I. Allegro II. Andante III. Scherzo: presto IV. Finale. Moderato
The first half of the 1860s was an important period in Bruckner's development (1824-1896). As he entered his forties, he became acquainted with Otto Kitzler, the concert master of the Linz opera house, who regularly and influentially helped Bruckner's compositional studies. During teaching Kitzler placed primary emphasis on acquiring the basics of orchestration and classical forms. Beyond passing on technical knowledge, Kitzler introduced Bruckner to the world of modern music. They studied Wagner's operas Tannhauser, The Flying Dutchman and Lohengrin together.
Bruckner wrote nine numbered symphonies. Bruckner refers in his notes to the symphony in D minor written in 1863 as his “Study symphony.” Kitzler would probably have made Bruckner rewrite it, but in October 1863, he began sketching further symphonies. Composition lasted until May 1864, and Kitzler never actually saw the completed score because that autumn he left Linz. Bruckner felt that with this symphony he had finally found his “true” compositional voice, and he had barely finished it when he launched himself into another work in the same key, the D minor mass. Bruckner probably suspended work on the symphony to compose the mass which he regarded as his first “true” composition and only began working on it again in 1869. By then, his first symphony in C minor (1865-66) was ready, and he went so far as to write on the manuscript of the first movement of the D minor symphony “Symphony no. 2,” although he subsequently changed this mind. Thus what we are familiar with as the 2nd symphony (again in C minor) from 1873 is actually the third. Thoughts about changing the numbering of his symphony again surfaced after 1873, when Bruckner was working on his Wagner Symphony in D minor, which we know as his third symphony.
The “Symphony no 0” has actually nothing to do with the compositional chronology. More recent Bruckner scholars have pointed out time and again that the “0” is not a chronological reference, but a sign of the composer's ambivalence about the work. On the one hand, he did not feel this symphony belonged to his output of nine symphonies, but he still sensed it was suitable for performance. For this reason the manuscript of the “Symphony no 0” was placed with other Bruckner symphony manuscripts in the Musical Collection of the Austrian National Library. The symphony was never performed in Bruckner's lifetime, and was not to be premiered until 1924 on the 100th anniversary of Bruckner's birth.