Missa solemnis (Bruckner)

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Missa solemnis
Mass by Anton Bruckner
The young Bruckner
KeyB-flat minor
CatalogueWAB 29
DedicationInstallation of Friedrich Mayer
Performed1854 (1854): St. Florian Monastery
Published1930 (1930)
Recordedc. 1980 (c. 1980)
VocalSATB choir and soloists
InstrumentalOrchestra and organ

The Missa solemnis, WAB 29, is a solemn mass composed by Anton Bruckner in 1854 for the installation of Friedrich Mayer.


Following the death of Michael Arneth,[1] Friedrich Mayer[2] was appointed abbot of St. Florian.[3]

The Missa solemnis, WAB 29, is a setting of the mass ordinary for vocal soloists, chorus, orchestra and organ, composed by Bruckner for Mayer's installation . The Missa solemnis was premiered in the St. Florian Abbey on September 14, 1854, the day of Mayer's installation.[4] The manuscript is archived in the Abbey.[5]

"Bruckner's Missa Solemnis is a musical summa of the first thirty years of his life."[6] Robert Führer saw the score and suggested Bruckner study with Simon Sechter.[7] Bruckner showed Sechter the mass and Sechter accepted him as a pupil. With the possible exception of Psalm 146, the Missa solemnis was the last major work Bruckner wrote before concluding his studies with Sechter, who did not allow his students to compose freely while studying with him.[8]


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.[6]

According to the Catholic practice – as in Bruckner's previous Messe für den Gründonnerstag and the 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 continues. Unlike Bruckner's earlier Choral-Messen, the Gloria and the Credo of the Missa solemnis contain the larger 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 - bass soloist with solo oboe and choir
    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.[6]

Stylistically the mass, which is in the line of Beethoven's orchestral masses, displays Bruckner's confrontation with the tradition. In spite of a lot of beautiful details, the multiple influences afford the work some heterogenicity, in which Bach's technique of the fugue is "amalgamated" with elements of the Viennese classical and preclassical periods, and of the early romantism (Schubert).[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". Several passages of the Missa solemnis, 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.

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."[9]


The edition by Robert Haas for the Gesamtausgabe was based on the copy given to Mayer.[10] During the years 1930 Ferdinand Habel brought some changes to the text of bars 28-38 of the Kyrie and bars 57-58 of the Gloria, to make it better usable for Eucharist celebration.[11]

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.[10][12]

On 25 June 2017 a new edition of the score by Cohrs, prepared for the Anton Bruckner Urtext Gesamtausgabe,[13] has been premiered by Łukasz Borowicz with the RIAS Kammerchor and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin.[14]


There are only five 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.[11]

  • Hubert Gunther, Bruckner - Missa Solemnis in B, Rheinische Singgemeinschaft and BRT-Radio Symfonieorkest – LP: Garnet G 40 170, c. 1980
  • Elmar Hausmann, Anton Bruckner – Missa solemnis in B, Motetten, Chorgemeinschaft and Orchester an der Basilika St. Aposteln Köln – CD: Aulos AUL 66122, 1983
  • Jürgen Jürgens, Anton Bruckner – Music of the St. Florian Period, Monteverdi-Chor and Israel Chamber Orchestra – LP: Jerusalem Records ATD 8503, 1984 (Bruckner Archive Production). Transferred to CD BSVD-0109, 2011
  • Karl Anton Rickenbacher, Bruckner - Missa Solemnis, Psalm 112 & Psalm 150, Chor der Bamberger Symphoniker and Bamberger Symphoniker – CD: Virgin Classics VC 7 91481, 1990
  • Łukasz Borowicz, RIAS Kammerchor, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Raphael Alpermann (Organ), Anton Bruckner – Missa solemnis – CD: Accentus ACC 30429, 2017



  • Anton Bruckner, Sämtliche Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe – Band 15: Requiem d-Moll – Missa solemnis b-Moll, Dr. Benno Filsen Verlag GmbH, Robert Haas (Editor), Augsburg-Vienna, 1930
  • Anton Bruckner: Sämtliche Werke: Band XV: Missa Solemnis in B (1854), Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag der Internationalen Bruckner-Gesellschaft, Leopold Nowak (Editor), Vienna, 1975
  • Robert Anderson, "Romantic Mass", The Musical Times 117, No. 1602, 1976
  • Uwe Harten, Anton Bruckner. Ein Handbuch. Residenz Verlag, Salzburg, 1996. ISBN 3-7017-1030-9.
  • Paul Hawkshaw, "Bruckner's large sacred compositions", The Cambridge Companion to Bruckner, John Williamson (Editor), 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
  • 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

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