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Hyperion Records

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Wiesbachhorn Mountains, Tyrol, Austria.
Power Pix
Track(s) taken from CDH55277
Recording details: April 1985
St Alban's Church, Holborn, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: June 1986
Total duration: 41 minutes 45 seconds

'One of the most beautiful recordings of a choral masterpiece I have ever heard' (The Sunday Times)

'Wonderfully atmospheric. I warmly recommend this. Best of the Month' (Hi-Fi News)

Mass No 2 in E minor
1866, revised 1876/1882; dedicated fo Joseph Franz Rüdiger, Bishop of Linz
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Kyrie  [7'56] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [6'44] LatinEnglish
Credo  [10'50] LatinEnglish

Other recordings available for download
Polyphony, Britten Sinfonia, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Mass No 2 in E minor, with wind accompaniment, was written largely as a sop to the Cecilians, an austere group within the Roman Catholic Church who objected to complexity in liturgical music and deplored the involvement of an orchestra (would they really have accepted the wind instruments?). The work’s concern with slow, floating counterpoint, while referring to Palestrina, yet anticipates the deliberation of Bruckner’s own later processes, and the work conveys a sublimity inaccessible to its companions in D minor and F minor, admirable though they are. This can be felt at once in the opening Kyrie, largely unaccompanied except for the intermittent use of horns and trombones. Long suspensions and clear harmony create a sense of space. In the central section, ‘Christe eleison’, there is more movement and a climax; then the Kyrie returns, this time to make its own climax before fading into vaulted heights.

The Gloria and Credo, on the other hand, are essentially classical allegros, with contrasts of tempo and style dictated by the text. For the most part Bruckner is revelling in the athletic energy familiar from his great predecessors Haydn and Beethoven, but with textures simpler and more spare and rhythms blunter and more naïve. Both movements are in C major and contain central contrasts, the Gloria having a quiet section on ‘qui tollis peccata mundi’ with typical horn phrases, and the Credo a simple but profound treatment of ‘et incarnatus est’ and ‘Crucifixus’, a stream of perfectly formed, dignified melody of great beauty. The Gloria ends with a short but trenchant chromatic fugato on ‘Amen’, and the Credo (whose main theme anticipates strikingly the sturdy power of the scherzo of the eighth symphony of more than twenty years later) reaches its apex in a broad and mighty cadence.

It is in the Sanctus that Palestrina’s influence (in the form of a quotation from the Missa brevis of 1570) is clearest. A two-part canon is enveloped in eight-part counterpoint as a great crescendo is built. The whole movement lasts only a few minutes but has a power of suggestion out of all proportion to its dimensions; such a slow crescendo as this begins some of Bruckner’s greatest symphonic movements, and the tribute to Palestrina is also a glance to the future, not only Bruckner’s own, but also to such things as the magnificent opening pages of Sibelius’s seventh symphony.

The gentle and subtle Benedictus is in full sonata form, its development deeply modulated and its coda a bright burst on ‘Hosanna in excelsis’. The final Agnus Dei delivers the customary threefold prayer, each time as a crescendo, the last quietened to make way for the hushed ‘dona nobis pacem’, perhaps the most beautiful music in the whole work, which is without doubt the deepest and most concentrated of Bruckner’s Masses.

from notes by Robert Simpson © 1985

Other albums featuring this work
'Bruckner: Mass & Motets' (CDA67629)
Bruckner: Mass & Motets
'Bruckner: Masses' (CDS44071/3)
Bruckner: Masses
MP3 £15.00FLAC £15.00ALAC £15.00Buy by post £16.50 CDS44071/3  3CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  

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