When it became clear that Bruckner would not be able to complete the finale of his Ninth Symphony, he expressly specified his Te Deum as its “best substitute”. Performances of the three-movement torso of his monumental Sinfonia da chiesa, dedicated “to the beloved God”, were out of the question for the composer, as his letters and reports by contemporary witnesses show. Through a complex process, and with loving attention to detail, Nicola Samale, John Phillips, Giuseppe Mazzuca and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs worked between 1983 and 2010 to produce a performance version of the finale. “The result being presented today,” writes Cohrs, editorial director of the Bruckner-Edition Wien since 2013, “comprises 653 bars. 440 correspond to Bruckner’s surviving score, of which he had already fully orchestrated 208. The remainder exists as fully elaborated string parts with indications of important wind entries. Another 117 bars could be reconstructed from sketches and discarded bifolios. 96 bars had to be supplemented with the use of music-forensical methods; for all but 37 of them, however, music by Bruckner existed. The performance version of the finale is as a result far freer of foreign elements than, for example, Mozart’s Requiem.”
The preparation of a final revised edition owes its final impetus to Sir Simon Rattle, who conducted the four-movement version of Bruckner’s Ninth at the Berlin Philharmonie in October 2011 and in February 2012, and also at Carnegie Hall in New York in February 2012. “I must say at once what a stunningly impressive piece of work you have done,” Rattle wrote in advance to the editors. “I have been looking at the sketches in a very on and off fashion for some years, and heard another nameless reconstruction that almost put me off for life [...] I feel increasingly convinced by your plastic surgery, and feel that it should be more widely heard and understood. This from a man who has abandoned the Mozart Requiem! Congratulations again on your astonishing journey.”
Together with the Philharmoniker, Sir Simon now presents Bruckner’s Ninth to Berlin audiences once again with the reconstructed finale, which is permeated by motifs from the Te Deum and acts as a veritable antithesis to the opening movement. The programme opens with the premiere of Hans Abrahamsen’s ThreePiecesfor Orchestra, part of the Philharmoniker’s Tapas project initiated by Rattle.