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Program Notes
this music as a funeral march, it does not feel grim or
even very dark, and we are more likely to be struck by
its wealth of good tunes: the cellos’ opening march, a
string chorale, a long-spanned idea for violas. Bruckner
alternates these ideas, building to a tremendous climax;
this falls away to allow the timpani’s steady tread to
march the music into silence.
scherzo: moving – trio: not too fast.
The third movement
has often been called a “hunting” scherzo because the
outer sections are built on what seem like hunting-horn
calls from the brass. Bruckner’s writing for brass is always
distinguished, and the beginning of this movement is
exciting. Horns lead the way (once again on the 2 + 3
rhythm), and Bruckner piles the entrances of other brass
up to a dissonant climax. The gentle trio takes us into
another world altogether: it is a slow ländler, the old
Austrian country dance, sung first by flute and clarinet.
This passes quickly, and we plunge back into the “hunt” of
the opening section.
finale: moderate.
Now things change completely. Gone is
the sunlight of earlier movements, as the tonality wanders
uncertainly between B-flat minor and E-flat minor. The entire
orchestra stamps out the movement’s cataclysmic main
theme, the music pulsing ahead ominously. After so violent
a beginning, relief comes with the second theme-group, a
surging string melody that reminds some of Schubert. This
sharp change of character will be typical of this movement,
which, like the opening movement, unfolds over a long span.
The ending is extraordinary. The music grows quiet and
slows, and a horn chorale takes shape, building slowly in
strength. The rest of the orchestra joins the horns, and the
music rises higher and higher, taking on more power as it
climbs. Finally the symphony soars to its shining conclusion
as the entire brass section stamps out the rhythm of the solo
horn call that had opened the symphony an hour earlier.
A note on the Korstvedt edition:
The edition heard in these
concerts is the work of the American scholar Benjamin
Korstvedt, who recently established that corrections made
to a handwritten score in 1887 and 1888, as well as further
amendments to that score in 1890, were in fact by Bruckner
himself. The Korstvedt version sounds strikingly different
from the edition usually used, based on the performance
at the premiere in 1882 and edited by Leopold Nowak:
in addition to different instrumentation and some tempo
markings, it involves several major structural changes.
3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes,
2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones,
tuba, timpani, cymbals and strings
Program notes by
Eric Bromberger.
Anton Bruckner
September 4, 1824, Ansfelden, Austria
October 11, 1896, Vienna
Symphony No. 4 in E-flat major, Romantic
(1888 revised version, ed. Benjamin Korstvedt)
nton Bruckner was the most compulsive, workaholic
composer who ever lived. He worked for a year
and a half on his Third Symphony, completed it on
New Year’s Eve of 1873, took just one day off and, on
January 2, 1874, began his Fourth Symphony. This work
was completed on November 22, with the composer
scrupulously noting in the manuscript that the symphony
had been finished at 8:30 that evening. Bruckner revised
it repeatedly before it was finally premiered on February 20,
1881, by Hans Richter and the Vienna Philharmonic.
The Fourth represented an important change of direction
for Bruckner. His first symphonies and liturgical works
had all been in minor keys, which gave them a somber
cast. Setting the Fourth Symphony in E-flat major brought
a transformation, as if sunlight had suddenly flooded a
previously dark landscape. This magnificent symphony
has music of breadth, strength and majesty, unfolding
over the generous span of an hour, and it is fully
deserving of the popularity it has always enjoyed among
Bruckner’s symphonies.
the music
calm, not too fast.
We feel the music’s grandeur from the
first instant. It begins with a soft haze of E-flat major sound
from the strings, and above them a solo horn, sounding
far, far away, sings the call that will become a central
theme-shape of this symphony. Other ideas follow quickly:
the characteristic “Bruckner rhythm” of 2 + 3, turning
powerful and then subsiding; and the relaxed second
subject, chirped innocently by the violins in the unexpected
key of D-flat major. From these Bruckner builds a sonata-
form movement whose drama develops gradually toward
a tremendous ending. Bruckner begins his coda in dark
C minor, which grows in strength and sails into shining
E-flat major as the massed horn section thunders out the
call of the solo horn from the very beginning.
The second movement marches steadily along its
4/4 meter, beginning in C minor. Though some describe
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