Thus the symphony was created within a very short period, almost entirely during the summer of 1872. There are no surviving preliminary sketches, except for a very short fragment written on the back of the 1869 short-score sketch for a symphony in B flat which the composer abandoned (Wn Mus. Hs. 6018). The Second Symphony sketch is dated 1870. In fact, there is evidence in Bruckner’s working score, Mus. Hs. 19474, that it itself is here and there a filled-out orchestral sketch.6 The first three movements, in the order First movement-Scherzo-Adagio, were thus completed in Vienna, and the Finale was sketched there as well. Then, sometime between August 4 and August 10, Bruckner went to Upper Austria, taking the manuscript with him, and there completed the Finale.
Now the folded sheets of the working score were not the only things he took with him. He also took a partially finished copy score, which had been prepared by the Viennese copyist Tenschert, and with it a sufficient supply of the hand-ruled manuscript paper that Tenschert had been using for the score to be completed. Tenschert had copied the opening movement and Scherzo, and the Adagio as far as measure 149, and perhaps straight through to the end of the movement. However, we do not now have the concluding pages of any form of the Adagio in Tenschert’s hand, if indeed they ever existed. His name is known in the Second Symphony only through his signature at the end of the Scherzo, “Tenschert copist“. But he is also known to have copied two of the orchestral parts of the Mass in F Minor, in association with Franz Hlawaczek.7
The manuscript as we now know it was completed by a different copyist, Carda (apparently pronounced “Tscharda”), who placed his signature at the end of the score, “Linz 1872 Carda”. The great bulk of this copy score, begun by Tenschert and completed by Carda, is also in the Austrian National Library, where it is catalogued as Mus. Hs. 6035. But some of its pages became separated from it during revision, and are now in another bundle in the Austrian National Library, Mus. Hs. 6060; still more are at Kremsmünster Abbey in Upper Austria. Yet thirty-five more separated leaves were in private possession in 1938. Haas examined these leaves carefully and described them rather fully in the critical report to his edition, but he did not keep a record of where they were, and their present location is unknown. Furthermore, there were at least thirty more pages that had already disappeared by Haas’s time. Perhaps Haas did not suspect the loss because he had not systematically reconstructed the original state of the first copy score in his 1938 study of the symphony.
Carda was also the chief copyist for the parts, and it seems that their preparation was the next phase of the project. Carda almost certainly stayed in Linz as long as Bruckner was there, and four other copyists helped him with the string parts. This was in preparation for a planned rehearsal of the symphony by the Vienna Philharmonic under Otto Dessoff. The rehearsal did not lead to a performance, however, owing to the hostility of Dessoff, who thought the work “nonsense” (“Unsinn”) and impossible to perform, as well as opposition from a sufficient number of players.8 As the rehearsal progressed, however, many of the players became enthusiastic and applauded, among them the cellist David Popper. Other people were also present, including Franz Liszt, who was completely charmed (“ganz entzückt”) by the symphony. But Dessoff remained entrenched in his opposition. Nevertheless, a year later, on October 26, 1873, a performance by that orchestra did occur, under Bruckner’s direction rather than Dessoff’s, and it is pleasant to report that the whole orchestra had by that time become quite enthusiastic about the symphony. Even the reviews were by and large favorable, particularly mentioning Bruckner as a good conductor.9 Carda seems on manuscript evidence to have been working closely with Bruckner, entering various changes into the parts to make them ready for the performance. A second performance was arranged for February 20, 1876, and on that occasion another copyist entered some additional changes. Finally, starting later in 1876 or in 1877, both copy scores and the parts were extensively revised by two more copyists in preparation for a third performance to be under the direction of Johann Herbeck. But that performance did not take place, and the manuscript parts were never again used.
Before going on, it is interesting to note that several of the wind parts are labeled “Symphony no. 3 in C minor”. This shows that at least for a while Bruckner contemplated admitting the “Nullte” Symphony to the numbered canon as his second.10 But the string parts, which seem to have been made a little later than the wind parts, bear no number at all, and in several of the cases where “no. 3” was indicated, a correction to “no. 2” was made in pencil, possibly as late as the premiere in October 1873. Perhaps Bruckner felt that the new symphony was so much larger and grander in scope than its predecessor, that it would be better to regard the D minor symphony as a sort of second Study Symphony, and not give it a regular number.
Most of the parts of the Second have survived to the present day. Of these, the string parts comprise one first violin, four second violins, four violas, five cellos, and four basses; all the woodwind and brass parts exist as well, the only missing voice being the timpani. Except in one case, the extant parts were the work of Carda at least up through measure 149 of the Adagio, very clearly in the order First movement-Scherzo-Adagio. There is abundant evidence in the first three movements that the copy score of Tenschert, not the holograph, was used as the basis for the parts.11
Sometime in the late summer or early fall of 1872, a very peculiar thing happened: every one of the parts was cut apart and rearranged in the order First movement-Adagio-Scherzo. The evidence from the parts that this was done before the Finale was copied into them is absolutely conclusive. Tenschert’s copy score was also rearranged at this time, but there is no evidence to indicate whether the Finale was already copied, since the Finale begins with a new signature of music paper. However, these events took place over a short period of time – from 11 September to sometime in October when the symphony was rehearsed by the Vienna Philharmonic under Otto Dessoff – and the indication that the symphony was never played with the Scherzo preceding the Adagio is compelling (always assuming that the whole symphony was ready to be played at the rehearsal). Nonetheless, the fact that the Scherzo was composed before the Adagio, and further, that in that order, the last note of each movement is the first important note in the next, plead strongly for the earlier order. All through the months of composition, Bruckner conceived of the Scherzo as preceding the Adagio; only in that sequence can we be reasonably sure that we are hearing Bruckner’s own conception without any influence from other people such as Herbeck. Accordingly, the first-concept version, considered as the “version of 1872”, will be published with the inner movements in the earlier order, Scherzo-Adagio, with the statement that the “variant of 1873”, representing the symphony as somewhat altered for the première, requires the middle movements to be played in the order Adagio-Scherzo. One may conjecture that Bruckner changed the effective and logical order of 1872 – in which the last note of each movement is the first important note of the next – in order to avoid the accusation of copying the movement order of Beethoven’s Ninth. Indeed, several of the 1873 reviewers mentioned the similarity of the two symphonies, and they had heard Bruckner’s symphony only in the altered order, with the Scherzo third!12
This phase of the work on the Second Symphony continued with the completion of the parts. Carda finished all the wind parts, and some of the string parts, but for the other string parts assistant copyists were employed. They took up their work at measure 150 of the Adagio, appending their personal flourishes at the ends of the movements; one helper, Cervenka, also signed his work. Carda’s own signature appears, under his graceful and distinctive flourish, only at the ends of three of the parts, but the same flourish without his name occurs very frequently throughout the parts that he copied.
Finally, Carda made another complete copy score, most of which now comprises Wn Mus. Hs. 6034, with separated pages preserved in Wn Mus. Hs. 6059 and at Stift Kremsmünster (Kr Regenterei 56,8). This copy is written on different paper with smaller staves, and Carda’s handwriting looks a little different, which may account for the fact that Haas did not realize that Carda copied the finale in both manuscripts. The final page, now separated from the main manuscript and preserved in Mus. Hs. 6059, bears merely the inscription “Linz 1872”; but the identification of the copyist as Carda, considering the other signed score and the parts, can be considered absolute. Yet a third copy score, now in the City and Provincial Library of Vienna as Wst M.H. 6781, derives from Mus. Hs. 6035 in its final revision. It was probably copied in 1877, certainly by 1884, and bears a dedication page to Franz Liszt.