Psalm 146 (Bruckner)

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Psalm 146
by Anton Bruckner
Bruckner circa 1860.jpg
The composer, c. 1860
Key A major
Catalogue WAB 37
Form Psalm setting
Composed c. 1850 (c. 1850) – c. 1856 (c. 1856): St. Florian & Linz
Performed 28 November 1971 (1971-11-28) (28 November 1971 (1971-11-28)): Nürnberg
Published 1996 (1996)
Recorded May 1972 (1972-05) (May 1972 (1972-05))
Movements 6
Vocal SSAATTBB choir and SATB soloists
Instrumental Orchestra

Psalm 146 in A major (WAB 37) by Anton Bruckner is a psalm setting for double mixed choir, soloists and orchestra.[1] It is a setting of verses 1 to 11 of a German version of Psalm 147, which is Psalm 146 in the Vulgata.


It is not known what occasion prompted Bruckner to compose this large-scale work or whether there was any performance in Bruckner's lifetime.[1] The composition was presumably initiated during the St. Florian period (c. 1850) and completed in c. 1856 (at the latest 1858) in Linz, when Bruckner was studying with Simon Sechter.[2][3]

When it was written, for whom, and why it was allowed to languish unperformed are all unanswered questions. Its cantata-like structure ... and stylistic affinity with the Missa solemnis place it in the late St. Florian years, though its enormous dimensions ... are difficult to reconcile with the resources of the monastery.[4]

A sketch of the work is stored in the archive of Wels. An incomplete manuscript and a completed copy with annotations are stored in the archive of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek. A critical edition was published by Paul Hawkshaw in 1996[5] in Band XX/4 of the Gesamtausgabe.[3][2]

The first performance of Bruckner's Psalm 146 by Wolfgang Riedelbauch with the Hans-Sachs-Chor, the Lehrergesangverein Nürnberg and the Nürnberger Symphoniker occurred in the Meistersingerhalle of Nürnberg on 28 November 1971.[2] Six months later another performance by the same ensembles was recorded in the Colosseum-Studio and put on LP. Other performances occurred in May 1975.[6]
A second wave of performances occurred about twenty years later by Heinz Wallberg with the Niederösterreichiches Tonkünstler Orchester and the choir of the Wirtschaftsuniversität, first in Vienna on 10 November 1991[2] and one day later in Baden bei Biel, Switzerland.[7]
The American premiere by Leon Botstein with the American Symphony Orchestra and the Canticum Novum Singers occurred about three years later, on 13 January 1995. The American premiere used the score prepared by Hawkshaw for the Bruckner's Gesamtausgabe.[8]
Twenty years later, during the 25th Ebrach Summer Music Festival, a next performance by Gerd Schaller with the Philharmonie Festiva orchestra and the Philharmonic Choir of Munich occurred on 6 September 2015. Recordings of Wallberg's, Botstein's and Schaller's live performances are put in the Bruckner archive.[9]


Lob Gottes wegen seiner Wohlthaten (Praise God for his well-doings)

  1. Alleluja! Lobet den Herrn; denn lobsingen ist gut: liebliches und zierliches Lob sey unserm Gott!
  2. Der Herr bauet Jerusalem, versammelt die Zerstreuten von Israel.
  3. Er heilet, die geschlagenen Herzens sind, und verbindet ihre Wunden.
  4. Er zählet die Menge der Sterne, und benennet sie Alle mit Namen.
  5. Groß ist unser Herr, und groß seine Macht, und seiner Weisheit ist kein Maaß.
  6. Der Herr nimmt auf die Sanften, und demüthigt die Sünder bis zur Erde.
  7. Singet dem Herrn mit Danksagung: lobsinget unserm Gott mit der Harfe.
  8. Er decket den Himmel mit Wolken, und bereitet Regen der Erde. Er läßt Gras wachsen auf den Bergen, und Kräuter zum Dienste der Menschen.
  9. Er gibt dem Vieh seine Speise, und den jungen Raben, die zu ihm rufen.
  10. Er hat nicht Lust an der Stärke des Rosses, noch Wohlgefallen an den Beinen des Mannes.
  11. Der Herr hat Wohlgefallen an denen, die ihn fürchten, und an denen, die auf seine Barmherzigkeit hoffen.[10]


Psalm 146 is the largest of Bruckner's psalm settings. The 652-bar long work in A major is scored for SSAATTBB choir and SATB soloists and orchestra (1 flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 4 trombones, timpani and strings). The work (total duration about 30 minutes) is divided into six parts:

  1. Introduction: "Alleluja! Lobet den Herrn". Langsam, A major – Choir with soprano soloist and solo horn
  2. Recitative: F sharp minor veering to D major
    1. "Der Herr bauet Jerusalem". Kräftig – Bass soloist and trombones
    2. "Er heilet die geschlagenen Herzens sind". Weich – Soprano soloist and horns
    3. "Er zählet die Menge der Sterne". Frisch – Tenor soloist and woodwinds (oboes & bassoons)
  3. Choir: "Groß ist unser Herr". Schnell, D minor veering to D major – Double choir in canon
  4. Arioso with Choir:
    1. Arioso: "Der Herr nimmt auf die Sanften". Nicht zu langsam, B flat major – Soprano, tenor and alto soloists, with solo oboe and violin
    2. Choir: "Singet dem Herrn mit Danksagung". Etwas bewegter, E flat major
    3. Bridging arioso:
      1. "Er läßt Gras wachsen auf den Bergen" – Soprano soloist
      2. "Er gibt dem Vieh seine Speise" – Tenor soloist with solo clarinet
      3. "Er hat nicht Lust an der Stärke des Rosses" – Bass soloist with solo bassoon, veering to E minor
  5. Arioso: "Der Herr hat Wohlgefallen an denen, die ihn fürchten". Nicht schnell, E major – Soprano soloist
  6. Finale with Fugue: "Alleluja! Lobet den Herrn", A major
    1. Final choir: Etwas schnell
    2. Fugue: Nicht schnell – Choir with soloists at the end

As in the Missa solemnis there are clear influences of Haydn and Schubert, particularly in the ariosos. There are in the Finale two passages with brass instrument chords followed by an Alleluja, for which Bruckner drew his inspiration from the Hallelujah of Händel's Messiah, on which he often improvised on organ.[3]

For the first time Bruckner is using a full orchestra, with yet some archaism such as the use of horns (part 4) and trombones (part 6) in homophony with the choir.[4] "[The] closing Alleluja ... is Bruckner's most extended fugue prior to the Fifth Symphony."[4] The five-minute long fugue is more mature than the quite formal fugues of Bruckner's previous works – a consequence of Sechter's tuition.[3] Bruckner uses, e.g., an inversion of the theme in its development.

Psalm 146 is also remarkable as the first piece in which Bruckner experimented with organic thematic integration on a large scale ... [It] also deserves to be heard more often for the lovely string pianissimo in its opening bars that foreshadows the beginning of both the D minor and F minor Masses.[4]


There are two available recordings:



  • Cornelis van Zwol, Anton Bruckner – Leven en Werken, Thot, Bussum (Netherlands), 2012. ISBN 90-686-8590-2
  • John Williamson, The Cambridge Companion to Bruckner, Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-521-80404-3
  • Uwe Harten, Anton Bruckner. Ein Handbuch. Residenz Verlag, Salzburg, 1996. ISBN 3-7017-1030-9.
  • Anton Bruckner – Sämtliche Werke, Band XX/4: Psalm 146 (1856–1858), Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag der Internationalen Bruckner-Gesellschaft, Paul Hawkshaw (Editor), Vienna, 1996

External links[edit]