Bruckner is one of my favorite composers. I have recorded all of his symphonies and I love performing them with the great and unique, deep sound of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Unfortunately, it’s been a long time since we performed Bruckner here together because of the pandemic. It will feel so good to go back to the distinctive sound world of this composer with his masterpiece, the Ninth Symphony.
The Ninth Symphony is unfinished; three movements have been completed and the fourth movement exists in sketches. Sometimes it’s interesting to play those sketches as reconstructed. But I’m attached to a more romantic idea. Apparently on his deathbed, Bruckner said that since he could not finish the Ninth Symphony, that his Te Deum should be played as its finale. The Te Deum is a piece that has the same dimensions, four soloists and chorus, as the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Adding it to the Bruckner makes it a choral symphony. I like this idea but I decided to also include the chorus at the very beginning of the concert, singing one of the wonderful and truly extraordinary motets Bruckner composed for a cappella chorus. Those are some of his best works and we rarely get to hear them in concert, so I thought of this concept, which I tried many years ago in London to great success and now will do it only for the second time in my life, starting with this Bruckner a cappella motet going directly into the Ninth Symphony, and finishing with the Te Deum. The motet, “Christus factus est,” quotes the Te Deum in some places but also happens to be in the key of D, which is a perfect segue to the Ninth Symphony. That makes a monument out of three of Bruckner’s works. Monumental is a word that we use a lot when talking about Bruckner, because his symphonies are like cathedrals. I do think it’s fitting to have this kind of structure to capture the special spirit of this composer.
Bruckner’s “Christus factus est,” Ninth Symphony, and Te Deum will be performed May 5–6, 2023.
Photo: Todd Rosenberg