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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Mass No. 3 in F Minor (1868)
Hanna-Elisabeth Müller (soprano); Anke Vondung (alto); Dominik Wortig (tenor); Franz-Josef Selig (bass)
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Bamberger Symphoniker/Robin Ticciati
rec. 8-12 April 2013, Joseph-Keilberth-Saal, Konzerthalle, Bamberg,
Latin text, English, French and German translations included TUDOR 7193 [62:11]
Robin Ticciati’s fruitful association with the Tudor label
continues. For this disc he’s joined once again by the Bamberg
Symphony Orchestra and the Choir of Bavarian Radio with whom he made
a very fine Brahms disc in 2009 (review).
By a strange coincidence both of the recordings of Bruckner’s
F minor Mass that I have in my collection also involve the Bavarian
Radio Choir. They sing for Eugen Jochum on his 1962 DG recording and
also appear on Sir Colin Davis’s 1988 Philips CD: both of those
recordings were made in Munich and involved the Bavarian Radio Symphony
Orchestra. The Bavarian choir made a splendid contribution to both
of those earlier recordings and the 2013 cohort proudly upholds that
We learn from Alfred Beaujean’s note that the F minor Mass was
commissioned in 1867 by the Imperial Court Orchestra but Bruckner’s
work on it was disrupted by illness and it took him over a year to
complete the score. Thus it comes between the First Symphony (1866)
and the Second (1872). It was first performed in 1872 when it achieved
quite a success. It was, I believe, the last work that he composed
in Linz before moving to Vienna so in a sense it closes a chapter
in his career. It does so in another sense too, for although it was
not the last piece of sacred music that Bruckner composed it was his
last – and most substantial - setting of the Mass: thereafter
symphonies were his main preoccupation. While listening I was struck
by how mature it seems whereas in the symphonies he composed around
this time he was still some way from the full maturity of his last
The Mass is on a grand scale and Alfred Beaujean says that Beethoven’s
Missa Solemnis was ‘undoubtedly’ the model. I
can see what he means but I wonder how familiar Bruckner might have
been also with Schubert’s settings in A flat and E flat.
I don’t know how experienced Robin Ticciati is at conducting
Bruckner symphonies but he certainly seems at home here in the Bruckner
idiom. That’s evident from the outset as he invests the Kyrie
movement with gravitas and breadth yet he keeps the music sensibly
on the move too. In this movement though there are some interjections
from the soloists it’s the choir that sustains most of the musical
argument and Ticciati’s choir does very well indeed: their singing
is expressive, the sound well-balanced and focused.
The Gloria opens jubilantly though very soon Bruckner introduces strong
dynamic contrasts and these are well observed in this performance.
But when the music is extrovert we find both choir and orchestra projecting
strongly and effectively. There’s hushed, expressive singing
in the passage that begins at ‘Qui tollis peccata mundi’
and hereabouts Ticciati shapes the music very well. Later there’s
a good blend of grandeur and energy at ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’.
Though the mandatory fugue on ‘In gloria Dei Patris’ seems
rather to have been tacked on – that’s no fault of the
performers – yet the choir delivers it with real commitment.
In a fine performance of the Credo the stand-out moment is ‘Et
resurrexit’, which has great splendour here thanks in no small
measure to the excellent quality of the recorded sound. This passage
is powerful and jubilant with some grand and exciting playing from
the Bamberg brass – though I feel the timpanist gets carried
away momentarily at one point. The introduction to the Benedictus
is warmly played by the Bamberg strings and the movement is expressively
done by all concerned with some very good contributions from the soloists.
The last movement, the Agnus Dei, is intense and expressive and the
hushed singing and playing in the last few pages sets the seal on
a very fine account of this Mass.
I haven’t commented on the soloists individually but they make
an excellent team and I enjoyed their work. The orchestra too makes
a very fine contribution but in this score it’s the choir that
takes centre stage for most of the proceedings and the Bavarian Radio
Choir excel in every way.
Ticciati’s conducting is very good indeed. All his recordings
to date that have come my way have given me great pleasure and this
is no exception. The success of the enterprise is helped in no small
measure by the splendid sound on this hybrid disc to which I listened
as an SACD. Producer Bernhardt Albrecht and engineer Reinhold Forster
have given us a recording that has ample presence and fine definition.
The dynamic range is wide, though not excessively so, and I felt that
the sound was just right for this kind of music and presented the
performance superbly for domestic listening. The booklet contains
a useful note in German with English and French translations by Alfred
Beaujean. There’s also a note in English only by Ben Quash which
is too fulsome in tone and tendentious for my taste. When I tell you
that it’s entitled ’A Sweet Hunger for God’ you
may understand what I mean.