Sunday, July 10, 2011

What did Bruckner want?

Oh, what to any of us want?

Benjamin Korstvedt has a clear and interesting article in The New York Times regarding the various editions of Bruckner's symphonies. It was helpful to me, since I've long found talk about Bruckner editions only slightly less confusing than the hubbub surrounding the chronology of the music of Charles Ives. The liner notes of every Bruckner album you buy have something to say the version used in the performance, and they all say the same thing: that the first published editions of the symphonies contain revisions and cuts that the naive, insecure Bruckner accepted on the advice of well-meaning but misguided friends, and only the editions based on his original manuscripts give us an clear idea of his real intentions.

Korstvedt says this is all hooey. Simply put, his contention is that Bruckner wanted and approved of the revisions that appear in the first published editions, and that the idea that he was somehow pressured into them against his better judgment is based on unprovable cliches about his character. This makes sense to me. I have the same problem, even at my lowly level. Whenever I go back over something I've written, I always find things that could be shortened, more felicitously phrased, or cut entirely. It's possible Bruckner felt the same way.

As a music consumer, though, I'm almost hoping Korstvedt is wrong, because my set of the complete Bruckner symphonies, with Eugen Jochum conducting the Dresden Staatskapelle, proudly avails itself of the Urtext versions edited by Richard Haas and Leopold Nowak — the very editions Krostvedt calls into question. So now, I ask myself, where do I go for my authentic Bruckner fix? And given the rage for the Urtexte that has ruled Bruckner performance since at least the 1960s, are there any recordings of the earlier published editions left in the catolog? Just how much more shopping and expense will Korstvedt's new scholarly fashion require?

No comments: