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Donald Macleod explores five personality traits of Anton Bruckner, one of the strangest geniuses in music. Today, his superstitious fear of writing a ninth symphony.

Donald Macleod explores five personality traits of Anton Bruckner, one of the strangest geniuses in music. Today, his superstitious fear of writing a ninth symphony.

As for all nineteenth-century composers, the titanic figure of Beethoven loomed large in Bruckner’s life. The work that loomed largest was the 9th Symphony, whose première, incidentally, took place in 1824, the year of Bruckner’s birth. Bruckner was haunted by the thought that no great composer since Beethoven had gone beyond a ninth symphony, and that his ninth might therefore turn out to be his last. In the event, Bruckner’s fears were realised – and, indeed, exceeded; at his death, he left his 9th Symphony incomplete. He finished the first three movements, but the finale exists only in the form of a collection of “momentumless sketches”, as Bruckner scholar Robert Simpson dubbed them. Bruckner, whose health had been frail for some years, said that if he failed to complete the symphony, then his Te Deum could do duty as the fourth movement – a solution that’s rarely adopted these days. There have been a number of attempts to fashion Bruckner’s sketches into a coherent finale, but the symphony is most often presented unfinished.

Bruckner: Symphony No 9 in D minor, WAB 109 (3rd mvt, Adagio – Langsam, Feierlich)
Lucerne Festival Orchestra
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Bruckner: Symphony no 9 in D minor, WAB 109 (4th mvt, fragment)
Vienna Philharmonic
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor

Bruckner: Te Deum, WAB 45
Maria Stader, soprano
Sieglinde Wagner, contralto
Ernst Haefliger, tenor
Peter Lagger, bass
Chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
Bavarian Radio Chorus
Walter Hagen-Groll, chorus master
Wolfgang Meyer, organ
Berlin Philharmonic
Eugen Jochum, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Anton Bruckner

    Adagio (Symphony No 9 in D minor)

    Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic.
    • SONY 82876543322.
    • SONY.
    • 2.
  • Anton Bruckner

    Finale fragment (Symphony No 9 in D minor)

    Orchestra: Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Conductor: Claudio Abbado.
    • DG: 479 3441.
    • DG.
    • 3.
  • Anton Bruckner

    Te Deum in C major

    Performer: Wolfgang Meyer. Singer: Maria Stader. Singer: Sieglinde Wagner. Singer: Ernst Haefliger. Singer: Peter Lagger. Choir: German Opera Berlin Chorus. Conductor: Walter Hagen-Groll. Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Eugen Jochum.
    • DGG 457 743-2.
    • DGG.
    • 1.

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