Bruckner: Mass No. 3 in F minor; Te Deum

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WORKS: Mass No. 3 in F minor; Te Deum
PERFORMER: Jane Eaglen (soprano), Birgit Remmert (contralto), Deon van der Walt (tenor), Alfred Muff (bass); Linz Mozart Choir, London Philharmonic/Franz Welser-Möst
Bruckner’s three masses are early works, all dating from before he had reached maturity as a symphonist. The last of them, in F minor (composed in 1867-8), is the grandest in scale, and at nearly an hour’s duration it needs a conductor who has the patience and concentration to deal with the long paragraphs over which Bruckner builds his musical structures. Franz Welser-Möst has already proved himself a fine conductor of Bruckner’s symphonies, and he certainly has the scale of this piece: his tempi are well-judged, and he encourages the London Philharmonic to playing of great expressive beauty, especially in the Kyrie and Agnus Dei. The Gloria and Credo require considerable power and projection, yet it is difficult to stop some of the writing sounding four-square. No such problems in the Te Deum, an equally imposing work from 15 years later which has quite un-Brucknerian proportions: five linked sections lasting little more than twenty minutes. This shows the four soloists to better effect – only Jane Eaglen’s well-focused soprano makes much of an impression in the Mass. EMI’s choice of the Linz Mozart Choir strikes me as a bad mistake: these young, well-drilled voices would be far better suited to the neo-Renaissance subtleties of Bruckner’s E minor Mass (No. 2); in the grand statements of the F minor work they sound hopelessly under-powered. Stephen Maddock