Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus
Movement 5: Benedictus
Movement 6: Agnus Dei
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 theof 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