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The composer had stopped teaching, had relinquished duties as organist in Vienna's Hofburgkapelle, and was suffering from poor health. He was busy completing the first version of the Eighth and rewriting the Third. Then, following a bestowal of an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Vienna, he rewrote his First Symphony and revised the Second while composing the 150th Psalm and the choral work Helgoland.

The work is dedicated 'To God', and during 1894-6 Bruckner concentrated his full efforts on completing it. Whether he had plans to write a fourth movement, various attempts by others to reconstruct the sketches and compose a further one are totally wrong. Like Schubert's B minor Symphony, Bruckner's Symphony is a masterpiece as it stands, and as Novak states: 'A new kind of Bruckner, never heard before, suddenly revealed itself, new worlds opened, and impulses arose which never quite died down.'

This tightly-dramatic symphony arises from an ominous D minor opening to a sudden change when two horns rise majestically to high B flat (bars 18-21) to fall by stages to A flat-G an octave below. The D minor fortissimo outburst at letter C always reminds me of Moses on the Mount admonishing Aaron and the sinners below. Once the point has been made, Bruckner ends his vehement peroration on the chord of D major (bar 78) continuing in the minor key with an extended bridge passage of pizzicato strings coupled to quaver/crotchet wind figures to link with his Langsamer second subject, a gorgeous cantabile melody (D). A later reply melody (Moderato letter F) becomes the nucleus for greater dramatised development.

It is surprising just how confused conductors become by these markings, and when the composer attempts to correct any wanderings from the text by inserting Tempo I in relevant places, he expects them to be observed.

Copyright © 28 October 2001 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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