It is the unfinished works of great composers in particular that enjoy a mystical reverence. This is also the case with the Ninth Symphony of Anton Bruckner, who after completing the first three movements, died while working on the finale. But unlike Mozart’s Requiem, for example, of which only a minimal part comes from the composer himself, there is a wealth of sketches by Bruckner for the final movement of the Ninth Symphony. In more than 25 years of detective work, an international team of composers, conductors and musicologists developed these sketches into a breathtaking whole. The completed symphony is performed here by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle.
The fact that Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony is a farewell to the world is shown firstly in the composer’s intention to dedicate the symphony “to the beloved God”. But also in the large-scale first movement, everything seems like the last word. The following Scherzo appears as a demonic dance of death; the Adagio, a swan song of disconcerting fragility. And then the finale: of the 647 bars in the reconstruction, 208 are completely by Bruckner, for most of the remaining bars, string parts, drafts of the wind parts or initial sketches were available – there were only 37 bars for which there was no music at all by the composer. The completed movement reveals many disturbing moments as well as Bruckner-like grandeur. But, as Simon Rattle says, “everything that is strange about this finale is 100% Bruckner. And one can see the terror and the fear and the passion which he was going through in his life at that time.”