Open main menu

Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in E major (WAB 107) is one of his best-known symphonies. It was written between 1881 and 1883 and was revised in 1885. It is dedicated to Ludwig II of Bavaria. The premiere, given under Arthur Nikisch and the Gewandhaus Orchestra in the opera house at Leipzig on 30 December 1884,[1] brought Bruckner the greatest success he had known in his life. The symphony is sometimes referred to as the "Lyric", though the appellation is not the composer's own, and is seldom used.

Symphony No. 7
by Anton Bruckner
Anton Bruckner.jpg
A portrait of Anton Bruckner
KeyE major
CatalogueWAB 107
Composed1881 (1881) – 1883 (1883):
DedicationLudwig II of Bavaria
Published1885 (1885)
Recorded1924 (1924) Oskar Fried, Berlin Staatskapelle
Movements4
Premiere
Date30 December 1884 (1884-12-30)
LocationStadttheater, Leipzig
ConductorArthur Nikisch

Contents

DescriptionEdit

The symphony has four movements:

First movementEdit

The first movement starts with tremolo strings and the cellos presenting "a complete, divinely given melodic whole:"[2]

 

"Bruckner declared he heard it in a dream, played on a viola, and wrote it down on awakening, but the tune incorporates a quotation from the Credo of his D minor Mass (1864) which he was currently revising.[1] The main theme is restated before the second theme group appears, with the oboes and clarinets carrying the first theme:

 

The third theme group is based on octaves, as is typical in Bruckner:

 

The development features many of the themes in inversion. Near the end of the movement, there is a long pedal point on E, sustained by the double basses and timpani.

Second movementEdit

This movement was composed between January and April 1883. Bruckner began writing it in anticipation of Wagner's death and funeral, as he was in poor health. The movement features four Wagner tubas, which was their first appearance in a symphony:

 

A contrabass tuba is also present.[1] The second part of the movement, beginning in F-sharp major, has a tune that Bruckner specialist Georg Tintner described as such: "If I could describe what makes Bruckner Bruckner to me, it is that tune. It is something which transcends ordinary sorts of feelings. You can't even say 'Is it jolly?' 'Is it sad?' 'Is it that?' 'Is it that?'. You can't say that with a late Beethoven tune either. It is above these things:"[3]

 

Legend has it that Bruckner wrote the cymbal clash at the climax of this movement upon hearing the news that Wagner had died.[4] By way of contrast, Williman Mann states that "at the climax of the slow movement Nikisch persuaded Bruckner to add a cymbal clash supported by a triangle; later this addition to the manuscript was marked 'invalid' - but not in the composer's hand, so who was the purist?"[1]

Third movementEdit

The scherzo is in A minor and opens with a rhythmic string figure and a melody with a leap of an octave played by a solo trumpet:

 

The Trio is in F major and is in a slower tempo:

 

Fourth movementEdit

Unlike the Fifth and Eighth symphonies, where the Finale sums up the entire symphony, this Finale is not as expansive as the other movements. Georg Tintner compared this Finale to the finale of a Haydn symphony.[5] Like the first movement, the fourth movement opens with tremolo strings:

 

The second theme group is in the distant key of A-flat major:

 

The third theme group is a characteristic "octave theme" given by the whole orchestra in A minor:

 

In the recapitulation, the subject groups are reversed in order - a form called "tragic sonata form"[6] or "arch form".[7]

VersionsEdit

1883 versionEdit

This was the version performed at the work's premiere. It survives only in one autograph copy which includes later changes by Bruckner and others, so the exact contents of this version are lost and it is unpublished.

1885 versionEdit

Gutmann edition (published 1885)Edit

Some changes were made after the 1884 premiere but before the first publication by Gutmann in 1885. It is widely accepted that Nikisch, Franz Schalk and Ferdinand Löwe had significant influence over this edition, but there is some debate over the extent to which these changes were authorized by Bruckner. These changes mostly affect tempo and orchestration.

Haas edition (published 1944)Edit

Robert Haas attempted to remove the influence of Nikisch, Schalk and Löwe in order to retrieve Bruckner's original conception of the symphony. Haas used some material from the 1883 autograph but because this autograph also includes later changes much of his work was the product of conjecture. The most prominent feature of Haas's edition is the absence of cymbals, triangle and timpani in the slow movement: Haas asserted that Bruckner decided to omit the percussion, a claim scholar Benjamin Korstvedt deems "implausible".[8]

Nowak edition (published 1954)Edit

Leopold Nowak kept most of the changes in the 1885 Gutmann edition, including the percussion. He reprinted the tempo modifications from Gutmann but placed them in brackets. Some performances of this edition omit the cymbal crash at the climax of the slow movement; however, it is included in the printed score.

1921 chamber arrangementEdit

An arrangement of this symphony for chamber ensemble (consisting of 2 violins, viola, cello, bass, clarinet, horn, piano 4-hands, and harmonium) was prepared in 1921 by students and associates of Arnold Schoenberg, for the Viennese "Society for Private Musical Performances": Hanns Eisler (1st and 3rd movements), Erwin Stein (2nd mvt.), and Karl Rankl (3rd mvt).[clarification needed] The Society folded before the arrangement could be performed, and it was not premiered until more than 60 years later.

