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Uncovered manuscript leads to concert performance

 Dan Bassin

Daniel Bassin with the book containing the transcription of a 1876 manuscript of Anton Bruckner's “Symphonic Prelude in C-minor.” Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

By STEPHANIE CHIAW

Published April 19, 2013

“I had a project that otherwise might have been a passing idea, but thanks to the depth of the Music Library’s collection—and wonderful staff—we are now about to perform an undiscovered work for the first time ever in America.”
Daniel Bassin, Music Director
UB Symphony Orchestra

Daniel Bassin loves UB’s Music Library.

Music director of UB’s Symphony Orchestra, Bassin began exploring the library’s world-class collections when he came to UB three years ago, and now says it’s become one of his favorite spots on campus.

And research Bassin recently conducted in the library, located in Baird Hall, North Campus, contributed greatly to the program the orchestra will perform at its concert next week.

“This is, hands-down, a world-class collection,” Bassin says of the holdings in the Music Library. “I had a project that otherwise might have been a passing idea, but thanks to the depth of the Music Library’s collection—and wonderful staff—we are now about to perform an undiscovered work for the first time ever in America.”

The UB Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bassin, and the UB Chorus, under the director of Harold Rosenbaum, will present a free concert at 7:30 p.m. April 24 featuring the works of Anton Bruckner and Charles Camille Saint-Saës, as well as the Buffalo premiere of Franz Schubert’s “Mass No. 5 in Ab Major.”

But it’s the orchestra’s performance of Bruckner’s “Symphonic Prelude in C-minor” that will be particularly noteworthy for Bassin.

Bassin says he’s always been intrigued by Bruckner, who lived from 1824-96, and his work. “Bruckner spent his compositional maturity writing and subsequently revising extensively his nine large-scale symphonies,” he says.

Bassin went to the Music Library to research a Bruckner work he hoped to feature in a performance of the UB Symphony. To his delight, he found a book containing an 1876 manuscript of the composer’s “Symphonic Prelude in C-minor.”

It wasn’t the original manuscript, however; it was a transcription that Rudolf Krzyzanowski, one of Bruckner’s students, had made.

“The manuscript contained a number of what I would call ‘student’ errors, and one of the challenges was to go through the piece and isolate and categorize those mistakes,” Bassin says. “Sometimes there were obvious slips of the pen and occasionally there were problems with the layout of the score that an inexperienced composition student might make. And there were even a few instances of what I would call ‘youthful exuberance,’ where Krzyzanowski added details to emphasize certain passages in a way that Bruckner never did in his original compositions.

 “Bruckner’s working habits were meticulous, if not obsessive,” he explains. “In fact, in reading through his letters, diary entries and so on—all of which were accessible in published form in the Music Library—I was able to come across a study he made the very same year as this manuscript. In this, a certain orchestral nuance Bruckner found in the music of his predecessors, Mozart and Beethoven, was studied and categorized, and here I found proof, through Bruckner’s private compositional study, that certain passages that I intuitively felt to be problems in the manuscript had originated from his student’s oversight,” he says.

Bassin initially had hoped to program a work by Bruckner to compliment the performance of the Schubert Mass at the April 24 concert—a difficult proposition, he says, since Bruckner’s mature work consisted almost exclusively of monumental, hour-long symphonies.

But finding the undiscovered—and less-than-10-minute-long “Symphonic Prelude”—made this concert pairing “a real possibility,” he says.

The performance will be the U.S. premiere of the piece, and also the first time Bassin has created a performing edition of a Bruckner work.        

Bassin encourages his students to explore the University Libraries. “The collections are only one part of the resource,” he says. “Most important is the library staff, who catalogue and assemble these collections, and whose generous accessibility and expertise perfectly compliment the collections they oversee.

“This university is very lucky,” he says. “These resources are here, just waiting for people to come to realize the most far-reaching projects and research.”

Bassin advises those who are interested in using the Music Library—which is open to all music lovers, not just music majors—to “go in and explore. Find whatever you’re looking for, then grab whatever’s next to it. That’s something you can’t do online,” he notes. “In the library, you get to stumble upon what you didn’t know you were looking for.”

For more details about the UB symphony’s April 24 performance, the orchestra itself or auditions for next semester, contact Bassin at dbassin@buffalo.edu.

READER COMMENT

Most scholars do not believe this work is by Bruckner. Stylistically, it is very different and Bruckner never made any reference to the work, nor did any of his early and contemporary biographers.

The UB performance was not the first in the U.S.  It was performed by Gerhard Samuel and the University of Cincinnati Orchestra several years ago. Also, the original orchestral score for the work has been found, although there were several performances of the work in an orchestration of the piano score prior to the full orchestral score being unearthed. That orchestration was prepared for a performance by the Berlin Radio S.O. in 1981. 

Neeme Jarvi recorded it for Chandos Records. There, it was attributed to Gustav Mahler.

I would like to hear the UB performance. There are several in our archive. It was performed this weekend in Houston, although in that performance it was just "possibly attributed to Bruckner."

John Berky