Mass No. 3 (Bruckner)

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Mass No. 3
by Anton Bruckner
Bruckner circa 1860.jpg
The composer, c. 1860
KeyF minor
CatalogueWAB 28
Composed1867 (1867) – 1868 (1868): Linz
DedicationAnton Ritter von Imhof-Geißlinghof
Performed16 June 1872 (1872-06-16): Augustinerkirche, Vienna
VocalSATB choir and soloists
Instrumentalorchestra and organ ad lib.

The Mass No. 3 in F minor, WAB 28, by Anton Bruckner is a setting of the mass ordinary for vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra, and organ ad libitum.[1]


After the 1867 success of his Mass No. 1 in D minor, Bruckner was commissioned "to write a new Mass for the Burgkapelle."[2] Bruckner wrote the first version between Septembers 1867–1868[3] in Linz (just before his move to Vienna).[4]

The first rehearsals, conducted by Johann Herbeck at the court church, the Augustinerkirche, took place in 1868 or 1869, but "were badly attended by orchestral players" and were "generally unsuccessful."[5] Ultimately, Herbeck found the mass "too long and unsingable."[6] After various delays, the mass was finally premiered on June 16, 1872, at the Augustinerkirche,[5] with Bruckner himself conducting.[7] Herbeck changed his opinion of the piece, claiming to know only two masses: this one and Beethoven's Missa solemnis.[8][9] Franz Liszt and even Eduard Hanslick praised the piece.[9] A second performance occurred in the Hofmusikkapelle on 8 December 1873.[10] The manuscript is archived at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.[11]

After the third performance (30 July 1876), Bruckner made slight revisions on the Kyrie and the Gloria, and in 1877 on the Credo.[10] He made a further revision on the Credo in 1881, in preparation for performances at the Hofkapelle,[10][12] mainly to address "difficulties of execution",[13] but also to take into account what he had learned from studying Mozart's Requiem,[14] correcting some instances of parallel octaves if not justified by Mozart's example.[15] In some later performances, Bruckner was in the organ loft rather than on the podium.[7]

In a letter to Siegfried Ochs of 14 April 1895, the composer wrote:

Der Bruckner wird alt und möchte doch so gern noch die F-Moll '[Messe]' hören! Bitte, bitte! Das wäre der Höhepunkt meines Lebens. Aber dann manches anders als die Partitur! Bei Des-Dur im Credo: 'Deum vero de Deo' bitte 'Organo pleno'! Nicht Register sparen!
Translation: Bruckner is growing old and would very much like to live to hear the F Minor [Mass]! Please, please! That would be the climax of my life. But then much is to be different from the score! In the D Flat Major of the Credo: Deum verum de Deo, please, Organo Pleno! Spare not on the registers!.[16]

In the 1890s Bruckner was still revising the work,[17] but there were very little changes made to the vocal parts after 1868.[18] At a November 1893 performance of this mass, Johannes Brahms "applauded ... so enthusiastically ... that Bruckner personally thanked him."[19]

The composer dedicated the piece to Hofrat Anton Ritter von Imhof-Geißlinghof at "the last minute."[5] Leopold Nowak, however, believed that the piece was actually dedicated to conductor Johann Herbeck.[6]

Versions and editions[edit]

Bruckner make four successive revisions of the work, in 1876, 1877, 1881 and from 1890 to 1893.[12]

There is as yet no edition available of the original version of 1868.

The first edition of 1894 contained "numerous spurious performance directions and articulations as well as massive reorchestration, particularly of the winds."[20] Bruckner was angry when he saw it in print, and annotated instances of parallel octaves, which he had eliminated in his own revisions.[13]

In 1944, Robert Haas put out an edition as part of the Gesamtausgabe, which was superseded by Leopold Nowak's edition of 1960, and again more recently by Paul Hawkshaw's of 2005. These three editors had access to various manuscripts and contemporary copies. Hans Ferdinand Redlich, on the other hand, did not for his Eulenburg edition, and complained of being denied access by Nowak.[21]

In the current Gesamtausgabe by Paul Hawkshaw the two versions, which Bruckner considered to be the definitive ones, those of 1883 and 1893, are presented, so that the performers are provided with the opportunity to choose between the two versions.[1]


The work is set for SATB choir and soloists, and orchestra (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B-flat, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in F, 2 horns in B-flat, 2 trumpets in C, alto, tenor and bass trombones, timpani, and strings), and organ ad libitum.[1]

The organ, present in the Wöss edition,[22] is absent in the Haas edition, and put "ad libitum" in the current Gesamtausgabe. "The organ serves first of all to accentuate significant passages, in order to increase their sound brightness."[22]

