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Anton Bruckner: Symphonies in F minor "Study Symphony" "No. 00" & in D minor "No. 0"
The Aachen Symphony Orchestra, Marcus Bosch (conductor)
Recorded at St. Michael's, Aachen (May 26 & 28, 2012) - 77'53
Booklet in German and English Coviello Classics COV 31315

In his years as General Music Director (2002-2012) at Aachen Marcus Bosch guided the orchestra through a complete Anton Bruckner symphony cycle. All have been recorded and are available in a box set. This live recording, made at the church of St. Michael in Aachen in 2012, wrapped up the series.

Brucknerites and others are probably aware that he composed a Symphony No. 0 and assumed that it was perhaps a juvenile effort of archival interest only. Not so. It actually followed his Symphony No. 1 and was composed when Bruckner was 45. He laid it aside (writing a crossed out “0" on the front) and never used the material in any subsequent work. It is rather an oddity as the opening movement lacks a first theme (the booklet notes contain an explanation).

But what of Symphony No. 00? This truly is a rarity and deserves to be called the equivalent of an undergraduate final project - thus it is also known as the “study symphony”. We must keep in mind that Bruckner completed his lessons in composition at the age of 37 (he is surely classical music’s ultimate late starter). He had hopes for the work and offered it for performance - but without results, so it was laid aside. A short time later he composed his first symphony and the Bruckner we now revere was revealed to a largely uncomprehending world.

These are very fine performances given state-of-the-art recordings. The study symphony (which wasn't published until 1973)gives no indication of the distinctive Bruckner output to follow; I would have guessed it was a previously unknown work of Robert Schumann. Bosch leads a well-shaped performance. He gives the “annulled” symphony the full treatment, with the distinctive harmonies, structure, blocks of sound, and mystic moments. If it lacks the grandeur of later works, one can hear that the journey toward them is well on its way.

This recording is highly recommended for dedicated Brucknerites. Those wanting to explore the byways of 19th Century romanticism will also relish it. For those new or newish to Bruckner, the more realized later works (from the third symphony on) are probably the place to start. But don’t overlook No. 0.

I notice that the 2014 Salzburg Festival is presenting a Bruckner Cycle in nine programs over five weeks - very tempting for a Brucknerite. Unfortunately the cycle omits both these symphonies. I can understand omitting the 00 - it really is just a footnote to Bruckner’s great creations. But Die Nullte surely belongs in the canon, as this fine recording demonstrates.

Michael Johnson




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