Besides the addition of copious tempo alterations, the first publication of the Sixth Symphony is also notorious for its many reorchestrations. A common difference between the Collected Edition and the first publication lies in the tessitura of the first oboe. There are more than twenty-four separate differences between the two scores concerning the first oboe in the first movement alone. In almost all of these cases the first publication lowers the part if Bruckner has written E6, F6, and F#6. Often the first oboe will begin a phrase in a certain octave, and when the editor of the first edition thought it appropriate, he would shift the oboe down an octave, as in mm. 33–34, example 3. However, not all of these changes were as simple as a mere displacement of the first part by an octave. In other cases, the editor of the first publication changes the other parts around the oboe in order to accomplish his goal, for example in mm. 84–86, example 4, the second flute part has been changed as well as the first oboe. The first publication begins in m. 84 by moving the first oboe down an octave, then in 85 having the second flute play what the first oboe originally had. Thus the countermelody is enriched at the expense of the main melody, and instead of having an oboe in each octave, both of the flutes are in the top octave and both of the oboes are in the bottom octave. The orchestration of the first publication is thus less inventive and rich than the original, because having both instruments sounding in different registers provides more variety than simply having two identical instruments play in unison.
Another revision typical of the first publication is to change the instrument with which the oboe is doubling. This often leads to musical lines which are not as simple and direct as what Bruckner originally intended. Where in the Collected Edition the first oboe doubles the first flute in mm. 97–100, the first publication removes the oboes completely in mm. 97–99, example 5, and with a single oboe entering only in m. 100, right before the third theme, leading to some very awkward voice leading. These changes are in sharp contrast to Bruckner’s compositional method, which was always very attentive to accuracy of voice leading. The editor of the first publication seems not as concerned with such matters, as is evidenced by these modifications in the first oboe, as well as in other parts of the score. Note for example the difference in the first and second trombone parts in measure 202: Bruckner cross-stems the two voices to maintain the integrity of the musical line, while the first publication simply exchanges the notes to keep the higher pitch always in the first trombone.
The fourth movement oboe part has also been altered in many of the same ways. In some instances, such as in mm. 37, 53, 89, the first oboe part has been brought down the octave in the first edition to play in unison with the second oboe, whereas in locations such as in mm. 48–49, the second oboe has been brought down the octave from the first oboe; see example 6. Sometimes the editor of the first edition decided to omit the oboes entirely, which is the case in mm. 91 and 116. The case of m. 91 is of particular interest, as it shows that the editor of the first edition tried to temper the high oboe tessitura not only in louder passages, but in softer ones as well, showing that these changes in the first edition were not made in order to increase the amount of volume that the oboe could produce. Rather, it seems that the editor of the first edition believed that the timbre of the oboe in such a high register was not appealing. One of the most striking reorchestrations in the final movement includes the clarinets as well as the oboes. In m. 128 of the Collected Edition, both the clarinets play a quarter note B and have rests for the rest of the measure until their next entrance in the second half of m. 130. In the first edition, however, the clarinets and oboes sustain these notes with a diminuendo to piano. In addition, where the following measures in the Collected Edition have the clarinets and oboes playing in unison in the same octave, the first edition has both instruments playing in octaves. This undoubtebly creates a thicker, less concentrated texture, thereby making a smaller difference between Bruckner’s original fortissimo passage and pianissimo passage. By doing so, the first edition continues to mollify the distinct and startling dynamic changes of the manuscript.
In order to obtain a performer’s perspective on the issue of the tessitura of oboe parts in the Sixth, I consulted Anna Steltenpohl, an oboist in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orpheus Ensemble. In a personal interview I presented the tessitura problem to her, and she told me that in fact the range of the oboe parts in the manuscript and Collected Edition is more or less usual. It was her belief that while an F#6 might be considered on the edge of the expected range of a professional oboe player, one should remember that Stravinsky calls for an A6 in his Pulcinella. Ms. Steltenpohl also said that there is no loss of control, color, or volume when playing the E6, F6, and F#6, and that indeed Bruckner’s music is considered by oboists to be a standard of good idiom.
These first-edition changes in the first oboe part can be seen as an attempt to make the score more accessible, but upon examination seem inferior to the original music created by Bruckner. The manuscript (and thus Collected Edition) range of writing for the oboe is not particular to this symphony, but can be found readily in both the Fifth and Seventh Symphonies which flank it chronologically. In the first movement of the Fifth, Bruckner writes E6 (mm. 85, 471, 472), F6 (mm. 296, 480), and even F#6 (m. 483), and in the Seventh Symphony, there are numerous times that he writes E6 (first movement mm. 29, 37, 102, 144, 259–260, 347, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 433–443) and F6 (mm. 241, 242, 243, 295). The ending of the first movement of the Seventh is perhaps the most telling example, with Bruckner making the first oboe hold an E6 for over 10 measures. The first publication of the Seventh Symphony consistently retains these high oboe notes, and does not try to modify them as was somewhat later done in the first publication of the Sixth. This also is in agreement with Benjamin Korstvedt when he labels the first edition of the Seventh authentic and the Sixth not authentic, while Deryck Cooke, in The Bruckner Problem Simplified (1969), labels all first editions “spurious” which seriously oversimplifies the case.
