“God. I’m about to flip my lid with these people.”
As she took her breakfast on the terrace of a Hilton hotel on the banks of the Delaware River, she flung her copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer down onto the table.
I picked it up, opening it to the Arts section.
Something here gave me dejá-vù.
This was far from the first time we’d been through this routine.
Yes, this was familiar by now.
It wasn’t a simple copy-and-paste from God.
I opened the paper.
There, I found the reviews of her concert from the night before.
“This looks excellent, though. You’ve got a perfect storm of rave reviews from every critic… Encore aside.”
“I swear to god, classical music fans have got the hardest heads. Sometimes I just want to smack them together.”
“There’s too many conservative types. Even in America, there’s no escaping them.”
“That’s certainly true!”
Which was exactly why I had tried to talk her out of it…
Last night, after the concert had ended and we had finished our dinner, she and I had spent some time drinking in the hotel bar.
Her favorite red wine, with a plate of bleu cheese drizzled generously with honey on the side.
There, she explained to me the history of the piece.
The three great “B”s of Classical Music were Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.
No one seemed to be of the opinion that Bruckner ought to be added to the group.
Who was Bruckner, anyway? So they said.
“Anton Bruckner was a contemporary of Brahms. He lived in Vienna, like Brahms, but he was an admirer of Wagner, the wild composer from Bayreuth. Neoclassicism was sweeping Vienna at the time, and Bruckner’s unconventional symphonies, which went beyond theories of tonality and playing method, weren’t well understood. He was a master of the organ, but really, everyone just saw him as some unrefined self-educated hick writing weird music. No conductor or orchestra would perform his work, critics were brutal, and his whole life was filled with bitterness.”
“His music certainly isn’t easy listening. I mean… That’s probably why women don’t enjoy it much. The program said that in Bruckner’s time, you couldn’t expect to see women in the audience anywhere in the world.”
“Hmm. Well, I guess.”
“To be frank, it’s not really my cup of tea, either. It feels a bit like, say, a rock had fallen and hit me on the top of the head.”
“A rock, huh?”
“But the third movement of the Ninth is different. It has lovely melodies that are easy to enjoy, as befits the final movement of a posthumous work.”
Yes… Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, in d minor, was his final symphony, and his final work before he died.
When the composer passed away on October 11th of 1896, the fourth movement of this great work was unfinished.
Therefore, all the best-known performances led by famous conductors end with the completed third movement.
The end of that movement is filled with gorgeous, trailing notes, giving the impression of being swept up into the sky.
It’s truly incredible. Not like Beethoven’s Ninth, or the fourth movement of Brahms’s First, which are more like plunging forth with great vigor into heaven.
This is a gentle guidance.
Like a flock of angels have floated down to greet you and take you home.
It makes you think, Ah, it’s over, at last it’s over.
But Bruckner had clear ideas for the fourth movement.
When he composed the work, he had the length of the whole thing determined from the start, and marked the sheet music with corresponding consecutive numbers.
And, even if the full score was incomplete, among these sheets, numbered from start to finish, there must be some notions sketched out.
Until the morning of his final day, he was working away with his pen at his score, his bogen.
Tragically, however, about half of that bogen had gone missing.
Since it was unfinished, some pupil of his had taken it home as a memento, given it to someone, or some garbage collector had carried it off.
As a result, of a bogen that was supposed to have forty pages, around half of them were lost.
“But the Society, and researchers, are still looking for it,” she said. “Word was that part of it had been found in Washington before.”
Her thin, shapely lips touched the rim of her Baccarat glass.
Her pretty pink tongue flicked out briefly.
She was so…
“You were never just in it for the macarons, were you?”
“Hoho! You’ll never know.”
In my slightly tipsy state, I stared more brazenly at her face than usual.
There was self-satisfaction in that grin, but she was gorgeous enough that I forgave her.
As vulgar as she seemed, when it came to anything in the realm of music, she was enormously sharp and sensitive. Truly dangerous if one let one’s guard down.
Around 1980, researchers discovered a fair portion of the lost fourth movement of Bruckner’s Ninth. A part of it was still missing, and there were many blank passages, but that didn’t mean there was no possible way of completing it.
In all of Bruckner’s symphonies, the first movement took the sonata form, the second was gentle and quiet, the third a scherzo and trio, and the fourth was another sonata. They all were made up of four movements.
And Bruckner’s sonata form always had three themes.
