In the next five years I did a great deal of work on the symphony, spending a sabbatical in Vienna, St. Florian, and Kremsmünster working on the sources. The scores, 19474 and three copy scores, are all preserved at Vienna except for some detached leaves at the abbey of Kremsmünster, but an extensive set of manuscript orchestral parts for the Second is in the library of the convent of St. Florian where Bruckner spent so much happy time throughout his life. These parts were copied in 1872, and became the materials for the performances of 1873 and 1876 under Bruckner’s direction. As is shown later in this discussion, 19474 could not have been the score from which these parts were copied; there must at one time have been an earlier composition score which the copyist used. Judging from other composition scores of Bruckner’s, this score, unknown today, was almost certainly much messier than the generally neat 19474; perhaps it was discarded when Bruckner moved into the Belvedere in 1895. Thus the unaltered regions of the orchestral parts became the best evidence for the content of the original composition score, and the prime sources for the early version became not only 19474, but also the manuscript orchestral parts which had not been closely studied by either Haas or Nowak. As I sat in the old music collection high atop the Albertina in Vienna, and in the grand and peaceful Room 13 at St. Florian, one misconception about this symphony after another fell away, and little by little, the history of the symphony emerged. And it was very different from what had been presented to the public. Indeed one of the main reasons for that was a serious and clumsy mis-sequencing of the scores by Haas, as seen in his work. I still remember the amazement I felt when I realized that had happened, and that everything was different from what Bruckner enthusiasts had thought for decades.
Through my research I was able to determine with almost complete accuracy the state of each movement of the symphony at its first conception in 1872, at the unproductive rehearsal later in 1872, at the first performance in 1873, at the second performance in 1876, after a revision to the second movement carried out immediately after the 1876 performance, after the revision of 1877, and at the publication of 1892 which was followed by further performances. I was eventually asked by Hofrat Nowak and by Dr. Herbert Vogg of the Musicological Press of the International Bruckner Society to prepare two versions of the symphony, an early one and a late one. It seemed that the best thing was to provide two versions which represented the true beginning and the true end point of Bruckner’s involvement with this attractive and vigorous composition. However, there were several problems. It has been customary in the Collected Edition to use only manuscript sources, although Nowak went against that idea in a few places, particularly with the utterly essential ritardando markings in the finale of the Seventh. I kept an open mind on this topic, and it became clear through manuscript evidence that Bruckner was deeply invested in the preparation of the print, just as he was with the first printing of the Fourth. Corrections seem to have been quietly made for the print in the galleys, which sadly do not survive. However many of these important corrections were not entered in the error-laden scores later used by Haas and Nowak for their editions. One of the most important and essential corrections was the repair of an omission of a measure near the end of the finale, which was re-entered as a paste-over in the Stichvorlage, Mus.Hs. 6035, a copy score originally dating from 1872 but heavily modified in 1877, with Bruckner’s own aged (1892) hand on the original paper behind it stating “Ein Takt fehlt.” Reflecting the reservation that many people still feel against the first published editions, I kept the date of 1877 for my new score of the late version, but provided in it as extras the important variants of 1892, particularly the extended ending of the first movement and the sonorous rescoring of the last measures of the finale. Thus the late version of the symphony, under my editorship, took shape with the inclusion of Bruckner’s very last, or nearly last, thoughts.
The early version required a completely different kind of thinking. It was particularly important not to invade the process of composition–instead, to distinguish operationally between composition and revision. Here the parts were an important guide; each one of the 35 parts reflected individually in its revisions, overwritings, blottings, scrapings, gougings, paste-overs, rebindings, and wholesale deletions, the entire history of the symphony from 1872 to 1877. The first three movements were copied during the composition of the symphony, being finished just as the finale neared completion. Then, perhaps at a later date, the finale parts were copied. During the copying of the first three movements, the order was Kopfsatz-Scherzo-Adagio in each part, as they are labeled. It is clear that this was the order of the first conception of the symphony, not just an artificial sequencing of composition. When the Finale was completed at a time later in 1872 and then added to the parts, the movements in the parts were reshuffled so that they were in the order Kopfsatz-Adagio-Scherzo-Finale. At that same time, two other changes were made, a difficult-to-hear revision in some wind passages in the first movement, and a change in the figuration of the first violins in part 5 of the Adagio from groups of six to groups of five. (These were not the same groups of five as are present in the versions of 1877 and 1892.) A bit later, the horn was removed from the end of the Adagio and the clarinet and violas were substituted for it; this was done by the copyist Carda in time for the 1873 performance. Other changes for 1873 included a violin solo and intensified wind parts in part 5 of the Adagio, a new, shorter passage (labeled in manuscript “Neuer Satz”) to replace some of the most interesting writing in the development of the Finale, and a cut near the end. Every one of these 1873 changes reflects the heavy hand of revision. Except for the violin solo and its accompanying wind enhancements, each one represents a retreat from a bold, fresh concept, in which Bruckner was beginning to formulate his new, Viennese, way of doing things. Nonetheless, in 1990 and early in 1991, I felt that it would be a good idea to make these variants easily accessible to performers so that the edition would have the widest scope possible.