Symphony No. 9 (Bruckner)

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Symphony No. 9
by Anton Bruckner
Bruckner final years.jpg
Key D minor
Catalogue WAB 109
Composed 1887 (1887) – 1896 (1896): (unfinished)
Dedication God
Movements 4 started, 3 mostly finished

Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 in D minor is the last symphony upon which he worked, leaving the last movement incomplete at the time of his death in 1896; the symphony was premiered under Ferdinand Löwe in Vienna in 1903. Bruckner dedicated it "to the beloved God" (in German, „dem lieben Gott“).

(While it may seem logical to call this work "Symphony in D minor, opus posthumous", that usually refers to the Symphony No. 0 in D minor.)


The symphony has four movements, although the fourth is incomplete and fragmentary:

  • I. Feierlich, misterioso (D minor)
  • II. Scherzo. Bewegt, lebhaft (D minor); Trio. Schnell (F-sharp major)
  • III. Adagio. Langsam, feierlich (E major)
  • IV. Finale.[1] (D minor, incomplete)

Much material for the finale in full score may have been lost very soon after the composer's death, and therefore some of the lost sections in full score survived only in two-to-four-stave sketch format. The placement of the Scherzo second, and the key, D minor, are only two elements this work has in common with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

The symphony is so often performed without any sort of finale that some authors describe "the form of this symphony [as] … a massive arch, two slow movements straddling an energetic Scherzo."[2]

The score calls for three each of flutes, oboes, clarinets in B-flat and A (Adagio only), bassoons, with eight horns (5.–8. Hn. doubling on Wagner tubas), three trumpets in F, three trombones, contrabass tuba, timpani and strings.

First movement[edit]

Bruckner's tendency to telescope sonata form development and recapitulation finds its fullest realization in this movement, the form of which Robert Simpson describes as "Statement, Counterstatement and Coda." An unusually large number of motifs are given in the first subject group, and these are substantially and richly developed on restatement and in the coda. Bruckner also cites material from his earlier works: at a point near the coda, Bruckner quotes a passage from the first movement of his Seventh Symphony. The concluding page of the movement, in addition to the usual tonic (I) and dominant (V) chords, given out in a blaze of open fifths, uses a Neapolitan flat (ii) in grinding dissonance with both I and V.

Second movement[edit]

The opening chord of the Scherzo, often cited as prophetic of the harmonic advances of the 20th century, is tonally ambiguous in regard to the principal D minor tonality of the movement. It could be said that folk elements are still in evidence, as in other Bruckner scherzi, but this music is of such savagery that such naïve elements are easier to ignore, even if they were intended by the composer.

Bruckner composed three successive versions of the Trio:

  • The first version (1889), in F major, in Ländler style with solo of viola, recalls some ideas of that of Symphony No. 8. Note the pizzicato accompaniment by the quarter-notes at the outset of the Te Deum, which the composer will also use in the sketches of the Finale.[3]
  • The second version (1893), in the remote key of F-sharp major, also in Ländler style with solo of viola, has a somewhat ethereal look. The mid-part contains a reminiscence to the Hallelujah from Händel’s Messiah.
  • The final version (1894), also in F-sharp major, is unusually fast in tempo for a Trio. The slower mid-part contains, as in the previous version, a reminiscence to the Hallelujah from Händel’s Messiah.

The three versions of the Trio have been edited by Cohrs.[4] There is a recent available recording of the three versions of the Trio: Ricardo Luna, Bruckner unknown, CD Preiser Records PR 91250, 2013.[5]

Third movement[edit]

Bruckner called this movement his "Farewell to Life." It begins in tonal ambiguity, and is the most troubled opening to a Bruckner adagio yet: though within bars it achieves lyrical serenity and awe. Throughout its course, the movement goes back to some of the troubled moods of the earlier movements. A dolente call by the oboe – a quote of the Kyrie of Mass No. 3 – introduces the repeat of the first theme, which is underlined by dramatic trombone appeals. Shortly after, Bruckner also quotes, as a kind of supplication, the Miserere nobis from the Gloria of his Mass in D minor. The following final climax, given by full orchestra, concludes on the most dissonant chord. Thereafter, in the most serene coda yet, the music alludes to the coda of the Adagio of the Eighth Symphony, and also hints at the Seventh Symphony. It is these bars of music which conclude most live performances and recordings of the symphony, though Bruckner was insistent that they be succeeded by a final, fourth movement.

Fourth movement[edit]

Bruckner had conceived the entire movement; whether the manuscripts he left would have made up the final form of the Finale is debatable. Several bifolios of the emerging autograph score survived, consecutively numbered by Bruckner himself, as well as numerous discarded bifolios and particellos sketches. The surviving manuscripts were all systematically ordered and published in a notable facsimile reprint, edited by J. A. Phillips, in the Bruckner Complete Edition, Vienna.

