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Anton Bruckner   WAB 105

Symphony no. 5 in B flat

Symphony in B flat major. 1876. Time: 74'00.
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"Symphony No. 5 in B flat major"
Anton Bruckner.jpg
Dedication Carl von Stremayr
Composed 1875 - 1876
1877 - 1878
Premiere Franz Schalk, 8 April 1894, Graz
First published 1896 (ed. Schalk)
Other editions ed. Robert Haas, 1935
ed. Leopold Nowak, 1951
First recording Karl Böhm, Dresden Staatskapelle, 1937

The Symphony No. 5 in B flat major (WAB 105) of Anton Bruckner was written in 1875–6, with a few minor changes over the next few years. It was first performed in public on two pianos by Joseph Schalk and Franz Zottmann on 20 April 1887 at the Bösendorfersaal in Vienna.[1] The first orchestral performance was conducted by Franz Schalk in Graz on 8 April 1894 (Bruckner was sick and unable to attend: he never heard this symphony performed by an orchestra).[1] It was dedicated to Karl von Stremayr, minister of education in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The symphony is occasionally referred to as the "Tragic," "Church of Faith," or "Pizzicato" symphony.



The symphony was written at a time of much trouble and disillusionment during the composer's life, a court suit (from which he was exonerated), a reduction in salary. It is not outwardly a work of storm and stress, but it is a piece of "working out", one of his most contrapuntally intricate works.

It has four movements:

  1. Introduction (Adagio) — Allegro. B-flat major.
  2. Adagio. Sehr langsam. D minor.
  3. Scherzo. Molto vivace D minor.
  4. Finale (Adagio) — Allegro moderato. B-flat major.

All four movements begin with pizzicato strings, hence the nickname Pizzicato. The pizzicato figures are symmetrical, in the sense that the outer movements share one figure while the inner movements share a different figure.

The work begins with a majestic slow introduction, which progresses into a main movement in sonata form whose opening theme in B-flat hints also at G-flat. Like much of Bruckner's music the exposition of this movement has three main key regions instead of the usual two.

The main material of the slow movement and scherzo are very similar, heard of course at different tempos and launching different developments.

The finale opens in the same way as the first movement, but veers off soon to gradually introduce new material which becomes the source of the themes of the Allegro moderato, another sonata form which contains in its course fugal and chorale sections of elaborate counterpoint.

The symphony is the only one of Bruckner's nine that begins with a slow introduction. However, all the others except the Symphony No. 1 begin with sections that are like introductions "in-tempo", easing into the main material like the opening of Beethoven's Ninth.


1876 version

This earliest version of the score has not survived fully and no recordings have been made of it. Some passages have been reconstructed in a MIDI file [1].

1878 version

This is the version normally performed. It exists in editions by Robert Haas (published 1935) and Leopold Nowak (published 1951) which are almost identical.

1896 first published version (Schalk)

The first published version (which was also the version heard at the work's premiere) was edited by Franz Schalk. It is unclear exactly how much of the difference between the 1878 and 1896 versions was due to Bruckner and how much to Schalk, but it is generally agreed that most of the changes were unapproved by Bruckner and inauthentic. Schalk generally made Bruckner's music sound more Wagnerian, mainly by means of reorchestration. The most obvious differences occur in the coda of the Finale. In the last few pages, Schalk adds triangle and cymbals, and an offstage brass band. Schalk also made several cuts, mostly in the Finale.

The only recordings of this version are by Hans Knappertsbusch, Leon Botstein and Noguchi, together with the recording premiere of the scherzo by Dol Dauber (see Discography below). All other recordings are of 1878 version in either the Haas or Nowak edition.


The symphony requires an instrumentation of one pair each flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, with four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and one tuba along with timpani and strings (the "Wagner tuba", an instrument Wagner used in his operas and which no longer exists in the form originally designed, was not requested by Bruckner until his last few symphonies). Also note that, in its original form, the symphony was scored without a bass tuba. This was added in 1878, at the same time that Bruckner added a tuba to the fourth symphony.


The first commercial recording of part of the symphony was made by Dol Dauber with his salon orchestra in 1928 for HMV. It included only the scherzo, in an arrangement of the Schalk edition.

The first commercial recording of the complete symphony was made by Karl Böhm with the Dresden Staatskapelle in 1937. It, and nearly every subsequent recording, has used either the Haas or Nowak editions.

Norman Lebrecht has singled out Georg Tintner's recording with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on Naxos Records as #92 in his list of the 100 best recordings of the century, and credits it (along with Tintner's other Bruckner recordings) with changing critics' dismissive attitude towards Naxos. It was Tintner's first Bruckner recording and Lebrecht says "It actually sounds as if Tintner had been waiting all of his life to give this performance."[2]

Also noteworthy is Bernard Haitink conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra, studio recording, 1972 (Philips)[3]

Of the recordings of the Schalk version, Leon Botstein's studio recording conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra, released by Telarc in 1998, is the most recent.


  1. ^ a b Harrandt, Andrea; Williamson, trans. John (2004), "Bruckner in Vienna", in Williamson, John, The Cambridge Companion to Bruckner, Cambridge University Press, pp. 33, ISBN 0521008786, 
  2. ^ Norman Lebrecht, "Masterpieces: 100 Milestones of the Recorded Century" The Life and Death of Classical Music. New York: Anchor Books (2007): 266 - 267
  3. ^ Ottaway, Hugh, "Record Reviews: Bruckner Symphony No. 5. Concertgebouw Orchestra/Haitink" (September 1972). The Musical Times, 113 (1555): pp. 874-875.

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Symphony_No._5_(Bruckner)". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.

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