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Simone Young & Philharmoniker Hamburg Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 (first version 1873) OC 624 SACD
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FormatSuper Audio CD
Ordering NumberOC 624
Release date01.09.2007
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Bruckner, Anton

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      Symphony No. 3 (first version 1873)
      Philharmoniker Hamburg
      Simone Young, conductor

      I am more a friend of live performances and don’t believe that much in studio recordings,” commented Simone Young in an interview with Park Avenue magazine. “Our CDs are therefore recordings of live concerts. This was demonstrated with the Hamburg Philharmonic: that is an orchestra with which I can make a statement.”
      The press reacted with enthusiastic reviews of the first CD out of Hamburg (Bruckner’s Second Symphony, Original Version of 1872): “More analytical than her role-model Daniel Barenboim, but more impulsive than the unforgettable Günter Wand, Simone Young awakes the works of Bruckner’s early years to orchestral life.” (KulturSPIEGEL)
      Now, following the fulminate success of the first CD comes Volume 2 with the Third Symphony as a live recording, also in its original version (1873), with the unmistakable acoustics of the Hamburger Musikhalle.

      “So is life”
      On Anton Bruckner’s Third Symphony

      In fall 1872, immediately after finishing his Second Symphony, Anton Bruckner began composing his next one. He was in the most fruitful creative period of his life. Between October 1871 and May 1876, Bruckner composed his Second to Fifth Symphonies practically without interruption, and his work on the Third Symphony was likewise unusually rapid. The first three movements of the work were already finished by July 1873, and on August 31 of this year, he completed his sketches for the fourth movement in Marienbad, after an outbreak of cholera had driven him from Vienna. With this manuscript in his luggage (together with that of the Second Symphony), Bruckner set off on his famous trip to Bayreuth to see Richard Wagner, who after a short perusal of the scores was willing to accept a dedication – in the recently finished Third Symphony. Immediately upon his return to Vienna, Bruckner finished the incomplete sections of this work and probably only then added musical quotes by Wagner to it (it was not unusual at that time to musically honor the person to whom a work was dedicated). The work was complete on December 31, 1873, after which Bruckner immediately began work on the Fourth Symphony.

      The Third Symphony has come down to us in three versions. The original version, which was neither published nor performed during Bruckner’s lifetime, only remained in existence thanks to the fact that it was dedicated to Richard Wagner and preserved in the Bayreuth archive. (This version was not premiered until 1946!)

      The next version was that from 1877/78, which already contained major changes and which was essentially the basis of the premiere conducted by Bruckner himself on December 16, 1877 in the Vienna Musikverein – the legendary fiasco.

      Finally, the composer himself submitted the work to an extensive revision in 1889/90, which like the second version, was published during the composer’s lifetime. In addition, a completely independent version of the Adagio from the year 1876 also exists, which was not premiered until 1980 (!) by the Vienna Philharmonic. So much to the key dates regarding the origin and further history of this symphony. We now return to the year 1873. The rapidity of Bruckner’s compositional process is all the more amazing when we consider that the first version of the Symphony No. 3 in D minor has 2056 measures, making it the longest work that Bruckner would ever compose in his life (we are not discussing performance length here!). Not any less ambitious than the length was the underlying plan of the work. Nothing less than the Ninth Symphony of Bruckner’s idol Ludwig van Beethoven – also in D minor, of course, was the model for the structure, and in some respects, it was also the model for the character of Bruckner’s creation.

      This is where the Janus-faced quality of the man and artist Bruckner are reflected. On the one hand, he was unsure and easier to unsettle than hardly any other great composer; on the other hand, he was only inspired by the greatest forms and the boldest concepts, which thus resulted in a tonal language that in sound and expression were both at that time – as well as now – completely unique. It had to be Beethoven’s Ninth – the symphony of symphonies! Bruckner had often analyzed Beethoven’s formal language in his studies and was particularly interested in the composer’s Third and Ninth symphonies.

      The correspondence between Beethoven’s Ninth and Bruckner’s Third is apparent, especially in the original version heard here. The introduction could be considered the prototype for all beginnings of Bruckner symphonies: the famous main theme rising over a perfect fifth, first in the trumpet, and then in a long crescendo until it being presented in a unison fortissimo by the entire orchestra. Upon closer examination, the entire movement seems like a copy of the first movement of Beethoven’s Ninth, as does the five-part structure of the following Adagio. Bruckner has only deviated from his model in one point. The attempt to write the Scherzo as the second movement and the Adagio as the third movement – even though he did accomplish this in the first version of his Second Symphony – did not succeed again until the Eighth and Ninth Symphonies (the latter also in D minor!).

