|by Anton Bruckner|
The composer, c. 1860
|Performed||5 June 1865Linz –|
|Vocal||TTBB choir and soloists|
Germanenzug (WAB 70) is a secular cantata composed in 1863–1864 by Anton Bruckner on a text by August Silberstein. It is scored for male-voice choir, male solo quartet, and brass ensemble consisting of two cornets, four trumpets, three trombones, three horns, a baritone horn, and a bass tuba. Duration: about 8 minutes. Germanenzug was Bruckner's first published work.
After the completion of Psalm 112, Bruckner composed Germanenzug in July 1863. It is the first major example of occasional pieces set to secular texts Bruckner would write throughout his career for men's glee clubs (Liedertafeln).
Bruckner entered it for a competition at the first Oberösterreichisches Sängerbundesfest, scheduled for August 1864 in Linz. Bruckner's original intention was to use the Zigeuner-Waldlied, a lost work (WAB 135), as basis for this entry, but after correspondence with Silberstein and his close friend Rudolf Weinwurm, Bruckner replaced it with the patriotic poem of the Viennese poet and journalist Silberstein.
During the spring of 1864, the festival was postponed. It was rescheduled for 4–6 June 1865, and renamed the Oberösterreichisch-Salzburgisches Sängerbundesfest. Bruckner's and Weinwurm's entries were two of the eight compositions chosen to proceed to the final stages.
At the festival the Liedertafel Frohsinn presented the first performance of Germanenzug, conducted by Bruckner, on 5 June. Germanenzug was awarded second prize. The winning composition was Weinwurm's Germania.
Thirty years later, in 1893, Bruckner would compose a second secular cantata on a text by Silberstein, Helgoland (WAB 71) which would become Bruckner's last completed work.
That Bruckner valued Germanenzug is shown by his request that portions of it be performed as part of observances after his death.
Germanen durchschreiten des Urwaldes Nacht,
Sie aber, sie wandeln urkräftigen Tritts,
They, however, stroll with firm steps,
In Odins Hallen ist es licht und fern der Erdenpein,
In Odins Hallen ist es licht und fern der Erdenpein.
Odin's halls are full of light and free of earthly pain.
Da schlagen die Krieger mit wilder Gewalt
Here, the warriors boisterously strike
Teutonias Söhne, mit freudigem Mut,
Teutonia's sons, with joyous courage,
At the end of the first page of his manuscript Bruckner added the following text:
- Freya: Göttin der Liebe im lichten Himmel (the goddess of love in the full-of-light heaven);
- Solgofnir: der goldkämmige Hahn, der den Morgen ruft und die Helden weckt (the cock with the golden comb, which calls the morning and wakes up the heroes);
- Braga: Gott der Dichtung und Tonkunst (the god of poetry and arts);
- Balmung: Heldenschwert (the sword of heroes); Balmungschlag: Schwertschlag (sword stroke);
- Odin: oberster Gott (the chief god);
- Walkyren: die beflügelten Jungfrauen, welche Helden in die Schlacht und Seelen in dem Himmel geleiten (the winged maidens, who lead heroes into battle, and souls to heaven).
Structurally the cantata consists of three main sections, each with internal repetition. The outer sections portray German warriors going into battle, and the middle section is a song of the Valkyries who describe the delight of Valhalla, the destination of heroes who are killed in battle. The "A-B-A" structure is topped off with a coda.
The first section (36 bars), Germanen durchschreiten des Urwaldes Nacht, is in D minor. The sharply dotted leaping octave motive at the beginning is a slightly altered variant of the Festive cantata Preiset den Herrn. The slower middle section (39 bars), In Odins Hallen ist es licht, is the most adventurous harmonically. It features reduced forces of a solo male quartet and the four horns. A solo French horn leads from the quartet without pause in the third section (43 bars), Da schlagen die Krieger mit wilder Gewalt, which begins with a repetition of the first section. Thereafter it proceeds to D major and new material for the stirring coda (Die Freiheit, die Heimat ja ewig bestehn).
The mature Bruckner style is already present. The strongly-dotted rhythms which accent the brass writing in the first section prefigure passages in Bruckner's Symphony No. 1 and later symphonic works. The use of the key of D minor is an early instance of his special preference for this tonality, which is shared with the Requiem, the Mass No. 1 and three symphonies: "No. 0", No. 3 and the valedictory No. 9.
There are a few recordings of Germanenzug:
- Choral Works of Anton Bruckner, Robert Shewan conducting the Roberts Wesleyan College Chorale and Brass Ensemble, CD: Albany TROY 063, 1991
- Anton Bruckner und seine Zeit, Attila Nagy conducting the Universitätssängerschaft 'Barden zu Wien', the Men's chorus of Vienna and the Hungarian Brass Ensemble, CD: Disc-Lazarus DL-USB 8B, 1996
- Konzert im Brucknerjahr, Attila Nagy conducting the Universitätssängerschaft 'Barden zu Wien', the Men's chorus of Vienna and members of the Musikverein Hörsching, CD: Disc-Lazarus DL-USB 8D, 1996
Nagy recorded Germanenzug two other times with the same choir and piano accompaniment, instead of brass ensemble:
- Bruckner-Festabend anlässlich des 100. Todestages von Ehrenmitglied Anton Bruckner, CD: Disc-Lazarus DL-USB 8C, 1996
- Im Denken treu, im Liede deutsch, CD: Disc-Lazarus DL-USB 26
- Anton Bruckner Critical Complete Edition - Cantatas and choral works with orchestra
- C. van Zwol, p. 714
- Discography of Germanenzug by Hans Roelofs
- John Proffitt, booklet of the CD: R. Shewan, Choral Works of Anton Bruckner, 1991
- John Williamson, The Cambridge companion to Bruckner, Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-521-00878-6
- Keith William Kinder, The wind and wind-chorus music of Anton Bruckner, Greenwood Press, Westport CT, 2000. ISBN 0-313-30834-9
- Cornelis van Zwol, Anton Bruckner - Leven en Werken, Thot, Bussum (Netherlands), 2012. ISBN 90-686-8590-2