Because of Bruckner's individual composing habits, reconstructing the Finale is in some ways easier, and in some ways harder, than it would be to reconstruct an unfinished piece by another composer. Compounding the problem, collectible hunters ransacked Bruckner's house soon after his death. Sketches for the Finale have been found as far away from Austria as Washington D.C.

Large portions of the movement were almost completely orchestrated, and even some eminent sketches have been found for the coda (the initial crescendo/28 bars, and the progression towards the final cadence, even proceeding into the final tonic pedalpoint/in all 32 bars), but only hearsay suggesting the coda would have integrated themes from all four movements: The Bruckner scholars Max Graf and Max Auer reported that they have actually seen such a sketch when they had access to the manuscripts, at that time in the possession of Franz Schalk. Today such a sketch appears to be lost.

More importantly than the loss of the score bifolios of the coda itself, composer and Bruckner scholar Robert Simpson asserts in his book The Essence of Bruckner, is that the sketches that survive do not support the momentum to support such a conclusion. Some people[who?] think that there is no real inner continuity or coherence inherent to indicate an organically growing musical structure. But in fact, the publications of the Gesamtausgabe edited by John Phillips revealed that Bruckner has left an emerging autograph score, numbered consecutively bifolio by bifolio, which constituted the intact score, at least up to the beginning of the coda. Around 50% of this final phase must be considered lost today.

Bruckner knew he might not live to complete this symphony and suggested his Te Deum be played at the end of the concert. The presence in the sketches of the figuration heard in quarter-notes at the outset of the Te Deum led to a supposition that Bruckner was composing a link or transition between the two works. In fact, the sketch for such a transition can be found on two bifolios of the emerging autograph score. Some people think that at best this would have been a makeshift solution. The C major setting of the Te Deum conflicts with the D minor setting of the rest of the symphony. Because of this tonal clash, the Te Deum is rarely used as the Finale. However, others think it better to follow the composer's own wish and so argue against the tonal clash theory, since the Adagio ends in another key (E major) as well.


Unlike most of his symphonies, Bruckner did not produce multiple revisions of his Ninth Symphony. However, there have been multiple editions of what Bruckner did write, as well as several attempts to complete the symphony's fourth movement, which Bruckner left unfinished.

Löwe edition (1903)[edit]

This was the first published edition of the Ninth Symphony. It was also the version performed at the work's posthumous premiere, and the only version heard until 1932. Ferdinand Löwe made multiple unauthorized changes to the Symphony amounting to a wholesale recomposition of the work.[6] In addition to second-guessing Bruckner's orchestration, phrasing and dynamics, Löwe also dialed back Bruckner's more adventurous harmonies, such as the complete dominant thirteenth chord in the Adagio.[7]

Orel edition (1934)[edit]

This was the first edition to attempt to reproduce what Bruckner actually wrote. It was first performed in 1932 by the Munich Philharmonic conducted by Siegmund von Hausegger; actually it was played twice, first in Löwe’s edition and then in the new Orel edition. It was published, possibly with adjustments, two years later (1934) under the auspices of the Gesamtausgabe.

Nowak edition (1951)[edit]

This is a corrected reprint of the Orel edition of 1934.

Cohrs edition (2000)[edit]

This new edition of the complete three movements has been recorded by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Simon Rattle and Simone Young. It contains only minor differences from the Orel and Nowak editions, but corrects several printing errors and includes extensive comments in footnotes, explaining some of the editorial problems. The separate Critical Report of Cohrs contains numerous facsimili from Mvmts. 1-3. It also contains an edition of the two earlier Trios for concert performance.

Completions of the fourth movement[edit]

Although Bruckner suggested using his Te Deum as the finale of the Ninth Symphony, there have been several attempts to complete the symphony with a fourth movement based on Bruckner's surviving manuscripts for the Finale. Indeed, Bruckner's suggestion has been used as a justification for completing the fourth movement, since, in addition to the existence of the fragment of the Finale, it shows (according to scholars such as John A. Phillips[8]), that the composer did not want this work to end with the Adagio.