Therefore, if one understood his ideas, it shouldn’t be impossible to recreate the complete picture picture.
Up to this point, several scholars had taken it upon themselves to grapple with the fourth movement. A number of CDs of performances of the full, four-movement version had been released. There were a few differences depending on the scholar in question, but… we’ll pass on that discussion.
The most famous among these was Simon Rattle’s recording with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bruckner 9: Four Movement Version.
“Attempts at performing the fourth movement were never very well accepted by old classical music fans. To that extent, it is conventional to perform the first through third movements of Bruckner’s Ninth as a complete arc, to play the third movement as though one were climbing an ‘angel’s ladder,’ as it were, and to finish with ascension into heaven.”
“Simon gave a legendary performance that all but wiped that out, as if to establish playing all four movements as the norm from then on. I deeply admired the way he tackled this experiment so directly.”
She still had the glass to her lips, enjoying its contents.
I had believed, as the manager of a performing classical pianist, that I had heard the majority of the great past performance recordings that existed.
I hadn’t wanted to cause Kazusa-san any embarrassment, so I had been determined to learn enough that I could respond confidently to anything she might say.
But I had never shown any interest in attempts to perform the fourth movement of Bruckner’s Ninth.
“I assumed that any score a scholar had added to would be something crude, questionable, something with no weight behind it, like Mahler’s tenth symphony, or the first movement of Beethoven’s tenth. But Rattle’s performance with the Berlin Philharmonic really impressed me.”
Yes—after we arrived in Philadelphia, while she was practicing in the studio, I had listened over and over to a high-res download of that very performance.
And, while she was working at her piano arrangement of the fourth movement in the hotel, I had watched her entire process.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt had said of the fragmented fourth movement that it was “like a stone from the moon,” and the impression I received was much like that—something rugged and angular, with lots of dissonances.
But, just like the stars scrawled on those three old scores…
“The fourth movement is like a tale crossing the sea of the cosmos, the sea of falling stars.”
“Oh, that’s nice. ‘The Sea of the Cosmos is My Sea’…”
“Seriously? You’re only three years younger than I am…”
Ignoring her muttering about space pirates, I emptied my own glass.
“Mm. But, I thought it would be a shame for the research to stop, just because someone had done a performance and called it ‘the complete version.’ Uh—what’s with that glare?”
She was really baffling.
Baffling in that simply thinking it would be “a shame” should lead her to get involved in said research herself. The scale was mindboggling.
What Kazusa-san had “discovered” were the forty-eight bars leading from the recreated lost third theme to the coda.
That was the part that a scholar had treated for Rattle’s record.
At present, what followed, up until the final bogen when the closing cadenza ended, was gone. The intervening bars had been filled by the scholar’s additions. In other words, the greatest climax was something supplemented.
And that passage, over a hundred and forty bars… From that forty-eight bar sketch she had discovered, she had entirely rewritten it.
And on top of that, everything that had existed only as a sketch, everything that the scholar had touched up, she had entirely rearranged it.
It was a grand arrangement, making bold use of dissonance.
As though Bruckner himself had undertaken it.
Gazing at her furiously filling the score with notes, I didn’t even notice my eyes going dry.
It was… an incredible moment in time.
I had never experienced such a densely packed interval in my life.
Spending that time together with her, I learned anew, I etched into my soul, that this woman was a genius.
“That man, the fan of Simon Rattle’s, he was gaping at you, completely blank-faced.”
“Heheheh. Serves him right. Whew… I’m a little worn out, but that was a great experience. I feel like I managed to communicate with Anton, in my own way.”
She spoke of this great historical composer as though he were a friend.
I wanted to stay with her forever.
“Write a symphony that will be left in the history of the galaxy. Please.”
“I’ll be with you for as long as it takes.”
“Yep! I’m not letting you go until you get married, Koharu-chan.”
She smiled kindly at me.
That smile was so utterly sweet and lovely that I would gladly have offered up everything I had to it.
…And that had been last night.
After taking the drowsy Kazusa-san back to the room, I had undressed her and put her to bed; then, as I watched her stomach, white and smooth like porcelain, rising and falling with her breath, my mind started wandering to all sorts of places, setting my head spinning, and I began to feel unwell… and so I returned to my own room, and resolved it violently.
My memory cuts off after crawling into bed and dropping off.
No, it wouldn’t have done to press in on someone under the influence of alcohol.
Especially not someone who had feelings for another.
It was a very important bit of self-reflection.
