Bruckner never completed Symphony No. 9. The composer died in 1896, while he was working on the last movement. The finale was nearly finished, but he struggled very much to conclude it. Several months prior to his death, he had written a countless number of sketches for the last movement of the more-than-one-hour long symphony. He, however, was never able to organize fragmental ideas into a coherent format, especially for the last portion of the movement. Bruckner eventually realized that he had become physically too weak to continue writing the finale. He then had an idea that his Te Deum, a sacred choral work Bruckner had composed in the mid-1880’s, could be used to conclude the symphony when the work is performed in a concert. The composer began creating a section that would bind the incomplete symphony and the religious piece. It became apparent to Bruckner, however, that the idea was not practical, and the project was soon abandoned. When Symphony No. 9 was published by Ferdinand Löwe in 1903, the year the work premiered under Löwe’s direction in Vienna, it consisted only of three movements.
Bruckner never received formal training in writing orchestra music in his childhood nor did he grow up in surroundings where he could expose himself to the grand repertoire of a variety of symphonic compositions of the masters of the Romantic Era. He was instead educated at religious establishments to become a school teacher. Despite the circumstances Bruckner developed strong interests in composing music and wrote a few organ pieces while he was still a teenager. In his early twenties he began creating a large number of religious choral pieces. Bruckner, however, waited for a while to compose a large-scale symphonic work. It was not until the mid-1860’s that Bruckner completed the first version of his Symphony No. 1. He was then already over forty-years old.
Bruckner’s instrumentation of Symphony No. 9 is rather conservative. It calls for three each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons with eight French horns (of which four double on Wagner tubas), three trumpets, three trombones, contrabass tuba, a set of timpani, and strings. Except for the Wagner tubas, which create a heavenly atmosphere at the end of the symphony, the composer employs no unusual or peculiar instruments.
Symphony No. 9 is a very long composition. The first movement alone takes approximately thirty minutes. The tempo indication there—Feierlich, misterioso (solemn, in a mysterious manner)—reflects its dignified mood. The second movement is a scherzo and shows some influence of Beethoven’s ultra-fast rhythmically tricky music in triple meter. The Symphony ends with a glorious slow movement.