Monday, May 25, 2015

Short film provides ritualistic visual "ballet" for the Finale to Bruckner's Ninth (as "completed" by Belgian composer Sebastien Letocart)

There is a fascinating short film, 18 minutes, by Narcis Alispahic, “Anton Bruckner’s Ultimate Finale”, a video interpretation accompanying a commentary by Belgian composer Sebastien Letocart, who did his own “recomposition” of the Finale for the ("unfinished") Symphony #9 from 2007-2009.  Not all of the Finale is played in the video, but the coda, ending in a triumphant D Major, does finish the video. 
My own preference is for the completion by Samale-Phillips-Cohrs-Mazzuca, in 2008, which I discussed on March 8, 2011 here.  I have a slightly older version on Naxos which is similar (slightly longer). The last two minutes build on materials from Bruckner’s own Third and Seventh Symphonies, superimposed on the opening of Beethoven’s Ninth, in D Major triumph.
Letocart explains what he considers four pillars of the Bruckner manuscript, which have a lot to do with Catholic symbolism, and the transition from our lives to eternal life, or perhaps the next one.  He explains the dotted rhythms, the chorale theme that moves down and then back up a simple scale (e.g. the opening of the Bruckner 7th) and fugal elements of the Finale, and the extreme dissonance of a few passages that remain unresolved in polytonality (but Beethoven does that at one shocking moment in the first movement of the Eroica).  Letocart plays some of this material on the piano, and it sounds fascinating harmonized on piano just as with a full orchestra.  Maybe one passage in particular, just before the coda in the other version, could be seen as dodecaphonic, putting all 12 notes to the scale in one chord, like in some of Alban Berg’s music, before resolving to D Major. Letocart’s coda is thematically a little simpler than Mazzuca’s (which I personally think is the closest to what Bruckner himself intended).
But the visual story conveyed by the film is rather shocking. There is an attractive young couple (that is, with a good looking man about 25 and a hippy-like woman), that seems to wander through the Pentecost (often including sites around Vienna with plaques for other great composers) until a cadre of shirtless young men appear, to engage in a homoerotic wrestling ritual that, well, has consequences (at Ascension) if you watch closely. There are effects like this in some operas (like Lou Andriessen’s “La Commedia”, discussed here Sept. 25, 2014, or even Schoenberg’s “Moses und Aron”).  A concept like this happens in my own novel “Angel’s Brother”, about two-thirds into the book, and I need to get off my butt and get the editing all done, really!
Also, the complete movement is played here. (Nicolas Couton conducts the Budapest Philharmonic). Upon playing the conclusion of this video, it strikes me that Letocart is even more interested in tracing the music back to Beethoven’s Ninth than Mazzuca. He doesn't do as much with the First Movement Octave Theme reprise as the other versions (and I find the reappearance of the Octaves effective).  The Eighth Symphony is called the Apocalyptic, but the Ninth is even more so.  Will the New York Philharmonic put it on next season?

Nov. 26, 2016

Letocart has a detailed analysis of his own version on the ABruckner site here.  He also calls himself Seba Tracotel on Facebook; not sure of the meaning of the second name. Letocart will share his score privately by "file" pdf when messaged on Facebook, but the score itself doesn't have a public link.  I have it and can see the connections to "Hallelujah" to the Letocart's conclusion and to the Bruckner Ninth trio schezo.  The opening theme in my third "Sonata" (1962) vaguely relates to the same theme, and apparently that is so because I got a Bruckner Ninth recording for Walter's Ninth (3 movements) on Columbia for Christmas in 1961 after my return from William and Mary (from my "expulsion", some rather ironic and disturbing personal history. Let's hope the NY Philharmonic notices.  I think it may perform a completed ninth in the 2017-2018 season.

Picture: No, not Twin Peaks (David Lynch) but Mammoth Lakes, CA, my trip, 2012. 

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