Second Symphony Studies

Research on the first expression of Bruckner’s mature Vienna style

William Carragan
Contributing Editor, Anton Bruckner Collected Edition, Vienna
Vice-President, Bruckner Society of America


The Second Symphony, begun in 1871 but mostly written in the summer of 1872, represents a breakthrough in Bruckner’s conception of the symphony. Although he had been composing sonata-form movements with three distinct themes since he began writing symphonies in 1862, in 1872 he greatly expanded the scope of their presentation and development, and established the framework which he used consistently in all of his subsequent symphonic work. In 1986 I was entrusted by Leopold Nowak with the preparation of a new edition of this symphony, intended to replace his own score published in 1965, and thus also the earlier score edited by Robert Haas and published in 1938. Over the years, I have pursued many interesting lines of inquiry about this piece, and these papers are the result of some of that work.

Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2

In 2007 Riccardo Chailly directed the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestrea in three performances of the Second, two in the new Gewandhaus hall itself, and the third in the Brucknerhaus in Linz. Maestro Chailly graciously invited me to be present, and indeed I was able to hear all the rehearsals, after which we had many pleasant and productive discussions. It was a great experience, and here are the program notes I wrote for the occasion.

The Early Version of the Second Symphony

In 1994 Timothy Jackson organized a Bruckner conference at Connecticut College in New London. There were many participants, and I was asked to give a presentation on my methods and discoveries in my research for the new edition of the Second. At that time, before the public there was only the Eichhorn performances of the 1872 version and the variant of 1873, and there was much to say about the symphony to a curious audience. This paper was eventually published in Persepectives on Anton Bruckner, Ashgate, 2001, and here by permission of the editors is a slightly revised and expanded version.

Notes on Editing Bruckner’s Second Symphony

In 2009, Ken Ward, the editor of The Bruckner Journal, received some questions about the new edition and asked me to answer them. I did that by writing a new paper in which all the matters that had been brought up were discussed. Of course much more could be said! I am now working an a new paper for the Journal in which I am making a comprehensive study of the approximately 200 recordings of the symphony in my collection, spanning almost 80 years starting in 1938. That paper will appear in due course in this spot as well. Until then, I am very interested in your reactions and comments!