Anton Bruckner – Symphonie No. 5 B Dur (1875-1888)
(geb. 4. September 1824, Ansfelden — gest. 11 Oktober 1896, Wien)
version of 1893-1894 by Franz Schalk
(b. Vienna, 27 May 1863 – d. Edlach, 3 September 1931)
I Adagio — Allegro (mäßig)
III Scherzo. Molto vivace — Trio. Allegretto
IV Finale. Adagio — Mäßig bewegt
Anton Bruckner composed his Fifth Symphony between 14 February 1875 and 16 May 1876, only to revise it between May 1877 and 4 January 1878; he continued to make sporadic changes to it through 1887. Despite all that, in the case of this symphony, and in contrast to the first four and the eighth of his numbered symphonies, there is only one version that issued from Bruckner’s pen. Bruckner heard it only once, and then only in a two-piano arrangement by Josef Schalk (1857-1900). This provisional premiere, as it were, took place in Vienna on 20 April 1887 — Schalk and Franz Zottmann (1858-1909) were the pianists — and was received with enthusiasm by the public. Because of the work’s difficulty and length, its accession into the orchestral repertoire remained out of the question for quite some time. As it was, Bruckner allowed the performance of Schalk’s arrangement only after several grueling rehearsals, and the memoirs of Friedrich Klose (1862-1942), who attended them, strikingly contradict the typical image of Bruckner as a timid, modest person who could be easily persuaded to act against his own interests. The arrangement Schalk prepared for this concert has been lost, but probably corresponded to Bruckner’s own (and final) version of the work.
It was only in 1894 that the Fifth Symphony appeared for the first time in an orchestra concert, namely in Graz, where Josef Schalk’s younger brother Franz (1863-1931), also a Bruckner pupil, was music director of the Theater am Stadtpark there. In the mammoth Bruckner biography that appeared between 1922 and 1937 — begun by August Göllerich (1859-1923), and largely the product of Max Auer (1880-?) — Auer reports that Schalk added a choir of brass at the end of the Finale because the regular brass players “were physically no longer able to project the hitherto unimaginable intensifications toward the end of the Finale.” According to Auer, Bruckner approved of the addition himself, which is possible, although documentary evidence to this effect does not exist. It is also impossible to determine whether during the preparation of the premiere Schalk made the numerous additional changes to the score that appeared in its first printing. In any case the premiere of the Fifth Symphony on 9 April 1894 was a huge success, with “jubilant applause that would not end” after each movement. A gratifying confirmation for a composer who lay near death in Vienna, and a great honor for a provincial city — but not quite the beginning of a triumphal procession through the world’s concert halls. In the following year, Ferdinand Löwe (1863-1925) conducted the work in Budapest, where it “remained quite uncomprehended,” quite possibly further evidence that Bruckner’s musical world was hardly a universal one.
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