Simon Rattle to premiere new completion of Bruckner 9 finale with the Berlin Philharmonic on EMI Classics
The first recording of a new completion of the fourth movement of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, left unfinished at the time of the composer’s death, is to be released by EMI Classics, with Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.
The completion – by the musicological team of Nicola Samale, Giuseppe Mazzuca, John Phillips and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs – received its world premiere performance in the Berlin Philharmonie in February this year, and was also heard in New York’s Carnegie Hall later the same month.
The “new” finale, says John Phillips, “is no musical curiosity, but an integral part of the work as its composer intended. Just as Beethoven designed his last symphony around its choral finale, Bruckner designed his Ninth around this huge, ultimately triumphant movement, synthesizing sonata form, fugue, and chorale.
“For the devoutly Catholic Bruckner, the symphony was to be his ‘homage to Divine majesty’… The Adagio, his ‘Farewell to Life,’
traces a gradual process of dissolution that leads us, spellbound, into the enigmatic music of the Finale [which] would end with a ‘song of praise to the dear Lord,’ a ‘Hallelujah’ borrowed from earlier in the work. And it is with this ‘Hallelujah’ theme – the first entry of the trumpets in the Adagio — that the Ninth can so justly and so gloriously now conclude.”
Bruckner had been working on the movement on the day of his death, 11 October 1896, having completed and orchestrated one third of it and sketched the layout for the entire finale.
Of the Carnegie Hall performance, The Classical Review‘s Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim said: “The reconstructed finale opens with a question-and-answer motif, then quickly rears up into a Dies Irae-like theme. The second theme is derived from the first, the dotted rhythm becoming more halting, then giving way to wistful variations in the strings. There are all the elements of a Bruckner symphony movement, but piled almost on top of one another: a luscious string melody, a glorious chorale in the brass, a breathless fugue, a solo trumpet Day-of-Reckoning call. More than once, sharply dissonant chords bring the proceedings to an abrupt halt. A recurring Schumann-like development offers a few moments of reprieve, but on the whole there is a sense of multiple impressions crashing into each other.
“Someone once likened the Ninth’s final movement to Purgatory following the Adagio’s farewell to life, but with quotations from the symphony’s previous movements as well as earlier Bruckner works, it also fits the vision of a man’s life flashing in review during his final moments. The very end is, of course, a jubilant one, with fiery brass chords proclaiming a triumphant D major resolution.”
Rattle’s recording with the Berliner Philharmonie is scheduled for release by EMI in May.