Anton Bruckner, Eleven Symphonies

This page is where the approximately 300 computer-generated sound files associated with the Red Book can be reached on a full-sized computer. They are the same files that are accessed on a smartphone using the quick recognition codes. For now, only the sound files for the Eighth Symphony are entered here. Those who sign up for the newsletter and those who reserve a copy of the Red Book will receive an electronic copy of the Red Book analysis of the first two movements of the Eighth. At the time of publication, all the sound files will be made available here.

On August 7, 1862, as the final part of his studies with Otto Kitzler, Bruckner completed a string quartet in C minor with a seven-part rondo as the finale, and eight days later, he produced at Kitzler’s request a longer rondo movement, also in seven parts, but with entirely different themes.

The gift of St. Nicholas in 1862 was Bruckner’s first full-length orchestral work, the Overture in G Minor, arriving in its earliest incarnation on December 24.

This symphony has only one version. It was written as the culmination of Bruckner’s study of practical music, along with the German setting of Psalm 112(113) (Laudate pueri) and the Overture in G Minor.

This symphony has only one version, that of 1869, although in former times it was thought that there had also been an early version of 1863 immediately following the Symphony in F minor.

On October 29 and 31, 1869, Bruckner jotted down on one side of a single piece of paper a musical sketch on nine two-staff systems entitled “Symphony
in B flat”. In the sketch there is a total of 68 measures of music, with six more measures metrically numbered in preparation for further composition to be entered.

The “Wagner Symphony” begins as if there is to be an enormous expansion in scale beyond the Second, with two principal themes each presented twice in two separate waves, but in performance the two symphonies turn out to be of about the same length. The symphony was completed in 1873 and its dedication to Richard Wagner was cemented by the inclusion of references to Wagner’s music in at least three locations.

The Fifth Symphony was begun in February 1875 and completed in first draft in May 1876. It was his most ambitious project up to that point, and contains four movements of stunning complexity with a finale containing over 300 measures of fugal writing, much of it in double counterpoint.

After the enormous effort of the Fifth Symphony and the simultaneous revision of nearly all of his other major works, all accomplished by 1878, Bruckner regrouped his resources by undertaking new works on a deliberately smaller scale, in which his stylistic resources could continue to develop in more intimate and controllable dimensions.

Bruckner considered the Sixth Symphony in A major to be among his boldest works. “Die Sechste, die keckste” (“the sixth, the brashest”), as he wittily put it. The Sixth has, nevertheless, long been regarded as something of a “stepchild,” to borrow Robert Haas’s term, and has always been among the least often performed of Bruckner’s symphonies.

As with the Fifth and Sixth, the Seventh Symphony has effectively only one version. However, there are significant problems in editing, most of which are listed here. These apply to the first publication by Albert Gutmann in 1885, the edition brought out by Robert Haas in 1944, and the slightly-revised Nowak edition of 1954.

The Eighth Symphony was completed in its first version in 1887, and Bruckner sent it to the conductor Hermann Levi who had already presented the Seventh to great success. But Levi felt he could not understand it and thus could not conduct it, and wrote to Joseph Schalk asking him to break the news to Bruckner.

The Ninth Symphony has only one version, consisting of three movements with extensive sketches of the finale. If Bruckner had lived to complete the finale, he would almost certainly have gone over the other movements and made adjustments. Thus what we have is a work in progress.

“Although there are no version issues for the early symphonies in F minor and D minor, the techniques used in those worthy but neglected compositions are also employed in the numbered symphonies.”—William Carragan