Friday, July 17, 2015

Rattle's performance of the complete Bruckner Ninth seems to use definitive version (2011-Samale and others)


I used some Amazon credit card points and got a CD of Simon Rattle’s performance with the Berlin Philharmonic of the Symphony #9 in D Minor by Anton Bruckner, with the supposedly definitive version of the Finale, published in 2011, by Samale. Phillips, Cohrs and Mazzuca.  It is one CD, running 82:10 on the Warner Classics label.

The version is similar to the 2008 by the same scholars, but the last pianissimo before the final D Major affirmation is eliminated.  The music comes to two big climaxes on the “octave theme” from the first movement, crashing on dissonance.  But this time, it goes right into the final rising motive (similar to the Bruckner Seventh) with less obvious reference to the descending figures from Bruckner’s Third and Beethoven’s Ninth opening.

The scholars claim that this is the most authentic Bruckner possible, even if other composers (like Letocart) would have handled this material differently. On a June 19 posting here, I gave a link to their research paper.  They believe that this is the conclusion Bruckner would have written.
I was mistaken about a performance by Inbal on YouTube, which has a much “simpler” conclusion preceded by a harmonic trick used in the Eighth (but with a “pianissimo” intervening before the final peroration.)


Other composers, when providing a “big tune” triumph in a Picardy major to a cyclical work, usually don’t use a “false pianissimo”.  (A big mystery to me, though, is the very last note of Dvorak’s New World.)  Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and Grieg avoided doing so in the bombastic conclusions of their popular piano concerti.  (Tchaikovsky does do this in ballet, and especially to end the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture.)  However, a penultimate pianissimo and a brief “misterioso” before crashing to a triumphant close can reaffirm the final tonality, in a work where the listener has been kept in constant tonal and harmonic suspense.  Arnold Schoenberg does this at the end of Gurrelieder, moving from F to a final C there is a brief slow soft slowdown before the final Wagnerian “FFF” pedal point on C with full chorus, organ, orchestra and percussion. 

I’ve probably noted that I got a recording of the 3-movement version with Bruno Walter and the Columbia Symphony around Christmas in 1961, right after coming “home” from my William and Mary expulsion.  The music has a lot of importance to me, most of all the hanging dissonances (like the famous one near the end of the slow movement, where all twelve notes of the chromatic scale fit into one chord).  The notes mention Schoenberg, but I think some of the effects actually anticipate Alban Berg, especially in Wozzeck and Lulu.  I’ve discovered a curious relation between some of the motives in the Ninth here with some scalar or interval-based motives in my own “Third Sonata”, most of which I wrote in 1962 and which I expect to finish (the Finale) soon.  I may need the final false pianissimo to emphasize the final crash down on C (about 8 measures of FFF) after all the atonality and chromaticism before (where I often mix chords and tonalities a tritone apart). 

Update: Oct. 20/Dec. 13

The Youtube for the Rattle finale is here. There is a passage where the octave theme crashes to a dissonance;  then there is a coda that recapitulates the grand hymn theme after building up from a pianissimo, to come to the dissonance again, and this time the music does not go back to pianissimo but remains FFF to the very end as it plays the rising theme taken from the Bruckner Seventh, with counterpoint from the Bruckner Third and Beethoven Ninth overlaying until one final shout D Major chord.  Letocart says Bruckner wanted to use only the Hallelujah at the very end, but Samale seems to think the last 20 measures or so should recapitulate all of western symphonic music to date.   

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