Anton Bruckner
Symphony No.5 Adagio:

Arranged by Randall Malmstrom

2 alto, 4 tenor, 2 bass trombones

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Publisher: Cherry Classics Music
Date of Publication: 2020

Score and parts


Written between the years of 1875–6, Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No.5 WAB 105 was written during a period of personal crisis for the composer. It has appropriately carried nicknames “Tragic” and “Church of Faith,” although Bruckner frequently referred to it as “Fantastic.” The dramatic Adagio second movement from this symphony lasts 20 minutes when played in its entirety. Randall Malmstrom’s arrangement only includes sections from the string chorale and the final phrases of the movement. Even though it is only composed of excerpts, this music is still powerful and moving—certainly worthy of performance in its own right.

Written for eight part trombone ensemble, Malmstrom’s transcription is scored for two alto, four tenor, and two bass trombones. While it might be possible to cover the second alto and first bass parts on tenor trombone, the outermost parts demand alto and bass trombones. The highest alto part contains e-flat² and hangs consistently above the alto clef, while the lowest bass trombone part is written down to DD and lives mostly below the bass clef. Each of the parts are contrapuntally independent for the majority of the excerpt. While this creates a beautiful textural complexity, it will likely challenge balance and intonation in less experienced ensembles.

Even though this might not be the most accessible Bruckner transcription for trombone choir due to its range and instrumentation demands, Adagio gives trombonists an opportunity to play one of the more harmonically intense passages in all of Bruckner’s orchestral repertoire. This music is gorgeous, at times mysterious, and always sublime. Randall Malmstrom’s transcription does not disappoint.


—Greg Strohman
Dickinson College

Reviewer: Greg Strohman
Review Published November 29, 2020