      In the Finale, just as in his model, Bruckner first states the motives of the previous movements – a stylistic technique that he had already discovered in the Second Symphony. It is the immediate vicinity to the Second Symphony that we will now look at more closely. That the relationship between the two works was not clear until now has partly to do with the fact that both have only been known in their later versions – not in the versions that most clearly manifest these parallelisms. (Especially the Second Symphony will not truly achieve its just deserts and come out from under the shadow of its “sister symphony” until its original version is frequently performed and heard.)

      When Bruckner visited the “Master of all Masters” (Bruckner on Wagner) to ask him for permission to dedicate a work to him, he presented him with both the completed Second Symphony and the almost completed Third. This means that for him, both pieces were of equal value. It was only later generations who came to view the Third as the more valuable. The name coined for the piece by Bruckner himself – “Wagner-Symphony” – did not arise until after Wagner decided that the Third should carry the dedication. This is why it seems more probable that most of the Wagner quotations in this symphony, which are excessively stressed by many commentators, were only later interpolated. That these “quotes” are in truth very discreet and actually quite hard to discern (and that except for one single quote in the Adagio were eliminated in later versions) is less discussed. The question what Bruckner exactly “quoted” hardly returns an unequivocal answer. The answer is that the most well known are the quotes from the Valkyries and Tristan – the “sleep motive” from the former (the only quote that survived in the later version of the second movement) and the “longing” motive from the latter. Some analysts even think they hear sounds from Meistersinger and Tannhäuser; the quote from Lohengrin, however – the important motive from Act II, “Gesegnet sollst Du schreiten” is heard here, although it is written using very “Tannhäuser-esque” techniques. These motives, however, are not to be taken literally; on the contrary, they are consciously kept free and retain an important relationship to the actual thematic material. And not only the Bayreuth master – whom Bruckner honored above all – is quoted. As he did in the Second Symphony, Bruckner quotes the “Miserere” from the “Gloria” of his own Mass in D minor at the end of the first movement exposition – and even the main theme of the Second Symphony is explicitly quoted!

      In his book on Bruckner, musicologist Constantin Floros also mentions a more or less direct Liszt quotation, about which we will speak later. All the quotes mentioned above are not only musical, but must often be understood with their associated text or dramaturgical significance, and in relationship to the whole. This makes it all the more unfortunate that in order to have the work performed at all, Bruckner saw himself forced to destroy the web of quotes and allusions in later revisions, probably at the urging of his closest circles.

      Let us take a closer look at the formal structure of the original version of the Third Symphony from 1873, in order to be able to understand the differences:

      The tempo designation of the first movement is Gemäßigt, misterioso. In later versions, this was changed to Mehr langsam, misterioso. However – as with Beethoven’s Ninth, the movement is also an “alla breve”. The beginning of the movement harks back to its great ideal in every respect: shifting pianissimo string figures, static chords in the woodwinds – then in the fifth measure, the theme with which Wagner is said to have associated not only this symphony, but Bruckner himself: the theme in the solo trumpet, sounding at a whisper, and actually, a quote from an earlier work – the theme which Bruckner (albeit only in the strings) had opened his revoked symphony, later known as the “No. 0”. And of course, as it couldn’t be otherwise in Bruckner, the movement is a sonata-form – though a highly original one. After the first theme in the trumpet, two further themes are established in the exposition: a lyrical secondary theme enters that doesn’t contrast all that much with the quiet trumpet motive. In the course of the entire work, especially in the development of the first movement – but most of all in the working out of the last movement – we see just what is in the two beginning themes and what Bruckner intends with them. The third theme is formed by a chorale-like figure in the winds before the exposition with the abovementioned “Miserere”-quote. There is something very particular about this chorale, as was mentioned in the introduction. In addition to all the Wagner quotes and self-citations, Constantin Floros has discovered an indirect Liszt-quote. The chorale reveals itself to be a paraphrase of the Catholic chorale Crux fidelis inter omnes as used by Liszt at the end of his symphonic poem The Battle of the Huns (it is of note here that Bruckner wanted to dedicate his Second Symphony to Franz Liszt). This results, of course, in a further connection in the web of quotes and motives, especially between the liturgical references in the first movement.