In the morning, my head was heavy. The alcohol must still be having some effect.
She, having chosen a ham and lettuce sandwich and a tart glass of lemonade for breakfast, also seemed to be dealing with a bit of a hangover.
Her mood did not seem especially good this morning.
And there was the Arts section of the paper, to deal an additional blow.
The main part of the concert had drawn a storm of praise from every reviewer.
But the Fourth Movement of Bruckner’s Ninth (arranged for the piano by Kazusa Touma) that she had poured so much effort into had met with a far chillier reception.
“Why do they all have to criticize it for being ‘long’?”
I’d tried to tell her that playing a twenty-three-minute piece as her encore was a bad idea.
“And why can’t they put up with a little dissonance? Didn’t they understand that what they were hearing was a supernova explosion?”
Personally, I wanted to tell Master Bruckner, who had descended from the heavens to inspire her, that he had overdone it a little.
“And that part about most of the women in the audience being asleep? That’s a damn lie.”
No, no, that was true.
Hence, what I’d said about it not being very popular with women.
The only people who had looked excited as they listened were a small contingent of earnest Bruckner fans.
“Damn it. My head’s all murky. Maybe I’ll play it first thing on all the rest of my tours.”
I started to try to advise her against it.
“I think you’re far enough out of control as it is.”
The terrace of a Hilton hotel, where two hung-over women were eating their breakfast.
A Japanese man had approached us from behind, and now he took off his sunglasses.
We drew back our chairs and turned to look.
“Good morning, Kazusa.”
“Good morning, Sugiura-san. Are you… both hung-over?”
“I know you probably think you’re fine because you don’t have a performance today, but you need to be more careful with your health.” Senpai tapped Kazusa-san’s head lightly a couple of times with his palm.
“Y-Yeah…” She looked down, her cheeks turning pink.
“You’re old enough to know better—ow, ow! Get off!”
The next moment, Kazusa-san had stomped hard on Senpai’s foot.
Served him right.
Grumbling over receiving such poor treatment when they hadn’t seen each other in this long, Senpai took the seat next to Kazusa-san.
He had the same ordinary looks he’d had since I first met him.
A serious, kind, dependable face, with its own sweetness and charm.
“Sugiura-san, aren’t you forgetting something important?”
“The encore of yesterday’s performance was captured by the local media.”
“Oh, right. Yes.”
Urk. I had forgotten.
“I assume you haven’t seen it on YouTube, then,” he said. “It’s had intense, ardent praise from Bruckner fans all over the world.” He set his iPad on the table.
There she was, winding her wild way through the fourth movement of Bruckner’s Ninth, a look of rapture on her face.
It was beautifully recorded.
And, there below it—“Over a hundred thousand views? What the hell?”
“It’s been a mixed reception, so there are a fair number of Thumbs Down, but they’re overwhelmingly outnumbered by the people who rate it highly. Incidentally, I gave it a Thumbs Up myself.”
“Haruki… You watched it?”
“I was thrilled to get to hear such an incredible performance of an incredible piece. Amazing work, Kazusa. I wish I’d been able to hear it live.”
“O-Oh. Well, yeah, that’s par for the course for me.”
Once again, she looked bashful.
“So, with all of that being the case, I think you should be getting a phone call soon.”
With perfect timing, my phone began to ring.
“Hello… Yes. Who is calling, please? …Huh?”
In an instant, I flew into a panic, and my voice cracked.
“Who is it?”
“Wait, you mean Simon?”
“Take over the call, please…”
“Hello, this is Kazusa Touma speaking…”
“What did I tell you?”
As Kazusa-san proceeded to speak with the maestro in friendly tones, I sat completely perplexed.
“What did the maestro have to say?”
“He said, ‘Give me the full score.’”
“He said, ‘Knowing you, you made up a full score for the orchestra, not just a piano arrangement. Give it to me.’” Kazusa-san shot a brief, reproachful glance my way.
“Wait, wait. I haven’t said a word to anyone!”
“Hang on. You didn’t. Right?”
Senpai looked at Kazusa-san, stunned.
“I did.” She sighed, looking vaguely embarrassed. “I, uh… I got excited. The next thing I knew, all of the blanks and missing parts in my copy of the full handwritten score were full of notes.”
She shook her head, set her right hand against the back of her neck, and laughed a little.
Her smile was innocent, sweet, like a child who had been caught in a prank. Unbearably cute.
