Anton Bruckner

Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, WAB 105

    Description by Michael Jameson

    Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 in B flat stands at the fulcrum of his symphonic output. Among his most intellectually daunting creations, the Fifth has never attained the popularity of the Fourth or Seventh symphonies, and its complexity proved a barrier to performance during the composer's lifetime. It was given only twice, and then never as Bruckner intended.

    As is typical of the composer's works, Bruckner's Fifth was the product of a lengthy gestation. Work began on the great Adagio on February 14, 1875; then came the opening movement and Scherzo, with the monumental Finale reaching completion in May 1877. Even then, however, Bruckner was not satisfied, and he was not finished with his modifications until January 4, 1878. He dedicated the work to Carl von Stremeyr, Austria's enlightened and sympathetic minister for education and culture, who had been instrumental in helping Bruckner secure a professorship at Vienna University.

    This is the only Bruckner symphony to begin with a slow introduction, and the opening motif is heard again at the start of the finale. The devotional atmosphere of the outset leads to an Allegro of raw power; its ostinato dotted- rhythm figure eventually gives way to a more subdued secondary idea, beginning with pizzicato strings. Dialogue between horn and flute heralds the development section, though again the relentlessness of the dotted motif becomes obsessive. It even continues to dominate the colossal coda.

    The oboe begins the languid, deeply eloquent Adagio, against a triplet accompaniment from pizzicato lower strings. The rhythmic connection between this supporting device and the beginning of the first movement Allegro only becomes clear when the second theme arrives, cast in rich, deep harmonies for full strings. As the movement continues, the two thematic groups are reviewed in turn, as Bruckner explores their contrapuntal possibilities to the fullest. Most of the Scherzo's material has already been heard previously in the symphony, and the links with the pizzicato opening of the slow movement, now presented at a much faster tempo and now played arco (with the bow), soon become apparent. The trio section affords effective contrast, and brings a shift in key from D minor to the symphony's home key of B flat.

    Many commentators discuss the influence of the finale of Beethoven's "Choral" Symphony upon the last movement of Bruckner's Fifth, though in fact the resemblances hardly extend beyond the opening of the movement. Whereas Beethoven reviews themes from earlier in his work, and then dismisses them, the germinal thematic idea of Bruckner's finale derives clearly enough from the major themes that have gone before. What follows is an extraordinarily masterful display of contrapuntal skill; this sonata movement also contains an astounding double fugue, though three distinct main ideas are present. The last of these, a nobly expansive chorale for full brass returns to crown the mighty resolution of the symphony, in its unforgettably powerful coda.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Introduction. Adagio - Allegro
    2. Adagio. Sehr langsam
    3. Scherzo. Molto vivace (Schnell) - Trio. Im gleichen Tempo
    4. Finale. Adagio - Allegro moderato