      The development which now follows is thoroughly worked out in the variation technique so typical for Bruckner, even if it is only complete in the original version. The slow build-up, characterized primarily by carefully layered dynamics, first culminates in the triple forte of the first theme. After this, the second theme introduces the countermovement, which subsequently leads into the recapitulation, where the lyrical theme in the parallel major is heard. Only in the coda does the movement find its way back to D minor again. Towards the end of the development, we hear one of the riddles so typical for Bruckner, a riddle whose answer (in the Finale) can be heard more easily in the original version containing all quotes, than in later versions, in which almost all of these references have been expunged. For here, Bruckner quotes not only Tristan (measures 463–466) and Valkyries (measures 479–488), but also the main theme of his Second Symphony – and no less than five times. Once again, the dynamic structure of the movement is heard in triple fortissimo – only to suddenly break off. The lyrical second theme is heard once again in a calm piano, only to be almost ferociously “brushed aside” by the triple-forte of the first theme, to bring the movement to an absolutely explosive close after only 16 measures.

      One of the most essential reasons that many interpreters are returning to the original version of this symphony is the structure of the Adagio. Although the second movement was subject to fewer cuts than the first or fourth movements in later revisions, its grandiose five-section architecture was reduced to three sections. This movement also follows the basic pattern of the Adagio in Beethoven’s Ninth: in both, the Adagio in 4/4 alternates with an Andante in 3/4. But what Bruckner did in the original version of his Third Symphony had never been heard before: he titles the soft introductory string melody in E-flat Major with the word Feierlich. It is interesting that this movement begins one half-step higher than the symphony’s key, but this is actually the starting point of the movement’s curious chromatics. The dynamics take off rather quickly after eight measures, achieving a fortissimo after a further four measures. Once again, the introductory motive with its piano celebratory mood tries to penetrate, but is immediately silenced by a fortissimo. After a G.P., with which Bruckner always means “I have something important to say”, we hear a typical Bruckner-cadence that couldn’t be any more “Bruckneresque”. Robert Haas, former publisher of the Bruckner Complete Works, claims that this was his “favorite cadence”. Horns now lead into the Andante. A melody in the violas uses almost all tones of the chromatic scale – immediately after the second theme of the first movement exposition. This melody is doubtless one of Bruckner’s inspirations that uniquely characterizes his work. One associates the preference of developing and further developing thematic material in the closest quarters with Bruckner’s antipode Johannes Brahms. But the opening of the Andante shows that Bruckner was just as capable at this as Brahms. Once again there is a G.P., which in this phase of Bruckner’s creative work had very important structural functions and whose almost complete elimination in later versions (as in the Second Symphony) adversely affected the dramatic expression and understandability of the works. Afterwards comes the Misterioso, about which Bruckner later made a personal comment (of which only very few exist), namely, that the melody occurred to him on October 16, 1872, the name day of his beloved, but long dead mother Theresia. In the closely related Second Symphony as well, the background of the Adagio was thoroughly biographical; there is no reason to doubt Bruckner’s late disclosure. When one considers that shortly before the date mentioned by Bruckner, according to his own statements, the Second Symphony had been finished, this “Misterioso” inspiration could be called a type of germ cell for the entire symphony. Bruckner’s quotes and selfquotes play a much greater role than one usually wants to accept. Constantin Floros notes in his Bruckner studies that the main theme of the Adagio is clearly similar to the Benedictus theme of the Mass in C Major, written in 1842 (the “Windhager” Mass). No one who has thoroughly analyzed the structures and learned about the development of Bruckner’s works truly believes that this is purely coincidental.

      In this connection, we once again hear the “sleep motive” from Valkyries. Here, as well, one must agree with Floros that there is a connection to the “departed” mother. We will pursue this train of thought further – after returning for a moment to the further course of the movement. After the Misterioso which forms the second part of the Andante, the music leads into the more dramatic Andante, afterwards to return to the 4/4 Adagio. The music then intensifies – occasionally with ritards – to a fortissimo. It is interrupted by a G.P. followed by a transition in the strings and winds and then another G.P. The Andante then returns, with the cellos carrying the melody. After a short ritenuto, the second theme is heard in the horns and the violins take over the beginning – which has extremely difficult syncopations – one of the many reasons why the original versions are not that well received by orchestral musicians. Suddenly, and now we take up our original thought again, the entire orchestra unmistakably intones the motive from Act II of Wagner’s Lohengrin: “Gesegnet sollst Du schreiten”. This can easily be integrated into the previously mentioned structure of the second movement. Only afterwards does the fifth part of the movement – in gradually receding waves – move into the last Adagio block, using dynamics as well as rubati. In the coda, where we have now arrived, Bruckner presents the main theme two more tims in a grandiose triple fortissimo, before the movement rises again in a fortissimo and then ends with the “sleep motive” in a pianissimo.