Carragan’s completion (1983, rev. 2003, rev. 2006, rev. 2010)[edit]

The first attempt of a performing version of the Finale available on disc was the one by William Carragan (who has done arguably more important work editing Bruckner's Second Symphony). His 1983 completion was premiered by Moshe Atzmon conducting the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in January 1985. The European premiere by the Utrecht Symfonie Orkest conducted by Hubert Soudant (Utrecht, April 1985) was the first to be recorded (on LP). A digitalisation of this LP can be downloaded from John Berky's site.[9] Shortly afterwards, this version was recorded for CD release by Yoav Talmi and the Oslo Philharmonic. Talmi's recording includes also the retrieved fragments Bruckner left so that the listener may determine for himself how much of the realisation is speculation by the editor. The revision of 2006 was recorded by Akira Naito.[10] This recording includes the Trio No. 2 of 1893 (Cohrs' edition). The further revision of 2010, which was premiered by Warren Cohen and the Musica Nova Orchestra in November 2009,[11] has been recorded by Gerd Schaller and the Philharmonie Festiva.[12][13]

Samale/Mazzuca completion (1984, rev. 1985)[edit]

The team of Nicola Samale and Giuseppe Mazzuca put together a new realization from 1983 to 1985, which was recorded 1986 by Eliahu Inbal and fits in with Inbal's recordings of early versions of Bruckner's Symphonies. It was also included by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky in his recording of the different versions of Bruckner's symphonies. The coda of the Samale & Mazzuca realization has more in common with the corresponding passage of the Eighth Symphony than it does with the later Samale/Mazzuca/Phillips/Cohrs realization. The authors, Samale and Mazzuca, do not wish this version to be performed any longer.

Samale/Mazzuca/Phillips/Cohrs completion (1992, rev. 1996, rev. 2005, rev. 2008, rev. 2011)[edit]

For this venture Samale and Mazzuca were joined by John A. Phillips and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs. This completion proposes one way to realize Bruckner's intention to combine themes from all four movements. The 1996 revision has been recorded by Johannes Wildner for Naxos and also by Kurt Eichhorn, with the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz, for the Camerata label.

A new, revised edition of this completion was published in 2005 by Nicola Samale and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs. Cohrs' latest research made it also possible to recover the musical content of one missing bifolio in the Fugue fully from the particello-sketch. This new edition, in all 665 bars long, makes use of 569 bars from Bruckner himself. This version has been recorded by Marcus Bosch for the label Coviello Classics.

A revised reprint of this first revision was performed by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Harding, Stockholm, in November 2007. This revision was published in 2008 and was then recorded by conductor Friedemann Layer with the Musikalische Akademie des Nationaltheater-Orchesters Mannheim. Richard Lehnert explains the changes made for this version.[14]

A final revision was made in 2011, in particular including an entirely new conception of the Coda.[15] The world premiere of this new ending was given by the Dutch Brabants Orkest under the baton of Friedemann Layer in Breda (NL), 15 October 2011. It was performed in Berlin on 9 February 2012 by Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic and can be watched on the Internet.[16] This version was released on EMI Classics on 22 May 2012.[17] Rattle conducted the American premiere at Carnegie Hall on 24 February 2012.[18]

Letocart's completion (2008)[edit]

In 2008 the Belgian organist and composer Sébastien Letocart realized a new completion of the Finale in 2007–2008.[19][20][21] In the Coda he included quotations of themes from the Fifth, Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, the mid-subject of the Trio as a final Halleluja, and at the end the combination of the four main themes from all four movements of the Ninth.

Letocart's completion, together with the first three parts of the symphony, was recorded in 2008 by the French conductor Nicolas Couton with the MAV Symphony Orchestra of Budapest.[22] Letocart's completion can be heard on YouTube.[23]

Schaller's completion (2016)[edit]

With the final movement of Bruckner's Ninth being a notable unfinished work, Gerd Schaller has composed his own completion of the Symphony, closely based on Bruckner's notes, taking into account all available draft materials as far back as the earliest sketches, to close the remaining gaps in the score as much as possible, using original manuscript documents of Bruckner’s, and running to 736 bars. Additionally, Schaller was able to supplement archival and manuscript material with missing elements in the score by drawing on his experience as a conductor, and of applying Bruckner’s compositional techniques to the recordings of the complete cycle of all the composer’s eleven symphonies; so that even passages without continuous original material are in a recognisably Brucknerian style.[24] Schaller first performed his version of the finale with the Philharmonie Festiva in the abbey church at Ebrach on July 24, 2016, as part of the Ebrach Summer Music Festival.[25]

The fugue of the final movement is particularly central to Schaller’s completion - the heightened contrapuntal tension concentrated into this fugue is used in the finale as a lead to the climax to the thematic material at the start of the symphony, transposed to the major key, and as a polythematic review of all movements as in the Eighth Symphony. In his completion of the coda of the final movement, Schaller draws on themes and motives from across Bruckner’s works in the form of a compositional retrospective with building-blocks from earlier symphonies, choral symphonic works and thematic references to other movements of the Ninth.

Further Finale completions[edit]

Other tentative completions have been made by Ernst Märzendorfer (1969), Hein 's-Gravesande (1969), Marshall Fine (1979) and Nors S. Josephson (1992).

