Anton Bruckner – Mass No. 3 (Grosse Messe)
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.
After the 1867 success of his Mass No. 1 in D minor, Bruckner was commissioned “to write a new Mass for the Burgkapelle.” Bruckner wrote the first version between Septembers 1867–1868 in Linz (just before his move to Vienna).
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.” Ultimately, Herbeck found the mass “too long and unsingable.” After various delays, the mass was finally premiered on June 16, 1872, at the Augustinerkirche, with Bruckner himself conducting. Herbeck changed his opinion of the piece, claiming to know only two masses: this one and Beethoven’s Missa solemnis. Franz Liszt and even Eduard Hanslick praised the piece. A second performance occurred in the Hofmusikkapelle on 8 December 1873. The manuscript is archived at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.
After the third performance (30 July 1876), Bruckner made slight revisions on the Kyrie and the Gloria, and in 1877 on the Credo. He made a further revision on the Credo in 1881, in preparation for performances at the Hofkapelle, mainly to address “difficulties of execution”,but also to take into account what he had learned from studying Mozart’s Requiem, correcting some instances of parallel octaves if not justified by Mozart’s example. In some later performances, Bruckner was in the organ loft rather than on the podium.
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♭ major of the Credo: Deum verum de Deo, please, Organo Pleno! Spare not on the registers!.
In the 1890s Bruckner was still revising the work, but there were very few changes made to the vocal parts after 1868. At a November 1893 performance of this mass, Johannes Brahms “applauded … so enthusiastically … that Bruckner personally thanked him.”
The composer dedicated the piece to Hofrat Anton Ritter von Imhof-Geißlinghof at “the last minute.” Leopold Nowak, however, believed that the piece was actually dedicated to conductor Johann Herbeck.
6. Agnus Dei