      The Scherzo is typical for Bruckner, as he often unmistakably appears in later works as well. It is one of the movements that suffered the least in the later process of revision.

      Despite the tempo designation Ziemlich schnell, the composer is in no hurry to get to the point; we first hear a 16-bar introduction. However, this introduction already contains the basic pattern of the movement. Six legato eighth-notes in the second violins against three pizzicato eighths in the basses characterize the movement’s essentials. The surprising thing about this typically intense Bruckner Scherzo is its middle section, which first seems to be a Trio, but which only ends up in opposition to the almost violent gaiety of the introductory section. The actual Trio is related to the Scherzo’s middle section, but its dancelike character is more clearly worked out and harks back not only to Austrian folk music, but to Schubert as well. It also consists of three parts – however, without the almost dialectical contradiction formed by the frame.

      The Finale is the movement in which the differences between the original and the later versions are most evident. The original version has 764 measures. Later we have 638 measures, at the end, only 495! Here, however, the number of measures clearly shows the cuts Bruckner thought he had to make on his work.

      In this fourth movement – especially in the first version – the model of Beethoven’s Ninth that shines through. The short reprise of reminiscences from previous movements (a technique already tried in the Second Symphony) is the clearest parallel.

      Bruckner-lovers know that the composer here – in contrast to his usual habits and preferences – sometimes used irregular groups of measures, a peculiarity that he later eliminated (one is tempted to say, as a matter of course). Notated in alla breve as in the first movement, we no longer find here the Misterioso character. In a clear “Allegro”, the string ostinato does not have any slow secretiveness, but rolls from a pianissimo into a fortissimo in only nine measures, when the entire orchestra unites in a furious outbreak, which seems to have an unruly relatedness to the trumpet theme in the first movement. This outbreak continues, in order to return abruptly to the beginning and then build up again to a G.P. lasting two full measures. The secondary theme now enters “Etwas langsamer”, a famous inspiration of Bruckner, to which he likewise gave an explanation later in life: when he once passed the Vienna “Sühnhaus” with a student, where cathedral builder Schmidt was buried, he heard sounds of a dance coming from a neighboring palace in the Schottenring street. Bruckner said: “You see, here in the house is a grand ball and next door, the master lies on his bier! So is life, and this is what I wanted to describe in the last movement of my Third Symphony. The polka stands for humor and happiness in the world; the chorale stands for the sad, the painful in it.”

      We hear the following: pizzicatos in the cellos and contrabasses, horns and trumpets begin a solemn chorale while the violins intone a polka – and all of this over running pizzicatos in the low strings. Here as well, the composer expands the theme and then repeats it. It is interesting too that in this second theme complex the reminiscence of his own Second Symphony resounds again. The third thematic group consists of syncopated octaves performed by the unison orchestra. It completes the actual exposition in chorale-like form. In the development, the close thematic relationship between the first and last movements becomes even clearer. The entire cosmos of this powerful study begins to spread out and resolve – something that is no longer clear in later versions. The artistic connection of the actual themes of the movements, their relationship to the themes of earlier movements, the hinted-at quotes are only really clear in the original version. Before the coda, themes from the previous movements are heard explicitly once again. After the second theme of the first movement, the introduction of Adagio and Scherzo and then a short transition, we hear trumpet fanfares and a fortissimo brass chorale. This prepares the powerful close of the immense symphonic construction: in a brilliant D Major, the soft trumpet theme from the beginning comes back as the coda – now in triple forte.

      There are simply no appropriate words to accurately describe a musical masterpiece in words. One can only try to make the reader curious and indicate specific features. In the course of my remarks, I have tried to point out the superiority of many aspects of the original version in contrast to later versions, at least in regard to the understandability of the structure and the basics of the overall architecture. Of course, the original versions are more radical in regard to dynamics, which are more immediate and less prepared, in regard to tempi and tempo relationships and the intricacy of transitions – 21 G.P.s alone separate the periods in the first version of the Finale; in the last version, only 3 of these (!) remain. Then there are the quotes and self-quotes. Above all, the echoes of Wagner themes also have a clear structural character, as many investigations have clearly shown. The elimination of these doubtless changes the transitions, and thus, the context.

