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Tota pulchra es

composer
WAB46; 1878; written to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Bishop of Linz, Franz Josef Rudigier
author of text
Song of Songs; antiphon for Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 
Tota pulchra es was dedicated to Franz Joseph Rudigier, Bishop of Linz, and, like Locus iste, it was first performed in the Votive Chapel of Linz’s New Cathedral. The premiere, in June 1878, marked the 25th anniversary of Rudigier’s enthronement as Bishop. The distribution of resources—four-part choir and organ plus a solo tenor voice—is curious though not atypical of its age. As with many Cecilian-inspired works, large sections are performed a cappella. Apart from offering some support to the solo tenor, the organ serves largely to gild material otherwise found in the choir. The motet starts modestly with the Gregorian intonation known as the Kreuzmotiv (cross-motif), to which the choir responds with the same material in harmony. The process is repeated. At the words ‘Tu gloria Jerusalem’ the scale of the motet becomes clear: full organ enters with a sequence of root-position chords suggestive of Liszt in clerical vein, and Bruckner continues with a characteristic chain of suspensions. The main elements of the setting are now clear, but the composer retains some surprises—not least, a remarkable slide into D flat at the mention of Mary’s mercy. Some writers claim the motet is in Phyrgian mode; others see it as an example of Aeolian mode. Bruckner certainly liked to draw on church modes—as he put it in a lecture, ‘they have something mystical about them’—but the truth is that Tota pulchra es uses several modes and, in addition, advanced chromatic harmony. The final cadence is, in fact, an amalgam of tonal and modal; moreover, it is an exact transposition of the final cadences of the E minor Mass’s Kyrie and of the motet Christus factus est.

from notes by Martin Ennis © 2020

Recordings

Bruckner: Mass in E minor & motets
Studio Master: KGS0035-DDownload only NEWStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Brahms & Bruckner: Motets
Studio Master: SIGCD430Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Bruckner: Motets
CDA66062

Details

Track 8 on KGS0035-D [4'48] Download only NEW
Track 7 on CDA66062 [5'44]
Track 13 on SIGCD430 [5'49] Download only

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