Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Schubert's completed symphonies, made to sound like Bruckner

I am a fan of completing romantic symphonies, and today I pulled out a 1983 CD on Philips of Sir Nevil Marriner’s performance of the “complete” Unfinished Symphony #8 in B Minor, D. 759.
The third movement is a setting of a B minor scherzo (orchestrated and perhaps touched up by Brian Newnbould) and trio that had been sketched on the piano and used before on an Odyssey (Columbia) recording.  For the Finale, Marriner uses the Entr’acte in B Minor from Rosamunde, and it really does work.  It is in deliberate but lively tempo, has some daring harmonies, and goes into the Picardy B Major at the end.  Marriner lets the final chord die away (and this sometimes done by some conductors with other Schubert orchestral works, even the Great).  That may be appropriate in a ballet setting, but if the movement is used to close the symphony, I think the full fortissimo should be sustained.
It’s of course worth noting that the first two movements, as familiar as they are, do look forward to Bruckner.  The first movement, almost an animated slow movement in triple time, has a relatively simple architecture, and puts its lovely second theme firs in G Major and then the relative D Major, before returning to B minor (and ending with a diminishing B Minor chord, an effect I don’t get.  Dvorak ended his New World Symphony with a similar idea.)  The famous Andante con moto in E Major sounds faster than the opening Allegro moderato here.  It’s interesting that Bruckner’s own “unfinished” 9th ends with an E Major slow movement, but then that work got finished, too (March 8, 2011).
The CD has a setting of fragments from the proposed Symphony #10 in D, as orchestrated by Brian Newbould. These fragments are rather insignificant and featherweight as presented.  In fact, the Finale fragment dies away suddenly in F# Major.
I do have the Ricacare CD of the “completion” of the D. 936A work as completed by Belgian conductor Pierre Bartholomee.  Running about 40 minutes,  the work seems almost complete and is quite moving.  The first movement, Allegro Maestoso, in D, really does anticipate Bruckner even more.  The development section seems abbreviated, but Newbould said that what sounds like a Recapitulation is really further development.  The recording presents a long, expansive coda, ending in brazen triumph, that really does sound “Brucknerized” (recalling the way Bruckner ends the first movement of the Fourth). The second movement, in the relative B minor, is a slow waltz in 3/8, Andante.  If played slowly (as Bartholomee does), it sounds like it comes right out of the world of the Mahler Wunderhorn symphonies.   Newbould’s sketches on the Philips hardly convey this impression of either movement.   The third movement is really a completed scherzo in D (D 708A), and fits pretty well.  But it has some unusual counterpoint for a scherzo and is formally really a Rondo.  The Finale, as Bartholomee presents it, is a closing Rondo, again lively, which accepts the fact that the work has already risen to its greatest heights.  A comparison could be made with the finale of Beethoven’s Second. 

The Seventh, in E Major, by the way, is an orchestration of a 2-piano work. Is that why Bruckner chose E Major for his own Seventh?
The other big “unfinished” complete work is the Mahler Symphony #10 in F#, of which the best recording is Ormandy’s on Sony-Columbia in the 1960s.  Don’t forget Puccini’s “Turandot” either (which I saw in Dallas in 1980, the night of Reagan’s victory).

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