In the first publication there are other changes in orchestration besides the first oboe part. Some of these changes are not as obtrusive as others. There are numerous instances where the first publication replaces one note in a chord with a different note. The differences can be minimal, and often there seems to be no justifiable explanation (e.g. first movement mm. 38 and 40 in the first bassoon). In other cases, the first edition makes a dramatic difference in the conception of a section, as is the case with the conclusion of the first part of the third theme group, also in the first movement. In both the exposition at measures 109–110 and the recapitulation at measures 293–294, the first publication changes the final measure of a four-measure repetition to add a certain kind of emphasis. To achieve this in the exposition, as shown in example 7, the editor of the first edition both adds and deletes; in measure 110 the four horns impractically play in octaves the music that the upper winds and strings have been playing for the three previous measures, and the bassoons join them, but the other brass lines are removed. Again, the voice leading is quite awkward, especially for the third horn. While Bruckner makes it clear that this bar is to be emphasized more than the others (note the three accent marks in the Collected Edition on the triplet group in the strings that are absent from the previous three measures), the new orchestration of the first publication does not have the elegance of the original conception as shown in the manuscript. In the previous three bars, the lower brass and trumpets provided support to the upper winds and strings in the first half of the bar, and the horns and bassoons provided the same support in the second half of the bar. By making the horns and bassoons play the same line as the winds and strings in the final bar of the pattern and deleting the trumpets and low brass (with the exception of an eighth note on the downbeat), the editor of the first publication has created a sound that is not as inventive and indeed is somewhat clichéed.
One of the best-known peculiarities of the first edition of the Sixth is its repeat of the second half of the trio in the third movement, a marking which is not in the manuscript and thus is left out of the Collected Edition. While the repetition creates a more conventional structure and gives the principal horn player another opportunity to showcase the high “Eroica” E-flat, it again sacrifices the unique for the sake of making the symphony more conventional and presumably more understandable. This third movement, and in particular this trio, is one of Bruckner’s most interesting and enigmatic conceptions, and the omission of the repetition of the trio shows a composer who is secure in his abilities and flexible in his formal conceptions. On the other side of the spectrum, the first edition also suggests two places for a cut, one in the second movement, and one in the finale. In the second movement, it is suggested to cut out the recapitulation of the B theme group, which would result in a lopsided form and a tragic loss of beautiful music. In the finale, the first pianissimo bars of the coda, in F minor, are suggested to be cut, which, among other problems, would result in an ill-placed non-sequitur from the dominant of F major to A major (a problem which the editor says can be avoided with the addition of a “Luftpause”; however, it is clear that this solution is not satisfactory). Both of these potential cuts are harmful to the musical structure, and thankfully it does not seem that the majority of conductors who perform this piece would even consider them.
A curious change in the first publication can be found in the addition of a bit of new composition early in the development of the finale1 . In m. 196, before the strings’ lyrical transformation of the A1 theme in F major, there is an isolated pickup based on the preceding theme of mm. 186-196 in the first oboe. In the Collected Edition, there is nothing but silence; see example 8. Only a further examination of the sources could clarify this discrepancy, but to add such a phrase was well within the capability of Josef Schalk.
While the first publication is replete with dubious reorchestrations, there are two instances in the Collected Edition which also prove to be problematic. The first appears in m. 112 in the first horn, where Bruckner has written on the second beat the following four eighth notes (in concert pitch): B Bb B B, where in the analogous passage in the recapitulation, both flutes play at m. 296 in octaves the following four eighth notes: Db C C Db (Nowak, 1952). This inconsistency is not the fault of either Nowak or Hynais or Schalk (or Haas, for that matter), as the manuscript (Austrian National Library Mus.Hs. 19.478) clearly shows both passages, from which there can be no doubt as to what Bruckner wrote on paper. The distinguished Bruckner conductor Günter Wand was the first to call attention to this difficulty, and in his recording of 1995, he changed the horn passage in the exposition to follow the contour of the flute passage in the recapitulation, see example 9. William Carragan agrees with this change, and believes the manuscript notes to be an uncharacteristic oversight on the part of the composer (Carragan, 2013).
The other problematic area is at the beginning of the recapitulation, in the second clarinet part in m. 215, where the collected edition shows B B B (sounding G# G# G#) on beat 2.5, where the first publication shows B flat B flat B flat (sounding G G G), as shown in example 10. Harmonically, the Collected Edition notes do not fit with the harmony being produced on that beat by the violoncellos. Furthermore, the harmony on beat 2.5 is one that is not found in the simpler scoring of the corresponding measure in the exposition (m. 33), which is much closer to a pure dominant, Bruckner having changed the music at the recapitulation to be more harmonically inventive and urgent. The manuscript supports this notion, which is full of erasures in this section. The manuscript shows in m. 215 small markings above the second clarinet notes in question, which could possibly be construed to represent flat accidentals, which would make the manuscript agree with the first publication and the Collected Edition would be wrong. Whether this problem is the fault of the composer or subsequent editors is irrelevant to the fact that the notes should be rendered as they appear in the first publication, with the second clarinet consistent with the cellos and thus with the rest of the orchestra.