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Alternative Bruckner: Recordings of transcriptions of his symphonies
 by Patrick C Waller

Transcriptions of most of the Bruckner symphonies for piano four hands were made more than a century ago by his friends. In 1921 a transcription of the seventh symphony was made by Hanns Eisler, Karl Rankl and Erwin Stein for clarinet, horn, string quartet, double bass, piano four hands and harmonium. In the second half of the twentieth century the German organist Erwin Horn transcribed some of the works for organ. In recent years other transcriptions have been made (notably the composer Anthony Payne produced a chamber version of the second symphony) and most of the recordings of transcriptions have been made in this century. The purpose of this article is to draw attention to and summarise the recordings of complete* Bruckner symphonies currently available for which the forces specified in the original score(s) were not used (*recordings of single movements or short sections of works are not considered here).

Broadly, the transcriptions fall into three categories: organ, piano four hands and ensemble. In preparing the article I have used as the principal reference source, and I gratefully acknowledge, John Berky’s Bruckner Symphony Versions Discography at abruckner.com. This lists all recorded transcriptions at the end of the list of discs for each symphony. All eleven symphonies have been recorded in a complete transcription at least once. There is a set of ten symphonies (Nos.0-9) for piano four hands by Dino Sequi and Gerhard Hofer, and all the symphonies except the sixth can now be heard complete on the organ. Ensemble recordings are generally lacking for the earlier works but there are no fewer than six complete recordings of the transcription of the seventh symphony alluded to above.

Transcription recordings issued as of June 2022 are summarised in the following table:

 

Symphony Organ Piano four hands Ensemble
       
F minor Transcription made and performed by Rudolf Innig    
D minor Transcription by Erwin Horn performed by Hansjörg Albrecht Transcription by August Stradal performed by Dino Sequi and Gerhard Hofer  
No.1 Transcription by Erwin Horn performed by Hansjörg Albrecht Transcription by Ferdinand Loewe performed by Dino Sequi and Gerhard Hofer  
No.2 Transcription by Erwin Horn performed by Hansjörg Albrecht Transcription by Josef Schalk performed by Dino Sequi and Gerhard Hofer Transcription for Chamber Orchestra by Anthony Payne performed by the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble conducted by Trevor Pinnock
No.3 Transcription made and performed by Ernst-Erich Stender;
Transcription by Erwin Horn performed by Hansjörg Albrecht
Transcription by Gustav Mahler recorded three times  
No.4 Transcription made and performed by Thomas Schmoegner Transcription by Ferdinand Loewe performed by Dino Sequi and Gerhard Hofer;
Transcription of the 1874 version by William Carragan performed by Crawford Howie and William Carragan
 
No.5 Transcription made and performed by Mathias Giesen Transcription by Otto Singer performed by Dino Sequi and Gerhard Hofer Jazz Improvisation performed by the Temporary Art Orchestra conducted by Thomas Mandel
No.6   Transcription by Josef Schalk performed by Dino Sequi and Gerhard Hofer  
No.7 Transcription made and performed by Ernst-Erich Stender;
Transcription performed by Klaus Ludwig
Transcription by Franz and Josef Schalk performed by Dino Sequi and Gerhard Hofer Six recordings of the transcription by Hanns Eisler, Karl Rankl and Erwin Stein;
Jazz Improvisation performed by the Temporary Art Orchestra conducted by Thomas Mandel;
Arrangement by Alan Leighton performed by the Bruckner LC Ensemble conducted by Yutaro Ishihara
No.8 Transcription made and performed by Lionel Rogg Transcription by Josef Schalk performed by Dino Sequi and Gerhard Hofer;
Transcription by Josef Schalk for two pianos performed by Crawford Howie and William Carragan
Transcriptions for four or five electones and electronic percussion by Takeo Noguchi
No.9 Transcription by Eberhard Klotz performed by Thilo Muster;
Transcription made and performed by Gerd Schaller (includes the finale)
Transcription by Josef Schalk and Ferdinand Loewe performed by Dino Sequi and Gerhard Hofer;
Two piano edition by Karl Grunsky performed by Matthiag Giesen and Klaus Laczika, and Till Alexander Koerber and Reinhold Puri-Jobi – the latter recording includes the finale by William Carragan
Transcription for four electones and electronic percussion by Takeo Noguchi



The table above lists what can potentially be heard although some of the recordings may be hard to find (e.g. Takeo Noguchi’s versions of the eighth and ninth). The ten symphony set by Dino Sequi and Gerhard Hofer on the piano can be downloaded from abruckner.com, as can the jazz improvisation recordings of the fifth and seventh symphonies.

Some of the above recordings have been reviewed on MusicWeb International. The chamber version of the second conducted by Trevor Pinnock was appreciated by Dominy Clements. Matthias Giesen’s organ transcription of the fifth was received very positively by Jonathan Welsh. He also accompanies Klaus Laczika in a piano four hand version of the ninth that Ralph Moore found “daring, confident and controversial…”. But there is strong competition from Till Alexander Körber and Reinhold Puri-Jobi according to Jonathan Welsh, and their version also includes the finale. Regarding the chamber transcription of the seventh, Peter Lawson thought it worth investigating as performed by the Thomas Christian Ensemble.

None of the reviews cited above ignores the inevitable losses from downsizing Bruckner but all have good things to say and are generally positive about the experience of listening to transcriptions. My own view favours the organ recordings in general with Hansjörg Albrecht’s first, Giesen’s fifth and Schaller’s ninth (reviewed here by Ralph Moore) being the stand outs to date. On the piano, the Trenkner and Speidel Piano Duo’s recording of the third and Till Alexander Koerber and Reinhold Puri-Jobi’s ninth would be my main recommendations. I can also recommend both the Pinnock second and Thomas Christian Ensemble seventh. One of the first transcriptions I heard was Lionel Rogg’s eighth and, revisiting this recently, I found myself a bit disappointed, particularly in the slow movement. Since Hansjörg Albrecht seems to be in the process of recording a cycle for Oehms in time for the bi-centenary of Brucker’s birth, new recordings of the fourth to the ninth on the organ will hopefully be available soon. It was, after all, Bruckner’s instrument and he wrote surprisingly little for it. Meanwhile, the recordings we have now seem to me to fill an important gap.



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