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Hyperion Records

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The Watzmann (1824) by Ludwig Adrian Richter (1803-1884)
Track(s) taken from CDH55332
Recording details: February 1992
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: November 1992
Total duration: 59 minutes 39 seconds

'Quite magnificent … hoping for a better all-round performance than this is probably an impossible dream!' (Gramophone)

'An impeccable performance … a CD of rare depth and conviction' (The Good CD Guide)

'Hyperion clearly have another hit on their hands with this splendid release' (CDReview)

Mass No 3 in F minor
composer
September 1867 - September 1868
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
From 1861 Bruckner had studied under Otto Kitzler, a German cellist and conductor, gaining a thorough grounding in the counterpoint of Palestrina and for the first time hearing some Liszt and Wagner. Kitzler’s production of Tannhäuser bowled him over, and when he visited Munich for the premiere of Tristan und Isolde and met Wagner in person, his joy was complete. Then, in 1867, tragedy struck. Bruckner had long suffered from extended bouts of depression, combined with an almost pathological self-doubt and an irresistible impulse to accumulate strings of unnecessary qualifications. He developed the clinical condition of numeromania, a compulsive urge to count objects of all descriptions for no apparent reason. He was admitted to a sanatorium at Bad Kreuzen where he underwent a course of treatment lasting several months. It was in thanksgiving for his restoration of health that he set to work on the Mass No 3 in F minor which occupied him for exactly a year from September 1867.

Like the Mass in D minor of four years earlier, it calls for soprano, contralto, tenor and bass soloists, mixed chorus, organ and a large orchestra, and it caused horror among the Cecilians for whom he had written his second Mass, that in E minor. But the F minor is his biggest and greatest Mass, classical in form but injected with a new vitality and a profound religious mysticism, setting the familiar text with total commitment.

The Mass begins quietly with a descending four-note figure which dominates the Kyrie and reappears as a unifying motif in other parts of the work; the reticence of this humble plea for divine mercy does not, however, preclude climactic points and moments of fervour. The ‘Christe eleison’ which follows employs two main ideas—a falling octave and a more lyrical phrase entrusted to the soprano soloist; the soarings of the solo violin recall the Benedictus of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.

The Gloria and Credo form the central core of the Mass. Close in spirit to the Te Deum and Psalm 150, they proclaim a triumphant C major, though not, of course, without modulatory excursions to other keys and transient changes of mood dictated by the text. Both were conceived in the general terms of sonata form, with contrasting material, development and reprise; and both finish with massive fugues. The opening themes are rooted in Gregorian chant, as is the melody in the Sanctus at the words ‘Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua’. The shortest movement is the Sanctus, similar in mood to the ‘Christe eleison’ of the Kyrie and making use of the falling octave. The ‘Hosanna’ is repeated at the close of the ensuing Benedictus, whose second melody, introduced by the bass soloist, is quoted in the Adagio of the second symphony and may well have influenced Mahler when he was working on his fourth. The Agnus Dei draws freely on earlier material, recalling the main ideas in the Kyrie and the fugue subject from the Gloria which now carries the words ‘dona nobis pacem’. The final phrase of the Credo theme appears in augmentation and in the last two bars a single oboe, accompanied by pianissimo strings over a discreet rumble on a kettledrum, plays a major-key version of the motif with which the whole work began.

Bruckner completed the Mass in 1868 but it took several revisions before, in 1881, it reached its ‘authentic’ form. Even then he was not entirely satisfied. With the help of a pupil, Joseph Schalk, he revised it further between 1890 and 1893.

from notes by Wadham Sutton © 1992

Other albums featuring this work
'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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