Missa solemnis (Bruckner)

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Missa solemnis
by Anton Bruckner
Bruckner circa 1860.jpg
The composer, c. 1860
Key B-flat minor
Catalogue WAB 29
Form Missa solemnis
Dedication Elevation of Friedrich Mayer
Performed 1854 (1854) – St. Florian Monastery
Published 1930 (1930)
Recorded c. 1980 (c. 1980)
Movements 6
Vocal SATB choir and soloists
Instrumental Orchestra and organ

The Missa solemnis WAB 29, by Anton Bruckner is a setting of the mass ordinary for vocal soloists, chorus, orchestra and organ.

Following the death of Michael Arneth,[1] Friedrich Mayer[2] was appointed abbot of St. Florian.[3] The Missa solemnis was premiered on September 14, 1854, the day of Mayer's elevation.[4]

"Bruckner's Missa Solemnis is a musical summa of the first thirty years of his life."[5] Robert Führer saw the score and suggested to Bruckner to study with Simon Sechter.[6] Bruckner showed Sechter the mass and Sechter accepted him as a pupil. The Missa solemnis was the last major work Bruckner wrote before concluding his studies with Sechter, who did not allow his students free composition while studying with him.[7]


The quartet of vocal soloists consists of a soprano, an alto, a tenor, and a bass, while the choir consists of sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses. The orchestra consists of 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, alto, tenor and bass trombones, timpani, and strings.[5]

According to the Catholic practice – as also in Bruckner's following Mass No. 1 and Mass No. 2 – the first verse of the Gloria and the Credo is not composed and has to be intoned by the priest in Gregorian mode before the choir is going on. On the contrary to Bruckner's earlier Choral-Messen, the Gloria and the Credo of the Missa solemnis contain the extensive text usually associated with these sections of the Mass.

The setting is divided into six main parts:

  1. Kyrie – Andante, B-flat minor
  2. Gloria
    1. "Et in terra pax..." – Allegro, G minor veering to B-flat major
    2. "Qui tollis peccata mundi..." – Andante, G minor
    3. "Quoniam tu solus sanctus..." – Allegro, B-flat major
  3. Credo
    1. "Patrem omnipotentem..." – Allegro moderato, B-flat major
    2. "Et incarnatus est..." – Adagio, F major
    3. "Et ressurrexit tertia die..." – Allegro, moderato, B-flat major
    4. "Et vitam venturi saeculi..." – Allegro moderato, B-flat major
  4. Sanctus – Moderato, B-flat major
  5. Benedictus – Moderato, E-flat major
  6. Agnus Dei
    1. "Agnus Dei..." – Adagio, B-flat major
    2. "Dona nobis pacem..." – Allegro, B-flat major

Total duration: about 31 minutes.[5]

The "Quoniam" quotes from Joseph Haydn's Missa sancti Bernardi von Offida.[3] As in Bruckner's later great masses, the setting of the words "Et resurrexit" is preceded by the "old-fashioned rhetorical gesture" of a "rising chromatic figure in stile agitato representing the trembling of the earth."[3] This rising chromatic figure is repeated before the "Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum".

Robert Simpson finds "nothing mediocre or tentative about this strong and clear work ... the music is often of excellent quality ... the work, though not perfect, is admirable."[8] Several passages of the Missa solemnis, that one could call "Mass No. 0", particularly the "Qui tollis" of the Gloria and the central part of the Credo, are prefiguring the next Mass No. 1 in D minor. Both the Gloria and the Credo are ending by a fugue.

The edition by Robert Haas for the Gesamtausgabe was based on the copy given to Mayer.[9] During the years 1930 Ferdinand Habel brought some changes to the text of the Kyrie and the Gloria, to make it better usable for Eucharist celebration.[10] Leopold Nowak rejected these changes in his edition and took further advantage of phrasing marks in some violin parts which were not available to Haas.[11][9]


There are only four commercial recordings of the work. The three earlier recordings follow the Haas edition with Habel's text adaptations. Rickenbacker follows the Nowak edition. According to Hans Roelofs, Jürgens' and Rickenbacker's performances are better achieved than the two earlier recordings. Jürgens performs it with religiosity, i.e., as a mass. Rickenbacker performs it more strenuously, i.e., as a concert work.[10]

  • Bruckner – Missa Solemnis in B, Hubert Günther with the Rheinische Singgemeinschaft and the BRT-Radio Symfonieorkest – LP: Garnet G 40 170, c. 1980
  • Anton Bruckner – Missa solemnis in B, Motetten, Elmar Hausmann with the Chorgemeinschaft und Orchester an der Basilika St. Aposteln Köln – LP: Aulos AUL 53569, 1983
  • Anton Bruckner – Music of the St. Florian Period, Jürgen Jürgens with the Monteverdi Choir and the Israel Chamber Orchestra – LP: Jerusalem Records ATD 8503, 1984. Transferred to CD BSVD-0109, 2011
  • Bruckner – Missa Solemnis, Psalm 112 & Psalm 150, Karl Anton Rickenbacher with the Chor der Bamberger Symphoniker & the Bamberger Symphoniker – Virgin Classics VC 7 91481, 1990



  • Robert Anderson, "Romantic Mass", The Musical Times 117, p. 1602, 1976
  • Paul Hawkshaw, "Bruckner's large sacred compositions", The Cambridge Companion to Bruckner edited by John Williamson, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004
  • A. Crawford Howie, "Bruckner and the motet", The Cambridge Companion to Bruckner edited by John Williamson, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004
  • Keith William Kinder, The Wind and Wind-Chorus Music of Anton Bruckner, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, 2000
  • Leopold Nowak, Foreword Anton Bruckner: Sämtliche Werke: Band 15: Missa Solemnis in B: Partitur Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag der Internationalen Bruckner-Gesellschaft, Richard Rickett (translator), Vienna, 1975
  • Hans-Hubert Schönzeler, Bruckner, Marion Boyars, London, 1978
  • Robert Simpson, The Essence of Bruckner: An essay towards the understanding of his music, Victor Gollancz Ltd, London, 1967
  • Cornelis van Zwol, Anton Bruckner – Leven en Werken, Thot, Bussum (Netherlands), 2012. ISBN 90-686-8590-2
  • Derek Watson, Bruckner, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, London, 1975

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