recently acquired a box set of Schubert’s ten symphonies. Yes that’s right, ten
symphonies. I only got the set because I still admire Neville Marriner’s
performances with the Academy of St Martins in the Fields. However, it has been
fascinating to hear Brian Newbould’s completion of number eight, and his
‘realisation’ of numbers seven and ten. The set even includes completions and
orchestrations of two symphonic fragments. www.deccaclassics.com
have also just purchased Dutton’s new recording of Moeran’s sketches for his
Symphony No.2 realised and completed by Martin Yeates. www.duttonvocalion.co.uk As a lover of British music this was a must
but it did start me thinking about the whole difficult issue of such
course this is nothing new. We only have to look at the symphonies of various
composers that have been subjected to this treatment over the years. Following
on from Schubert, there’s Bruckner’s Eighth, Mahler’s Tenth, Elgar’s Third,
Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth and, recently Allan Pettersson’s First. And these are
just those that come immediately to mind.
leaving out operatic works such as Mussorsky’s Khovanshchina and Sorochintsy
Fair and Puccini’s Turandot and just thinking of symphonic works.
should we start ‘tinkering’ with these works? It’s probably a bit late to stop
the trend now but it’s worth thinking about what we hope to gain from such
‘completions’. Nobody these days would even question Franco Alfano’s completion
of Turandot. Likewise, although others have attempted it, Sussmayr’s completion
of Mozart’s Requiem is regularly performed.
commentators are extremely sniffy about the completion of any unfinished work
but they have usually the advantage of access to the manuscript or sketches, not
to mention superior sight reading capabilities. For the rest of us mere mortals
these works are completely closed to us.
me the issue revolves around how much the composer actually left to be worked
on and, of course the skill of the person undertaking the completion. It is now
generally well accepted that Anthony Payne’s ‘elaborations’ of the sketches for
Elgar’s Third Symphony are beautifully done and the work has entered into the
repertoire. Even a recording of the complete Elgar symphonies now seems to
always include the third. But not all of what you hear is Elgar even though Sir
Andrew Davis, who gave the first performance and made the first recording www.nmcrec.co.uk, could not always
tell which was Elgar and which was Payne.
it is important to know just what you are listening to. Mahler’s Tenth is well
documented to show just what Deryck Cooke and others had to work on. In the
case of Mahler’s Tenth, the first and second movements were complete with the
remaining movements sketched in short score with indications as to
orchestration. That’s certainly more than Anthony Payne had to work on.
Bruckner’s Ninth seems to be stuck with just the three completed movements
performed despite an interesting reconstruction of the finale by a series of
people (Samale, Phillips, Cohrs and Mazzuca). This completion is not so bad as
it seems, given that Bruckner appears to have worked very methodically setting
his short score in bifolios of four bars per page, giving a surprisingly near
to complete work excepting the orchestration. Naxos has a recording of this
completion which is worth hearing www.naxos.com
course Bruckner’s favoured solution, given that he had doubts that he would be able
to finish the finale, was to use his Te Deum in its place. I’d never heard of a
performance like this until reading Ivan Hewett’s review in the Daily Telegraph
of a concert at the Festival Hall on 4th February 2012 with the LPO
and chorus conducted by Yannick Nezet-Seguin. Although glad to have heard such
a performance, Ivan Hewett had reservations over the joyous affirmation of the
Te Deum coming after the ‘resigned spaciousness’ of the third movement.
Schnittke’s Ninth symphony, left incomplete at his death, left Alexander
Raskatov a formidable task given that the sick composer’s sketches were far
from neat and tidy. Whether the result is anywhere near what Schnittke intended
is extremely difficult to tell from listening to it. It certainly seems very
different from the composer’s other works. www.bis.se
doubt whether many people will be familiar with the symphonies of Allan
Pettersson. If you are, then you will be aware that the cycle of available
symphonies has, until now, started at number two. This was not because
Pettersson had so much withdrawn his first symphony but that he was still
working on it at his death. Christian Lindberg has taken the novel approach in
making a ‘performing edition’ without adding anything extra. Not even any extra
orchestration. This enables the listener to hear what the composer had written
up to that point. It makes for a fascinating listen though not as a completed
leads me to Moeran’s Second Symphony which I was looking forward immensely to
have, over the last few years, done a tremendous amount for British music,
taking on in many ways the mantle of Lyrita. This new issue draws on the
sketches Moeran left after his death in 1950. There was talk of a full score in
existence but the only manuscript that has been found are the sketches given to
the University of Melbourne by his widow, the cellist, Peers Coetmore.
had worked on the symphony for over a decade and had recurring doubts as to its
quality and whether or not it was an advance over his second symphony. Ill
health and treatment for alcoholism did not help.
is no doubt that Martin Yates has done a tremendous service to British music in
bringing the sketches to a performable state. This is a four movement work
lasting thirty three minutes. The way the movements are linked suggests that
Moeran was thinking of a one movement work such as Sibelius’ seventh.
first movement allegro has much of the feel of the composer’s first symphony
with a sweeping melody evoking Moeran’s favourite landscape, that of Ireland.
The bracing second movement is an allegro vivace and at just over five minutes
has a greater conciseness. The beautiful adagietto is the longest movement and
has all the typical Moeran fingerprints. As beautiful as the third movement is,
one cannot help wondering what Moeran would have made of it had he lived to
complete the work.
biggest problem is with the last movement. Marked allegro vigoroso e poco
maestoso it draws on very little original material. Whilst the ideas for the first
three movements were fairly clear, Martin Yates tells us that Moeran left no
clear intention as to what he had intended as a finale and had to draw on
fragments of sketches on the back of pages of the sketches to construct this
movement. Given the circumstances this is a remarkable achievement but, for me,
it is the weakest part of the completion.
tremendously grateful that Martin Yates and Dutton have allowed us to hear what
exists of the work but it still remains a tantalising thought as to what Moeran
might have achieved had his health permitted. Moeran’s friend Lionel Hill spoke
of the composer playing ‘his new symphony to me on the piano. I can still see
the short score in his neat pencil notation…’ I wonder if this short score will
turn up one day?
is an interesting online article by Fabian Huss on Journal of the Society for
Musicology in Ireland website
this disc Martin Yates also gives us his orchestration of John Ireland’s piano
piece of 1940/41 Sarnia as well as Moeran’s Overture for a Festival
orchestrated by Rodney Newton. No lover of British music will want to miss this
where does this leave my original thoughts? Given the pleasure that all of the
performing editions, completions or realisations have given, I am firmly in
favour, so long as listeners remember that these are not the finished works of
the composer. Sadly those works are lost for ever…unless a manuscript
miraculously turns up.