A not issued performance of Josephson's completion by Ari Rasilainen (2011) can be downloaded from John Berky's site.[26] Josephson's completion by John Gibbons with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra has been issued by Danacord: CD DADOCD 754, 2014.


The oldest complete performance (of the three completed movements) preserved on record is by Otto Klemperer with the New York Philharmonic from 1934. The first commercial recording was made by Siegmund von Hausegger with the Munich Philharmonic in 1938 for HMV. Both recordings used the Orel edition.

The inauthentic Löwe version is available on CD remasterings of LPs by Hans Knappertsbusch and F. Charles Adler. These can be as short as 51 minutes.

A recording of the Orel or Nowak edition on average lasts about 65 minutes, though a fast conductor like Carl Schuricht can get it down to 56 minutes. The earliest recordings of the Orel edition were Oswald Kabasta's live performance with the Munich Philharmonic in 1943 for the Music and Arts label, and Wilhelm Furtwängler's studio performance with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1944 (multiple labels). After Bruno Walter's studio recording with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in 1959 for Sony/CBS, the Nowak edition was preferred. The most recent Orel edition recording was Daniel Barenboim's live performance with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1991 for Teldec.

In 2003 Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Wiener Philharmoniker recorded the Ninth (Cohrs edition) as well as the Finale fragment for BMG/RCA, but without the coda sketches. In CD "Bruckner unknown" (PR 91250, 2013) Ricardo Luna recorded the Finale fragment with the coda sketches.[5]

Recordings of the completions of the fourth movement are usually coupled with the Nowak or Cohrs edition for the first three movements.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Symphony No.9 in D minor, WAB 109 (Bruckner, Anton)". IMSLP. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Kenneth McLeish & Valerie McLeish, The Listener's Guide to Classical Music: An Introduction to the Great Classical Composers and Their Works. New York: G.K. Hall & Co. (1986): 49
  3. ^ Die Trio-Entwürfe zum 2. Satz der 9. Sinfonie von Anton Bruckner
  4. ^ Anton Bruckner Critical Complete Edition – Symphony No. 9 in D minor
  5. ^ a b Complete discography by John F. Berky
  6. ^ Versions of Symphony No. 9 by D. Griegel
  7. ^ C. van Zwol, p. 668
  8. ^ John A. Phillips, essay in booklet of Camerata CD B000001ZJ3, Kurt Eichhorn conducting Bruckner Orchester Linz
  9. ^ Hubert Soudant – Downloadable copy of the 1985 recording of the 9th including the original version of Carragan's completion of the finale
  10. ^ CD – Symphony No. 9 (with revised Carragan Finale) by Akira Naito and the Tokyo New City Orchestra – Delta Classics DCCA-0032
  11. ^ The premiere can be heard on YouTube: part 1, part 2 & part 3
  12. ^ William Carragan – Time analysis (Revision 2010)
  13. ^ Symphonies 4, 7 and 9 (with revised Carragan Finale) by Gerd Schaller with the Philharmonie Festiva – Profil CD Set 11028
  14. ^ Article on the Finale by Richard Lehnert on 2 April 2010
  15. ^ The SPCM Completion to the Bruckner Symphony No. 9 – 2011 revision
  16. ^ "Simon Rattle conducts the completed Ninth Symphony of Anton Bruckner". Berlin Philharmonic concert archive. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  17. ^ Bruckner: Symphony No 9 / Rattle, Berlin Philharmoniker
  18. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (26 February 2012). "Filling in a Movement Bruckner Left Behind". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  19. ^ Bruckner 9th symphony - completion of the Finale (2008)
  20. ^ S. Letocart – Notes to the Recording of his Realization of the Finale of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9
  21. ^ S. Letocart – Ma réalisation du Finale de la 9e symphonie d’Anton Bruckner
  22. ^ Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) - Symphony N°9 with Finale reconstruction prepared by Sébastien Letocart
  23. ^ Bruckner Symphony n°9 - Finale - Completion of Sébastien Letocart
  24. ^ Ward, Ken (October 25, 2016). "EBRACH, BAVARIA ABBEY 24 JUNE 2016; Bruckner - Symphony No. 9 (with finale supplemented from original sources and completed by Gerd Schaller), Philharmonie Festiva / Gerd Schaller" (PDF). The Bruckner Journal. 
  25. ^ Moore, Ralph (December 1, 2016). "REVIEW: RECORDING OF THE MONTH - Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896), Symphony No. 9 in D minor (1894 original version, ed. Nowak 1951, finale completed by Gerd Schaller, 2015)". MusicWeb International. 
  26. ^ Sinfonie Nr. 9 d-moll – Nors S. Josephson's Finale: Alla breve

External links[edit]