The work is divided into six parts:

  1. Kyrie – Moderato, F minor
  2. Gloria – Allegro, C major
  3. Credo – Allegro, C major
  4. Sanctus – Moderato, F major
  5. Benedictus – Allegro moderato, A-flat major
  6. Agnus Dei – Andante, F minor veering to F major

Total duration: about 62 minutes[1]

The Gloria starts out with the words "Gloria in excelsis Deo" and the Credo with the words "Credo in unum Deum" sung by the whole choir, rather than intoned in Gregorian mode by a soloist, as in Bruckner's previous masses. The setting is more symphonic than that of the Mass No. 1, with a larger contribution of the soloists. Bruckner indicated bars 170–179 of the Gloria – a part of the last "Miserere nobis" – as optional. As yet, these ten bars were recorded by only a few conductors. Whereas the Gloria ends with a fugue in all Bruckner's masses, in Mass No. 3, as in his previous Missa solemnis, the Credo also ends with a fugue, a "classical feature".[23] In this fugue the next voice entry is preceded by the acclamation "Credo, credo" sustained by the organ. The theme of the Agnus Dei has some reminiscence of that of the Missa solemnis. The Dona nobis resumes the theme of the Kyrie in major mode, and recalls the fugue subject of the Gloria and the last phrase of the Credo.

The composition of the Mass in F minor may have been influenced by Schubert's late Mass No. 5 in A flat major and Mass No. 6 in E flat major.[24]


Selected discography[edit]

About 70 recordings of Bruckner's Mass No. 3 have been issued.

The first complete recording of the mass was by Maurice Kessler with the Oberlin Musical Union and the Conservatory Orchestra of Cleveland in 1949. Of the other recordings from the LP era, Eugen Jochum's recording with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir on Deutsche Grammophon,[28] and Karl Forster's with the Berliner Symphoniker and the Chorus of the St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale have been remastered to CD. According to Hans Roelofs, Jochum's and Forster's belong to the better recordings of the mass.[29]

Matthew Best's more recent recording with the Corydon Singers has been critically acclaimed, particularly for Best's not toning down "the Wagnerian element in the gorgeous Benedictus."[30] Franz Anton Krager's 2013 recording[31][32] with the Houston Symphony Chorus is a good example of substantial pipe organ being used to reinforce the chorus and orchestra tutti sections of the Mass.[29]

Other excellent recordings, according to Hans Roelofs, are that by i.a. Karl Richter (Schalk first edition), Colin Davis, Heinz Rögner and Franz Welser-Möst, and the more recent recordings by Ricardo Luna, Robin Ticciati and Gerd Schaller.[29]

  • Eugen Jochum, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir, Anton Nowakowski (Organ) - LP: DG 18829 – CD: DG 423 127-2 (Box set of 4 CDs), 1962 (Haas edition)
  • Karl Forster, Berliner Symphoniker und Chor der St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale - LP: Electrola E/STE 80715 – CD: EMI 697-252 180-2 (Box of 3 CDs), 1962 (Haas edition)
  • Karl Richter, Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and Tonkünstlerorchester, Vienna – CD: Kapellmeister KMS-064, 1974 (Schalk first edition, with the optional bars 170–179 of the Gloria)
  • Colin Davis, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir, Elmar Schloter (Organ) - CD: Philips 422 358-2, 1988 (with the optional bars 170–179 of the Gloria)
  • Heinz Rögner, Rundfunkchor Berlin and RSO Berlin - CD: Ars Vivendi 2100 173, 1988.
  • Matthew Best, Corydon Singers and Orchestra - CD: Hyperion CDA 66599, 1992 (with Psalm 150).
  • Franz Welser-Möst, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Linzer Mozart-Chor - CD: EMI CDC5 56168 2, 1995 (Nowak edition, with the optional bars 170–179 of the Gloria)
  • Ricardo Luna, Wiener Madrigalchor, Chorvereinigung Schola Cantorum and Symphonic orchestra of the Wiener Volksoper, István Mátiás (organ) - CD issued by the Wiener Madrigalchor: WMCH 024, 2008 live (1883 version, Hawkshaw) (with Te Deum).
  • Robin Ticciati, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Bamberger Symphoniker – CD: Tudor 7193, 2013 (live)
  • Franz Anton Krager & Michelle Perrin Blair, Houston Symphony Chorus, Moores School Orchestra & Sigurd Øgaard (organ), Anton Bruckner: Symphonisches Praeludium, Mass No. 3 in F minor, Postludium Organ Improvisation – CD/BD: BSVD 0116, 2013 (with the optional bars 170–179 of the Gloria) – with Ave Maria, WAB 7 as offertorium
  • Gerd Schaller, Bruckner – Mass 3, Psalm 146, Organ works, Philharmonischer Chor München and Philharmonie Festiva, CD: Profil Hänssler PH16034, 2016.


