BRUCKNER Missa Solemnis
The key may be B flat minor but the debt of Bruckner’s opening gambit to the D minor of Mozart’s Requiem is unmistakable. In fact the greater part of this Missa solemnis is cast in B flat major, and thus it is renamed in the new edition by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs, but the music is in substance the same as a previous recording led by Karl Anton Rickenbacher.
The work of the industrious Cohrs includes a significant contribution to the completed finale of Bruckner’s Ninth, as recorded by Rattle in Berlin, and his own version of Mozart’s Requiem. His reconstruction takes care of the details down to the relatively unfamiliar Credo I intonation (Rickenbacher uses the now-standard Credo III).
Not least thanks to the pliant timbres of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (including a late-Mozartian trio of trombones), the whole enterprise breathes the cleansing air of Upper Austrian landscape and churches. The 30-year-old Bruckner may not (yet) have been granted the sustained inspiration revealed by Schubert at the same age in writing the still-overlooked Mass in E flat, but family resemblances extend beyond the intricate fugues ending both Gloria and Credo to the spacious hush and noble, swinging melody of the Sanctus.
The rhetoric of late-ecclesiastical Mozart pervades not only the Mass itself but also the motets which were deployed at its premiere in 1854. An 1828 offertory by Eybler does not suggest any significant advance in language from a man who had been the first to try and fail to complete Mozart’s Requiem manuscript. More developed in style, indeed marked by a few fingerprints we may have assumed peculiar to Bruckner, are the 1830 Christus factus est of Führer and especially a brief and punchy Te Deum setting from 1844 by Gänsbacher (known at large, if at all, for his contribution to Diabelli’s waltz project). More speculative are the Tantum ergo and Magnificat, apparently written by Bruckner in 1852 and completed by Cohrs from surviving parts, which give pleasure mainly through the youthful-sounding team of soloists and tightly disciplined singing of the RIAS Kammerchor. Whether the appeal of this short-measure recording reaches beyond Bruckner aficionados remains to be seen, but the performances could hardly be more persuasive.