Bruckner: Symphony No. 1
Recording with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, October 20 2022, Gothenburg Concert Hall.
Anton Bruckner actually composed two symphonies before labelling his symphony in C-minor number 1. First he composed a symphony in F-minor, which is now usually referred to as the Study Symphony, or No. 00; this was followed by a symphony in D-minor, which is usually called No. 0. Some researchers say that No. 0 was actually composed after No. 1; he may have actually worked on several major pieces at once. Although it might be difficult to detect the great Bruckner in these early works, in the first numbered symphony he found many of the traits that would ultimately distinguish this magnificent composer. Specifically, this grandiose piece has a run-time of approximately 45 minutes.
Bruckner called his first symphony “das kecke Beserl”, which means something akin to “the saucy maid” – words that capture in a nutshell the relaxed, cheerful nature of the introduction, and the courageous force of the scherzo movement. The outer movements are both faster than usual in Bruckner’s coming symphonies, and the finale’s stormy vitality might explain why the composer was surprised later in life to find the works of his youth so bold and daring.
But a great deal of what would become typical Bruckner characteristics can also be found here: his incredibly sensitive work with keys and their development; his method of slowly building up energy to a major eruption; the chorale of the conclusion, which becomes a display of horns; and finally, the considerable length of the work. It is a magnificent symphony that was highly regarded by both the era’s leading musical oracle, pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein, as well as conductor Hans von Bülow. But like most of Bruckner’s symphonies, Number 1 also underwent numerous more or less extensive edits. He began composing in 1865 and presented an original version in Linz the following year. Meanwhile, the most commonly heard versions were created in 1877 and 1891.