      For orchestra musicians, as we said above, the early versions are often significantly more difficult than later versions. This is due to the fact that at this time, the composer paid no heed to making his music easier to play, easier to listen to or to understand. The earlier scores are in fact much more complex and may well have more clearly reflected the brilliant organist Bruckner. These breaks clearly derive from the situation that occurs when new organ stops during a performance require a short rest. Bruckner integrated this feeling into the musical fabric of his early works. Later – also in the first version of the Fourth Symphony, which immediately followed – the individual orchestral groups were compositionally more tightly woven with one another. Of course, in the course of his revisions, Bruckner continued to work on his motivic material, which in some cases can certainly be considered as condensation. Be it as it may – whatever the advantages or disadvantages are must not be decided: the versions exist peacefully side by side. But without a doubt, one hears in this first version that which was closest to Bruckner’s heart when he composed it. Here – and only here! – the form is completely preserved in the overall plan of the architecture, the original phrasing of many sections and finally, in the unadulterated spiritual and musical construction. This is why – especially in regard to the Third Symphony – this version has come to prevail with the new generation of interpreters. One doesn’t need to be a prophet to see that in the course of coming years, the first versions of Bruckner’s symphonies will again enjoy equal rights with later versions, both in the concert hall as well as on recording media.

      This live recording of a performance by the Hamburg Philharmonic under the direction of its GMD Simone Young, made in Hamburg’s Musikhalle, is a further contribution to this.
      Michael Lewin
      Translation: E. Gahbler

      The author of this essay is indebted to the following publications for valuable notes and information:

      Constantin Floros: Anton Bruckner, Hamburg 2004
      Egon Voss: Bruckners Schmerzenskind. In: Die Symphonien Bruckners, München 1998
      Manfred Wagner: A number of papers, which the author provided in manuscript copy and which have been published in various works; especially: Der Wandel des Konzepts; from this: Bruckners Dritte Symphonie in d-Moll in den Fassungen von 1873, 1878 und 1889.
      Leopold Nowak: Forward to the score of the Third Symphony in D minor, Vienna 1977 Anton Bruckner Complete Works: Third Symphony in D minor. Report on revisions by Thomas Röder, Vienna 1997

      Dr. Wilhelm Sinkovicz for valuable corrections.

      The Philharmoniker Hamburg

      For over 175 years, the Hamburg Philharmonic have played a major role in forming the Hanseatic city’s classical sound. Founded on November 9, 1828, the “Philharmonic Society” rapidly came to be a meeting point for important artists like Clara Schumann, Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms. Major conductors also stood on the conductor’s podium: in 1905, Gustav Mahler led the Hamburg premiere of his Fifth Symphony; he was followed among others by Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky and Otto Klemperer. Karl Muck, Eugen Jochum, Joseph Keilberth, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Horst Stein, Aldo Ceccato, Gerd Albrecht and Ingo Metzmacher were some of the chief conductors who shaped the ensemble’s programs and sound; guest conductors like Karl Böhm amazed audiences as well. Since August 2005, Australian conductor Simone Young has been the illustrious orchestra’s artistic director in her position as Music Director.

      Today, the Hamburg Philharmonic gives 30 highly successful orchestral and chamber music concerts per season in the Laeiszhalle as well as other venues such as the Church of St. Michael. In addition to ten philharmonic subscription concerts, four special concerts including the extraordinarily successful New Year’s Eve concert “Salut!” and the “Summertime” concert – and numerous chamber concerts are performed each season. The Hamburg Philharmonic also performs almost all operas and ballets at the Hamburg State Opera.

      The stylistic range of the ensemble’s 130 salaried musicians is unparalleled in Germany. Music Director Simone Young links the works performed in the annual concert program to the group’s opera repertoire for that year in order to create a common thread that promises an exciting and highly varied concert season. “Our program includes past and future – music from Mozart up to contemporary works.” Besides orchestral works by modern composers like Peter Eötvös, Brett Dean and Friedrich Cerha, major works of the classic and romantic repertoire can also be heard. Top international guest conductors are just as at home on the podium of the Hamburger Philharmonic as are top soloists.

      Tracklist hide

      SACD 1
      • 1.1. Gemäßigt, misterioso25:26
      • 2.2. Adagio. Feierlich.19:20
      • 3.3. Scherzo. Ziemlich schnell06:40
      • 4.4. Finale. Allegro17:09
      • Total:01:08:35