InstrumentationEdit

The symphony requires the following orchestra:

1Used in the 2nd and 4th movements only.

2Except for the third movement where the use of timpani figures prominently, usage of percussion in the symphony is extremely limited. A timpani roll enters at the coda of the first movement. In some performance editions, the timpani re-enters along with cymbals and triangle together in the climax of the second movement (the only movement employing cymbals and triangle). Many conductors perform the second movement without percussion (as in the Haas edition), however; the decision is generally settled by the performers' preferences. In the last movement, the timpani rolls in brief climaxes before crescendoing with orchestral tutti in the final bars.

Use by the Third ReichEdit

According to Frederic Spotts' Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, Adolf Hitler compared this symphony favorably with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. When he consecrated a bust of Bruckner at Regensburg's Walhalla temple in 1937, this symphony's Adagio was played as Hitler stood in quiet admiration. A recording of the Adagio was played before the official radio announcement of the German defeat at Stalingrad on 31 January 1943 and before Reich President Karl Dönitz announced Hitler's death on Radio Berlin on 1 May 1945; a recording by Furtwängler was used.[citation needed]

DiscographyEdit

The first commercial recording was made by Oskar Fried with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra in 1924 for Polydor. Along with Symphony No. 4, the Seventh is the most popular Bruckner symphony both in the concert hall and on record.

Herbert von Karajan's last recording with the Vienna Philharmonic, 23 April 1989, three months before his death, on the Deutsche Grammophon label, of the Haas edition of the 1885 score, has been singled out by Norman Lebrecht as #80 in his list of the 100 best recordings,[9] and described as "more human and vulnerable" than his earlier Berlin recording.[10] In reviewing the 1999 recording by Kurt Sanderling, the critic David Hurwitz listed as reference (benchmark) recordings of Bruckner's Seventh those by Eugen Jochum in 1976,[11] Bernard Haitink in 1978, Karajan in 1989, and Günter Wand in 1999.[12] Stephen Johnson prefers Karl Böhm's recording with the Vienna Philharmonic, saying that Böhm balances "clear-sighted formal understanding with a more fluid, supple approach to phrasing."[13] The vast majority of modern recordings use vibrato for the strings, with Roger Norrington's recording with the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR being a notable exception.[14]

On BBC Radio 3 in December 2014, Prof. John Deathridge selected Bernard Haitink's Concertgebouw recording from 1966 as the 'First Choice' in the 'Building a Library' series. (Wilhelm Furtwangler's 1949 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic was chosen as the top 'Historic' recommendation.)

The chamber arrangement has been recorded, by among others, the Thomas Christian Ensemble, proving to one reviewer "beyond doubt that it simply takes more than 10 musicians, no matter how good they are, to play a Bruckner symphony."[15]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d Sir Georg Solti and Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 - transcription from CD booklet (bar code 0-28941-76312-9), written by William Mann, London Records, 1988
  2. ^ p. 48, Johnson (2009) Julian. Oxford Mahler's Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies Oxford University Press. The author contrasts the amorphous opening of Mahler's First Symphony.
  3. ^ Tintner, Georg (August 1974). "Tintner on Bruckner" (Audio CD). Naxos Records. 8.501205.
  4. ^ p. 111 (1996) Watson
  5. ^ Georg Tintner - Notes for recording of the symphony, Naxos CD 8.554269, 1999
  6. ^ Jackson (1997) Timothy. "The Finale of Bruckner's Seventh Symphony and tragic reversed sonata form" Cambridge. Bruckner Studies edited by Timothy L. Jackson and Paul Hawkshaw. Cambridge University Press
  7. ^ William Carragan – Bruckner’s Golden Arches
  8. ^ Korstvedt, Benjamin M. (2004), "Bruckner editions: the revolution revisited", in Williamson, John (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Bruckner, Cambridge Companions to Music, Cambridge University Press, p. 127, ISBN 0-521-00878-6
  9. ^ Norman Lebrecht, "Masterpieces: 100 Milestones of the Recorded Century" The Life and Death of Classical Music. New York: Anchor Books (2007): 252 - 253
  10. ^ Stephen Chakwin, "Anton Bruckner" in Classical Music: The Listener's Companion ed. Alexander J. Morin (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2002), p. 196
  11. ^ "Bruckner* - Staatskapelle Dresden, Eugen Jochum – Symphonies Nos. 3 & 7". Discogs. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  12. ^ David Hurwitz, ANTON BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 ClassicsToday.com, posted March 4, 2001
  13. ^ Stephen Johnson, Anton Bruckner Symphony no. 7 (1883), 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die ed. Matthew Rye. Published by Universe in New York, on page 424.
  14. ^ Shirley (2010) Hugo. "Bruckner: Symphony No.7" MusicalCriticism.com
  15. ^ Stevenson (2010) Joseph. Review classicstoday.com

SourcesEdit

  • Anton Bruckner, Sämtliche Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe – Band 7: VII. Symphonie E-Dur (Originalfassung), Bruckner-Verlag GmbH, Robert Haas (Editor), Leipzig, 1944
  • Anton Bruckner: Sämtliche Werke: Band VII: VII. Symphonie E-Dur 1883, Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag der Internationalen Bruckner-Gesellschaft, Leopold Nowak (Editor), Vienna, 1954/2003

External linksEdit