In the entire musical canon there are a handful of truly colossal unfinished works which dedicated musicologists have then pored over for years of scholarship in a bid to complete in their master's image. The late Deryck Cooke laboured long and hard to bring his magnificent performing version of Mahler's 10th Symphony to fruition. Similarly, Friedrich Cerha put in an equally heroic effort to complete Act III of Berg's opera Lulu. In both those instances, the composers had "sketched out" the terrain left to fill in, though there can be little doubt that both Cooke and Cerha virtually had to programme themselves to think like Mahler and Berg in order to undertake their daunting tasks.
And yet the story seems somewhat different in the case of another titanic unfinished opus - Bruckner's 9th and last symphony. No less than a notable triumvirate of eminent Bruckner scholars has recently produced a working version of the 9th Symphony's missing final movement. Still, so far at least, their efforts have not been acknowledged in the concert hall. In the case of Bruckner's 9th, it seems that it is destined to be performed as an extant three-movement work. And what three movements they are - a vast opening sonata form, a pulsating Scherzo and then a transcendental Adagio.
Substantial sketches for a finale were made, but it is generally thought that they do not convey what Bruckner might ultimately have intended, especially as the vital coda section is almost entirely missing. How better, then, than for the spiritual Bruckner to leave the world than with that haunting Adagio as his swansong? Yet, for the conductor of the 9th, what a challenge, too. For, in that third movement, he simultaneously has to convey both Adagio, and by inference, Finale in one single sweep. Can it be done? Find out by taking a place in what should be an expectant Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday evening.
EYE ON THE NEW
A very different Proms experience is offered in the Albert Hall in a late-night Prom at 10pm on 23 July. The performers are the dynamic percussion group, Ensemble Bash, joined by the no less virtuoso pianist, Joanna MacGregor. Miss MacGregor plays excerpts from John Cage's bizarre Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano. Meanwhile, traditional drumming frames a programme which also includes Steve Reich's Music for Pieces of Wood and the London premiere of the eclectic Django Bates's The Catering Trade.
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