  1. ^ a b c d Anton Bruckner – Critical Complete Edition: Requiem, Masses & Te Deum
  2. ^ L. Nowak
  3. ^ R. Simpson, p. 19
  4. ^ H.-H. Schönzeler, p. 48
  5. ^ a b c H.F. Redlich, p. 35
  6. ^ a b P. Hawkshaw (2005), p. XI
  7. ^ a b P. Hawkshaw (1997), p. 3
  8. ^ D. Watson, p. 26
  9. ^ a b H.-H. Schönzeler, p. 60
  10. ^ a b c C. van Zwol, pp. 690-694
  11. ^ U. Harten, p. 285
  12. ^ a b P. Hawkshaw (1997), p. 18
  13. ^ a b P. Hawkshaw (1997), p. 31
  14. ^ P. Hawkshaw (1997), p. 19
  15. ^ T. Jackson, 9. 395
  16. ^ Meister der deutschen Musik in ihren Briefen, H. Brandt (Editor), p. 442, 1928
  17. ^ P. Hawkshaw (2005), p. XII
  18. ^ P. Hawkshaw (1997), p. 8
  19. ^ K.W. Kinder, pp. 126–127
  20. ^ P. Hawkshaw (1997), p. 30
  21. ^ H.F. Redlich, p. 40
  22. ^ a b Grosse Messe Nr. 3 F moll von Anton Bruckner – Eulenburgs kleine Orchester-Partitur-Ausgabe, foreword by Josef V. von Wöss, Universal Edition, 1924
  23. ^ P. Hawkshaw (2004), p. 50
  24. ^ P. Hawkshaw (2013)
  25. ^ R. Simpson, p. 62. A passage, 6 bars or so of common time, from page 33 of the Universal Edition (edited by Josef V. von Wöss) full score of the mass (available from IMSLP) is quoted.
  26. ^ R. Simpson, p. 54.
  27. ^ A.P. Brown, p. 193
  28. ^ L.T. Lovallo, p. 28
  29. ^ a b c Roelofs' commented discography
  30. ^ S. Johnson, p. 361
  31. ^ Amazon's editorial Review of Krager's recording
  32. ^ Critical review of Krager's recording on MusicWeb international


  • Anton Bruckner, Sämtliche Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe – Band 14: Messe f-Moll (Originalfassung), Bruckner-Verlag GmbH, Robert Haas (Editor), Leipzig, 1944
  • Anton Bruckner: Sämtliche Werke: Band XVIII: Messe f-Moll (1867/68, 1883/93), Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag der Internationalen Bruckner-Gesellschaft, Leopold Nowak (Editor), Vienna, 1960 / new edition by Paul Hawkshaw, Vienna, 2005
  • Max Auer, Anton Bruckner als Kirchenmusiker, Gustav Bosse Verlag, Regensburg, 1927, pp. 137–166
  • A. Peter Brown, The second golden age of the Viennese symphony: Brahms, Bruckner, Dvořák, Mahler, and selected contemporaries, Indiana University Press, Indianapolis, 2002
  • Uwe Harten, Anton Bruckner. Ein Handbuch. Residenz Verlag, Salzburg, 1996. ISBN 3-7017-1030-9.
  • Paul Hawkshaw, "An anatomy of change: Anton Bruckner's Revisions to the Mass in F minor" Bruckner Studies edited by Timothy L. Jackson and Paul Hawkshaw, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997
  • Paul Hawkshaw, "Bruckner's large sacred compositions" The Cambridge Companion to Bruckner edited by John Williamson, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004
  • Paul Hawkshaw, Anton Bruckner and the Austrian Choral Tradition in: Donna M Di Grazia, Nineteenth-Century Choral Music, Routledge, 2013. ISBN 978-1-136-29409-9
  • Keith William Kinder, The Wind and Wind-Chorus Music of Anton Bruckner, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, 2000
  • Timothy Jackson, "Bruckner's 'Oktaven'", Music & Letters Vol. 78, No. 3, 1997
  • Stephen Johnson, "Anton Bruckner, Masses nos. 1–3" 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die, Rye Matthew (editor), Universe, New York, 2008
  • Lee T. Lovallo, "Mass no. 3 in f minor" Anton Bruckner: a Discography, Rowman & Littlefield, New York, 1991
  • Hans Ferdinand Redlich, Preface to Mass in F minor (revision of 1881), Ernst Eulenburg, Ltd, London, 1967
  • 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

External links[edit]