7 p.m. Jan. 22 * Musical Instrument Museum
Warren Cohen, conductor
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Symphony no. 8 in B Minor, D. 579 (“Unfinished”) (as finished by William Carragan)
I. Allegro moderato
II. Andante con moto
III. Scherzo (Allegro)
IV.Rosamunde: Allegro molto moderato
Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
Symphony in F Minor, WAB 99
I. Allegro molto vivace
II. Andante molto
III. Scherzo. Schnell
Presented with the generous support of W. David Connell.
MusicaNova concerts are supported by generous grants or donations from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, Hannah’s Oboes, John & Liz McKinnon, Ed and Cynthia DuBrow, and W. David Connell.
By Warren Cohen, music director
Schubert Symphony no. 8 in B minor (“Unfinished”) with completion by William Carragan
Schubert was among the most prolific and fluent of the great composers -- he once boasted of having composed three songs between breakfast and lunch – yet he often felt dissatisfied with his work and sometimes struggled with the process of composition. As a result, he left many works incomplete after writing substantial chunks of music. The “Unfinished” was not his only incomplete symphony. He started at least five other symphonies that were never finished.
The music in the incomplete works includes some of Schubert's boldest inspirations, no more so than in the “Unfinished.” But works such as his C major piano sonata (“Relique”) are also astonishing. It makes one think one reason he abandoned these works is that, having come up with something truly extraordinary, he could not figure out where to go next to keep up the level of inspiration. The end of the slow movement In the Unfinished Symphony is one of the most remarkable moments in music, and one could imagine the pressure Schubert put on himself to follow from that achievement.
Nevertheless, we know he wrote at least most of the third, or scherzo, movement. The first few bars were fully written out on the last page of the score Schubert gave to Anselm Hüttenbrenner. The entire first part of the scherzo and the first strain of the trio were written out in a piano sketch (albeit much of it with harmony missing). This brings up another possible reason he did not complete the work. The first two movements were in ¾ time, and the scherzo was as well. He may have felt that three movements in triple time in a row did not work. But it is evidence of how close we have to a complete third movement that the various attempted completions tend to sound very much alike.
As for the finale, there is no direct evidence he composed one. On the other hand, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that the first entr’acte from the incidental music for the play “Rosamunde” contains music he originally intended for the finale of the symphony. The instrumentation is identical, the key is B minor, and the movement itself is in sonata form, which corresponds with all of Schubert's completed symphonic finales. The music was composed right after he abandoned work on the symphony.
Significantly, many people have come up with this idea independently, and at least three completions use the Rosamunde music as the basis for the finale. William Carragan's version is somewhat longer than the others, extending and repeating material in the entr’acte. His justification is that to be proportionate to the lengths of the first two movements, the last movement needs to be somewhat longer than the eight minutes of the source material.
What is striking in listening to Carragan’s and other completions is how simple and obvious they are. Except for the second strain of the trio in the scherzo movement, if you accept the Rosamunde hypothesis, it is possible to create a four-movement symphony using only material that is authentic Schubert, and to use it to create a totally satisfying “Finished Unfinished”!
Bruckner Symphony in F minor
One of the many interesting connections between Schubert and Bruckner was that at the age of 31 they each sought out the counsel of Simon Sechter, a Viennese teacher of counterpoint. Schubert had one lesson with Sechter before his untimely death, but Bruckner stuck out it for seven years, during which Sechter forbid him to compose any original music.
When Bruckner finally finished his course with Sechter he sought out further instruction in form and orchestration with Otto Kitzler. For another couple of years he worked on a number of “studies” with Kitzler. These include many piano pieces, a string quartet, several orchestral works, and, as a kind of graduation exercise, the F minor symphony, his first work in the genre that would become his calling card. Although many people dismiss this piece as nothing more than a student exercise because of its origin, it is a striking composition that is unquestionably the work of the same mind and imagination that composed the later symphonies.
What is interesting is that after studying form with Kitzler, Bruckner immediately departed from the model of formal organization of earlier composers, as he would continue to do in his later symphonies. The first movement employs a sonata form with a three-theme exposition and codetta, a procedure virtually unique to Bruckner – and that he employes in all of his symphonies! He could not have studied that with Kitzler.
The form of each of the movements is identical to the model of the later symphonies, with many of Bruckner's distinctive features: long pedal points, folklike elements in the trio of the Scherzo, the lyrical nature of the second theme in the first movement, the sonata form finales. Passages in every movement are precursors to virtually identical passages in later symphonies. The coda of the first movement is strikingly like the parallel spot in Symphony no. 8, the main theme of the scherzo is a gloss of the same idea in Symphony no. 7, parts of the slow movement sound lifted from Symphony no. 3, to name just a few.
There are differences that are themselves fascinating and revealing.
The opening is a seven-bar phrase; Bruckner never again began a work with an irregularly shaped theme. In later years he became obsessed with regularizing phrase lengths in his earlier compositions, often to the detriment of the music. This was probably an offshoot of his “counting mania” and related to other aspects of what we would today call an obsessive-compulsive character. Luckily, he did not consider this work part of his official canon of works, so he never bothered to mess with it once it was completed.
The last movement has an exposition repeat marked in, another feature he never used again.
The final coda to the work is in a major key. All of his minor key symphonies end in the major, but the others have a slow build up with the music presenting over long pedal points into a distinctly grand ending. The F minor symphony has an ending that is brilliant and exciting but is closer to the Schumann and Mendelssohn model of symphonic finales.
The F minor symphony has been largely neglected. Even “complete” sets of Bruckner symphonies often pretend it does not exist, but there is no reason to exclude it from the canon. It is a fantastic work of an obviously great composer and can easily hold its own with any symphony of its time and place.
Julian Nguyen, concertmaster
John & Elizabeth McKinnon chair
Spencer Ekenes, principal
Robert Dixon chair
Janet Quiroz, principal
Dominique van de Stadt & Octavio Pajaro chair
Ed & Cynthia DuBrow section
Maria Simiz, principal
Nathan Benitez, principal
Jeanie Pierce, principal
Carolyn Whittaker chair
Lisa Tharp Friedeman
Lauren Glomb, principal
Nina Gurin memorial chair
Bob & Denise Wilson chair
Kristin Fray, principal
Kristilyn Woods, principal
Martha Edwards, principal
Chris Albrecht, principal
Brad Edwards, principal
Leger Strategies chair
Personnel manager: Liz McKinnon
Asst. personnel manager: Jamilyn Richardson
Librarian: Spencer Ekenes
Video recording: David Ice
Audio recording: Vault Classical