(1824 - 1896)

Anton Bruckner

Anton Bruckner’s friends and pupils repeatedly requested the Master’s approval for retouchings and changes which, often of a quite intrusive nature, affecting form, instrumentation and articulation, were intended to make his quite unprecedented sound-world more accessible to contemporary audiences.
We have every reason to be grateful to these friends and pupils for their missionary zeal; after all, the motivation behind the changes was the wider propagation and promotion of Bruckner’s music. In order to smooth the path for his works to be performed and published, Bruckner did give his provisional agreement to adaptations designed to bring his music closer into line with the prevailing spirit of the times. But his agreement was only provisional – when he entrusted his manuscripts to the Imperial and Royal Court Library (the present-day Austrian National Library), he bequeathed his music to us in the form in which he 'according to his last will and testament' wished it to be passed on to posterity.
After Bruckner’s death, the glaring discrepancies between the autograph manuscripts and the music being heard in concert led to a call for a critical complete edition to provide the basis for authentic performing material. In 1929 the International Bruckner Society (Internationale Bruckner-Gesellschaft, IBG for short) was founded in Vienna; 1930 witnessed the publication by Filser, Augsburg, of the first works in the Complete Bruckner Edition (Bruckner-Gesamtausgabe), namely the Requiem and the Missa Solemnis (Haas). On 2 April 1932, Siegmund von Hausegger gave two consecutive renditions of the Ninth Symphony. In the first he used the only printed edition then in existence, which had been produced with the intention of making Bruckner’s music sound Wagnerian and consequently differed quite radically from Bruckner’s manuscript; the second performance was based on the autograph musical text as prepared for the Complete Edition.
In 1933, by which time the Filser publishing house had ceased to exist, the International Bruckner Society founded the Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag (MWV; literally 'musicological publishers'), specifically to publish the Bruckner Complete Edition. Robert Haas, Director of the Music Collection of the Austrian National Library, was appointed General Editor, with Alfred Orel as his right-hand man; in 1937, Leopold Nowak joined the house as co-General Editor. The preparatory work which had already been under way for many years previously made it possible for numerous volumes to be published in quick succession.

Chronology of the Bruckner Complete Edition 1934-1944


The Bruckner Complete Edition since 1951

After the end of the war, the IBG, MWV and Bruckner Complete Edition returned to Austria; in 1951, Leopold Nowak, now General Editor, brought out the first volume of the newly started Bruckner Complete Edition, a corrected reprint of Alfred Orel’s edition of the Ninth Symphony. In the first instance, Nowak devoted himself to revising the scores which had been edited before 1945, incorporating newly-discovered sources and eliminating printing errors. It soon became clear that Nowak’s veritably philological faithfulness to the musical texts bequeathed by Bruckner to posterity (repeatedly revised by the composer, it must be remembered) was quite incompatible with Haas’s attempts to produce a kind of 'ideal version' of the Second and the Eighth by mixing the composer’s versions. True to his principles, Nowak published the Symphony No. 8 in its two quite decisively different versions in two separate volumes, and furthermore published a revised Symphony No. 7 in full accordance with the 'last will and testament' autograph, replacing the earlier edition in which Haas had decided to ignore the amendments Bruckner had effected by sticking new music in over the old, or by erasing the old with a razor-blade.

Chronology of the Bruckner Complete Edition 1951-1989 (General Editor: Leopold Nowak)


Chronology of the Complete Bruckner Edition from 1990


From 1990 on, reprintings incorporated revisions, primarily on the basis of Rüdiger Bornhöft's lists of misprints. These revisions were also incorporated into the study scores of the symphonies published under licence by Eulenburg from 1992 to 1996.

The Ninth – a symphony in a category of its own

The crowning glory of Leopold Nowak's life's work was to have been a new edition of the Ninth, als well as revising and completing Orel's 'Sketches and drafts for the Ninth' of 1934. Only a few days before he passed away, Nowak entrusted the Australian Bruckner scholar John A. Phillips with the task of reviewing and preparing this extensive material for publication.
Phillips's reconstruction of the Finale fragment contained no additions whatsoever and was accompanied by a detailed commentary. Merely the presentation of the extant score, short score, and movement sequence pages shows a remarkably bold movement at an advanced stage of composition and in part with full instrumentation, but certain of the paginated manuscript sheets are no longer extant and the composition becomes noticeably thinner towards the end of the recapitulation. In order to demonstrate to a wider public what compositional stage Bruckner had reached, Phillips prepared the Finale fragment with the greatest care for performance in concert, leaving gaps for verbal commentary.
When Benjamin Gunnar Cohrs was drawing up the critical report on the three completed movements of the symphony, the abundance of new detail which had emerged provided a compelling argument for producing a new score.

Critical reports

For Nowak, it was a matter of the highest priority that all Bruckner's compositions should be made available in transparent and reliable musical editions. The accompanying critical reports were to be scientific but nevertheless 'readable', suitable for use in musical practice. Old age prevented Nowak from bringing this aim to fulfilment. As the following list shows, however, the critical reports for the vast majority of the volumes of the Complete Edition are now either in print or in preparation:
Symphony No. 1, all versions (in preparation, Röder)
Symphony No. 2, all versions (in preparation, Carragan)
Symphony No. 3, all versions (Röder 1997)
Symphony No. 4, all versions (in preparation, Korstvedt)
Symphony No. 5 (Haas - Nowak 1983)
Symphony No. 6 (Haas - Nowak 1986)
Symphony No. 7 (Bornhöft 2003)
Symphony No. 8 (Hawkshaw 2014)
Symphony No. 9, 1st, 2nd and 3rd movements. (Cohrs 2002)
Monograph on the second movement (Cohrs)
Studiensymphonie (Nowak 1981)
Studiensymphonie (Nowak 1981)
Symphony No. 0 (Nowak 1981)
Solo piano music (Litschauer, in the reprint of the 2000 volume)
Piano works for four hands (Litschauer, 1994 volume)
Organ works (Horn 2001)
Abendklänge (Litschauer in the 1995 volume)
Rondo for String Quartet (not yet commissioned)
Four orchestral pieces (Bornhöft in the 1996 volume)
Overture in G minor (Bornhöft in the 1996 volume)
March in E flat major (Bornhöft in the 1996 volume)
String Quartet in C minor (Nowak 1956)
String Quintet / Intermezzo (in preparation, Gruber)
Requiem (Bornhöft 2000)
Missa Solemnis in B flat (Haas - Nowak 1977)
Mass in D minor (Bornhöft 1999)
Mass in E minor (in preparation, Hawkshaw)
Mass in F minor (Hawkshaw 2004)
Te Deum (not yet commissioned)
Psalms and Magnificat (Hawkshaw 2002)
Smaller sacred works (Nowak 1984)
Cantatas and choral works (not yet commissioned)
Songs for voice and piano (Pachovsky in the 1997 volume)
Secular choral works (in preparation, Pachovsky)

For further information on the history of the Bruckner Complete Edition

Leopold Nowak, Die Anton Bruckner-Gesamtausgabe. Ihre Geschichte und Schicksale (Bruckner-Jahrbuch 1982/83; MV 203); Herbert Vogg, Ein Versprechen wurde eingelöst (Bruckner-Jahrbuch 1997-2000; MV 209); Mitteilungsblatt der IBG: 'Studien und Berichte' No. 56, June 2001.

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