Requiem (Bruckner)

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by Anton Bruckner
The young Bruckner
Key D minor
Catalogue WAB 39
Form Missa pro defunctis
Dedication In memory of Franz Sailer
Performed 15 September 1849 (1849-09-15): St. Florian Monastery
Published 1930 (1930)
Recorded 1970 (1970)
Movements 6
Vocal SATB choir and soloists
Instrumental orchestra and organ

The Requiem in D minor, WAB 39, by Anton Bruckner is a setting of the Missa pro defunctis for mixed choir, vocal soloists, three trombones, one horn, strings and organ with figured bass,[1] written in memory of Franz Sailer, the notary of the St. Florian Monastery, who bequeathed Bruckner a Bösendorfer piano.[2] The Requiem was premiered on 15 September 1849 in the St. Florian Monastery, a year after Sailer's death.


  1. Introit: Requiem – Andante, D minor
  2. Sequence: Dies irae – Allegro, D minor
  3. Offertorium
    1. Domine – Andante, F major
    2. Hostias – Adagio, B-flat major: Chorale by divided man voices and trombones
    3. Quam olim – Con spirito, F minor: Double fugue, ending in F major
  4. Sanctus – Andante, D minor
  5. Benedictus – Andante, B-flat major - a solo horn replaces one of the trombones
  6. Agnus Dei and Communion
    1. Agnus Dei – Adagio, D minor
    2. Requiem – Adagio, D minor: Chorale a cappella
    3. Cum sanctis – Alla breve, D minor, ending in D major

Total duration: about 37 minutes[1]

The Requiem is most likely Bruckner's "first truly large-scale composition and probably his first significant work."[3] "[It] is amazing what he achieved, especially if we look at the great double fugue of the Quam olim Abrahae, written at least six years before he even commenced his thorough contrapuntal studies with Simon Sechter!"[4] "The Requiem was Bruckner's first larger-scale composition and also his first work with orchestra. As a highly self-critical seventy-year-old, Bruckner passed judgement on the work as follows: 'It is not bad!'."[1]

There is clear influence of Mozart throughout the work.

[There] are many passages reminiscent of what was even then, in 1848/49, a past age (the very opening points irresistibly to Mozart's Requiem in the same key), and though the very inclusion of a figured bass for organ continuo strikes one as backward looking, there are already several flashes of the later, great Bruckner to come.[4]

[Despite it] is by no means a perfect masterpiece... [it] can be said to be the first full demonstration that the young man was a composer of inestimable promise. ... [The] expressively reticent opening of the opening of the Requiem, with his softly shifting syncopations in the strings ... already faintly anticipates one or two of his own symphonic passages in the two earlier D minor symphonies, for instance Nos. '0' and 3... [We] cannot escape the solemn beauty of this music, which already has the authentic atmosphere of natural genius.[5]

During the years following the composition of the Requiem, Bruckner wrote a number of small choral works as well as two works on a larger canvas: a Magnificat (1852) and the Missa solemnis in B-flat minor (1854). Strangely enough these do not quite measure up to the qualities inherent in the earlier Requiem.[4]

Versions and editions[edit]

Bruckner made a slight revision of the score in 1892.

There are three different editions in the Gesamtausgabe:

  • Haas edition (1930), together with the Missa solemnis. Haas added a lot of dynamics markings, but ignored some of Bruckner's hairpins[2]
  • Nowak edition (1966). Nowak corrected Haas' oversights but retained antique clefs for the vocal parts[6] (different C-clefs for soprano, alto and tenor)
  • Rüdiger Bornhöft edition (1998). Bornhöft modernised the clefs (treble for all but bass) and corrected minor errors.

Selected discography[edit]

The Requiem remains still somewhat in the background of other Bruckner's works. Most of the about 20 recordings of it are live performances, which were not brought to the commercial market.

The LP recording by Schönzeler in 1970 was a pioneer. Matthew Best's CD recording is still, according to Hans Roelofs, currently the reference. Farnberger's recording (1997) with the St. Florianer Sängerknaben, which was recorded in the St. Florian Abbey, provides the listener with a whiff of authenticity. Out of the more recent recordings, Roelofs picks out Janssens' recording of 2006 with the Laudantes Consort, and Susana Acra-Brache's recording of 2010 with the Grupo Vocal Matisses.[7]



  • Rüdiger Bornhöft, Note to the Preface to Anton Bruckner: Sämtliche Werke: Band 14: Requiem D-Moll: Studienpartitur, Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag der Internationalen Bruckner-Gesellschaft, Richard Rickett (translator), Vienna, 1998
  • 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
  • Timothy Jackson, "Bruckner's 'Oktaven'", Music & Letters Vol. 78, No. 3, 1997
  • Keith William Kinder, The Wind and Wind-Chorus Music of Anton Bruckner, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, 2000
  • Leopold Nowak, Preface to Anton Bruckner: Sämtliche Werke: Band 14: Requiem d-Moll: Studienpartitur, Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag der Internationalen Bruckner-Gesellschaft, Richard Rickett (translator), Vienna, 1966
  • 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, 1996

External links[edit]