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 BR Klassik BRK 900174
    2018 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 17024
    2018 Gramola 99162
    2018 ATMA Classique ACD 22451
    2018 Sony Classical 88985495052
    2018 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 18048
    2017 Praga Digitals DSD 350114
    2017 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 16059
    2017 Harmonia Mundi HMA 1902011
    2017 SWR Klassik / SWR Music SWR 19043CD
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4796985
    2017 Warner Classics 561986
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295886721
    2017 Naxos 8503293
    2017 Sony Classical 88985483372
    2016 Challenge Classics CC 72702
    2016 MSR Classics MS 1600
    2016 CPO CPO 5550232
    2016 LPO LPO 0090
    2016 Oehms Classics OC 026
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796314
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875173752
    2016 SWR Music SWR 19014CD
    2016 Decca / Philips 4788977
    2015 Oehms Classics OC 689
    2015 Testament SBT 1502
    2015 Oehms Classics OC 025
    2015 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186520
    2014 CPO CPO 777616
    2014 Andromeda ANDRCD 9034
    2014 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 14020
    2014 Naxos 8501205
    2013 Querstand QUESACD 931
    2013 Warner Classics
    2013 Warner Classics 61891
    2013 Entertainment Group 6034
    2013 Oehms Classics OC 090
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791046
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 09025
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    2012 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 09042
    2012 Entertainment Group 4025
    2011 BR Klassik 900711
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779803
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Warner Classics 680225
    2011 Denon Records
    2011 Music & Arts MA 1256
    2010 Music & Arts 538
    2010 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 7776582
    2010 Arte Nova Classics 88697749772
    2010 Teldec 256468022-8
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Chandos 5080
    2010 BR Klassik 900109
    2010 PentaTone Classics 5186351
    2009 Music & Arts MACD1227
    2009 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 902011
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Telarc Distribution 60706
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Telarc Distribution 80706
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 9068
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4777580
    2008 EMI Classics 20943
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 Decca 4753312
    2008 Music & Arts MACD1209
    2008 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2008 Preiser Records 90746
    2007 Andromeda 9010
    2007 Coviello / Coviello Classics 30509
    2007 Andromeda ANDRCD 9008
    2007 Supraphon 39032
    2007 Melodiya 1001103
    2006 Opus KURA 7013
    2006 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 6012
    2006 Elatus
    2006 Decca 442 040-2PB9
    2006 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2006 Haenssler 93140
    2005 Oehms 364
    2005 Berlin Classics 3011
    2005 Naïve V 5000
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 002894775377
    2005 Brilliant 92084
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 RCA Red Seal 60749
    2005 Philips 000530902
    2005 Artone 222604
    2004 Oehms 207
    2004 Rca Red Seal 60395
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 4775136
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon
    2004 Haenssler 93146
    2004 Warner Music 61891
    2004 Orfeo 409048
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000001302
    2003 EMI Classics
    2003 Archipel 0129
    2003 EMI Classics 75862
    2003 Andante 2060
    2002 Philips 4705372
    2002 Living Stage 1003
    2002 Classica d'Oro 1061
    2002 Naxos 501101
    2002 Music & Arts 1105
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 471 294-2GB5
    2001 Arte Nova 85290
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 459663
    2001 Music & Arts 1086
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 469527
    2001 Philips 464693
    2001 Classica d'Oro 1023
    2000 Angel Records / Warner Classics 7243573905
    2000 Arkadia 78534
    1999 Grammofono 2000 78812
    1999 BBC Legends / BBC Music 40332
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 55125
    1999 EMI Classics 56691
    1999 London 448581
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 72661
    1998 EMI Classics 556688
    1998 Telarc Distribution 80509
    1998 Koch Discover International 920430
    1998 Music & Arts 1028
    1997 Golden Melodram 40008
    1997 Naxos 553452
    1997 BMG / RCA Red Seal 09026685032
    1996 Camerata Records CMSE431-442
    1996 Berlin Classics 0092802
    1996 London 448910
    1995 EMI Music Distribution 66750
    1995 Intercord Klassische Diskothek 860907
    1995 Capriccio Records 10609
    1995 Music & Arts 751
    1995 Memories 4582
    1995 Camerata Records 25CM335
    1995 Arlecchino 149
    1994 6w 44
    1992 Orfeo 241911
    1992 Teldec 73271
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48160
    1990 RCA 60075
    1990 RCA 60361
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 63612
    1990 Orfeo 231901
    1989 Deutsche Grammophon 429079
    1980 Tahra 247
    1980 Tahra 162
    Deutsche Grammophon 435321
    EMI Music Distribution 62935
    Deutsche Grammophon 415985
    Russian Compact Disc (RCD) 25005
    London 433318
    Berlin Classics 0011622
    Musica Classica 2001
    Philharmonia of the Nations 23
    Deutsche Grammophon 435332
    Teldec 835785
    Teldec
    CBS Records 45669
    ICONE 9430
    Berlin Classics 0020792
    Lys 108
    London 433819
    Blue Saphir 830872
    Brilliant 92084/5
    Hunt / Hunt Productions 569
    Descant 03
    Masters of the Millennium 2077
    EMI Music Distribution 07243556692
    Russian Revelation 10053
    Phoenix 703
    Musica Classica 2001/2
    Deutsche Grammophon 459666
    Andromeda 2157
    Iron Needle 1369
    Music & Arts 836
    Intaglio 754
    Topazio 260411
    Enterprise 4114
    Disques Montaigne 8770
    Music & Arts 697
    Testament 1365
    Iron Needle 1378