In the first movement there are a number of detail changes, including the deletion of the trumpets in a certain passage which might have stemmed from an offhand comment in one of Levi’s letters. But the major change is the introduction of the bizarre, sparsely-scored music of 6041 in the development. We know that the orchestration is complete because there are rests (or the word “tacet”) in every measure not occupied with music. But it shows that the emotional undertones of this composition are very profound and quite mysterious.
It is notable that there is no suggestion in 6083 that the loud ending of this movement should be deleted, as was eventually done for 1890. For the scherzo, the penciled changes bring it about halfway from 1887 to the state of 1890, including the key change near the beginning from the original E flat major to G flat major or E flat minor of 1890, but the trio still has a beginning unambiguously in A flat major, and the harps are not yet present.
The revisions to the Adagio begin as early as the end of part 1 of the five-part form, where a solo for the first horn, greatly expanded from 1887 and close to 1890, leads to the beautiful melody of part 2. Then in the meditative passage after the climax of part 3, four measures were deleted, eliminating a series of repetitions, but the tuben chorale and the harps are still present, not yet removed as in 1890. Later in part 4, four, then six measures are cut, and the concluding passage of 16 measures is the version of 1890 with the eerie pizzicatos. But the major distinguishing features of the intermediate Adagio are in part 5, where the buildup to the principal climax has been completely reworked. Particularly, six measures before the first cymbal clash, there is a passage for the unaccompanied four horns totally unlike anything in any other source. After that, the great cymbal-clash chords have been moved into the E flat major and C flat major retained in 1890, away from the C major and A flat major of 1887, and there are only two cymbal clashes, not six. After that, the three versions are similar, though the 1890 revision, late in the coda, pointed out by Nowak in his preface to the 1887 edition, was already made in 1888. It hardly needs to be said that in all these revisions, the arbitrarily-mixed 1939 version of Haas is shown to be invalid.
As for the finale, two major changes which seem to be early were made in the 1887 score for the intermediate version. One was the new shorter, more dramatic first-violin passage near the end of the second theme, details being given in Dr. Gault’s fine treatise, “The New Bruckner”, and the other was a shortening and rescoring of the leadup to the final climax in the first theme group in the recapitulation. The metronome markings which are so important are of course present, but the essential ritardandos at the central climax of the recapitulation, reminiscent of the finale of the Seventh, are not present, and indeed would not be until the first printing of 1892.
This account of the Eighth was founded on individual, possibly non-contemporaneous manuscripts rather than one complete copy as in the 1866 version of the First or the 1874 version of the Third heard at Ebrach last year. Thus it will always have to be regarded as experimental, not on the same editorial level as the firmly-established manuscript versions of 1887 and 1890 and the printed version of 1892. But in it we have a fascinating view of the work-in-progress of Bruckner the eternal reviser, looking for the most expressive realization of his lofty thoughts and melodic inspiration. And the intermediate Adagio, where we are using the score edited by Gault and Kawasaki without any changes, is a jewel. Hornplayers will want to stand up and cheer!