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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Mass No. 3 in F minor (1867/68, 1881, rev. 1890-93) [62:13]
Lenneke Ruiten (soprano), Iris Vermillion (mezzo), Shawn Mathey (tenor), Franz Josef Selig (bass); Rundfunkchor Berlin, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Marek Janowski
rec. June 2012, Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland
Texts not provided
PENTATONE CLASSICS PTC 5186 501 [62:13] 

Last May at the Dresden Music Festival 2012 I attended a concert at the Annenkirche, of Bruckner’s Mass No. 2 in E minor for chorus and winds. This was given by the Dresden Chamber Choir and the Staatskapelle Dresden Winds under Hans-Christoph Rademann. Since that performance, in such a splendid ecclesiastical setting, the view that the Bruckner mass settings are masterworks of the repertoire has been reinforced for me. When the right performers come along this music takes on a gripping spiritual quality.
 
The Mass No. 3 in F minor came during a particularly troubled time, both emotionally and professionally, in Bruckner’s life. In 1867 aged 43 at the time of completing the score Bruckner had recently suffered a breakdown culminating in a stay in a sanatorium. In addition he had been spurned twice in marriage proposals, had been unsuccessful in two significant job applications and had been rocked by the death of his teacher Simon Sechter. The F minor Mass was Bruckner’s thanksgiving to God for his restoration to health. He completed it in 1868, later undertaking several revisions up to 1893. It is thought that the reason the premiere was not given for four years after its completion was due to its severe performing difficulty.
 
Here on this Pentatone Classics recording Marek Janowski has opted for the 2005 New Critical Edition of the Mass as edited by Paul Hawkshaw. Janowski directs fluently managed singing of lofty veneration from the celebrated Rundfunkchor Berlin. I was especially struck by their unity and cleanness of tone. In a judicious paced account Janowski confidently obtains both dramatic and deeply felt playing yet achieves a fresh and strong sense of spontaneity. The admirable team of soloists is well chosen. All deserve praise, such is their quality of performance and their response to the words. I was especially delighted with the rock-steady bass Franz Josef Selig. Iris Vermillion is in radiant voice and sings with purity and profound veneration. There were many spiritual moments but none more special than the intoning of Hosanna in excelsis from the powerfully moving Benedictus.

From the Victoria Hall, Geneva the warm, clear recording reveals ample detail and a most satisfactory balance. I know the text of the Latin mass quite well but I certainly haven’t committed it to memory so it was disappointing that the booklet lacks any texts. With a performance high on vitality and reverence Bruckner is well served by this impressive recording.  

Michael Cookson