, 1963; revised edition by Gerold G. Gruber, 2007
  • Robert Simpson, The Essence of Bruckner: An essay towards the understanding of his music, Victor Gollancz Ltd, London, Revised Edition, 1992
  • Uwe Harten, Anton Bruckner. Ein Handbuch, Residenz Verlag, Salzburg, 1996, ISBN 3-7017-1030-9
  • Derek Watson, Bruckner, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, London, 1997
  • Cornelis van Zwol, Anton Bruckner – Leven en Werken, Uit. Thot, Bussum, NL, 2012. ISBN 978-90-6868-590-9

External links[edit]