“I want to write my first symphony by the time I’m thirty. This was great practice.”
“You completed an unfinished symphony, one of the great mysteries of musical history, as practice… I thought I was used to surprises from you, but…”
Kitahara-senpai, evidently, was similarly stupefied.
“By the way, er, are we sure that score is authentic?”
“I think it’ll be okay. The Society said there aren’t any doubts as to the handwriting.”
“Also, in accordance with your advice, Senpai, I found several other documents of interest.”
“Hmm. Any letters?”
“Yes. I found a hand-written love letter, with a signature.”
“A love letter!”
“Apparently it belonged to someone related to the owner’s great-grandmother. It’s believed that Bruckner, who was sixty-six at the time, sent it to a seventeen-year-old girl named Claudia.”
“Wait, he what?”
“Shameless old man…” Kazusa-san looked off into the distance, sipping at her lemonade through her straw.
“Bruckner was a devout catholic, and he was a vir—celibate, for a long time. However, once he passed the age of sixty, he started a cycle of falling in love with teenage girls and sending them love letters.”
“Apparently he would just propose out of nowhere. Of course, they all turned him down. Who the hell would be happy about a random marriage proposal from some loser composer guy who was forty years older than you?”
“The original owner of the score was one of the girls to whom Bruckner proposed. She must not have hated him, even if she did turn him down. In some way or another, she acquired this sheet music posthumously, and kept it safe with this love letter.”
“That’s… an amazing story.” Senpai was leaning forward slightly.
Kazusa-san let slip a vacant chuckle.
“Bruckner kept a sort of ‘Bride Book.’”
“A Bride Book?”
“A notebook where he carefully wrote out the ages, the looks, even the physiques of all the girls who turned him down. Naturally, Claudia must have been in there. Had she known about this Bride Book, it would be pretty weird for her to keep the score and the love letter around, don’t you think?”
Kazusa-san struck a pose with both hands facing up. The exaggerated character of the gesture was the very picture of her mother, Youko-san.
“Oh, boy…” Senpai pinched the bridge of his nose. “The story was so engaging that I was thinking about making it into an article, but…”
“Like it would be that easy. Stupid.”
“Can I take a look at that love letter later?” Senpai asked, looking sadly at me.
“I have it with me right now, actually. Here.”
As he read, his face grew grimmer and grimmer. And it didn’t seem to be because of the effort it took to translate from German.
“No… This is painful to read. It’s embarrassing.”
“Oh? This, coming from you, Senpai?”
“Come on. Which is more embarrassing, a sixty-year-old virgin writing about teenage girls’ boob sizes in a notebook, or a high school virgin guy writing a song about unrequited feelings in a notebook?”
“There’s nothing in there about boobs or virginity!”
I was getting a bit flustered, hearing such dirty talk from her lovely lips.
“You two… Well, so what? Thanks to the melody you put to my embarrassing lyrics, I’m still getting royalties.”
“And you. How long do you plan on making money off of me?”
“My understanding was that I was helping you make money, too.”
They continued on in their trivial quarrelling.
Even so, enough information had been brought up to make a solid article.
Next, there would be exchanges of ideas with scholars of Bruckner’s Ninth, collaborative research, and if all went well, there could be performances of Kazusa Touma’s completed piano edition, or the orchestral edition—maybe even recordings thereof.
And all of this was spoken of in light tones, like a simple chat.
This was the synchronicity of best friends, I supposed.
Indeed, a relationship that was something more than best friends, but not quite lovers.
And, though it infuriated me to admit it, I was enormously envious.
“I’d love to run into another neat mystery like that.”
“What, are you going to take up detective work on the side?”
“Not at all, good sir. I am simply a roving master of music.”
She mimicked strumming a lyre.
I stood up and moved around behind Kazusa-san.
Then, I slowly embraced her shoulders.
“We’re a pair of roving masters of music.”
“Yes. The Two Roving Masters of Music.”
Paying little mind to Kitahara-senpai, who was looking up at us with a dubious expression, I rubbed Kazusa-san’s shoulders.
Heheheh. Jealous, aren’t you?
You want to hold her again, don’t you?
But I won’t allow that.
I’m not giving you to Kitahara-senpai, Kazusa-san.
We are the Two Roving Masters of Music.
I want to travel with you forever.
Let us cross the sea of the cosmos, the sea of falling stars.
A boundless musical journey.
In search of mysteries, secrets, the truth, and your happiness.