ANTON BRUCKNER: Mass No. 3 in f “Grosse Messe;” Symphonische Praeludium; Organ improvisation – Soloists/ Houston Sym. Chorus/ Moores School Symphony Orch./ Franz Anton Krager/ Sigurd Ogaard, organ – HDTT Pure Audio multichannel Blu-ray (96/24), 88:43 ****:
Nice to have this best-known of Bruckner’s Masses all on one disc without any big cuts. Even without the 6:26 organ improvisation on themes in the Mass which closes out the disc, this multichannel performance recorded by John Proffitt last year would not have fit on a single SACD, probably due to the Prelude (attributed to Bruckner) which opens the program.
The notes with the album are mostly from the president of the Bruckner Society. If you have a video display operating during the performance (although it’s not needed), you will see a very slow-moving slide show with still photos of the rehearsals and performances, period cartoons about Bruckner, and various portraits of the composer. The Bruckner masses were not created primarily for concert performances, but for liturgical use. The overall design of this mass is particularly symphonic, though much of the thematic material is rooted in Gregorian chant.
We reviewed a previous multichannel SACD of the Mass here, conducted by Marek Janowski, on PentaTone. There are also highly-rated standard CD recordings by Celibidache and Barenboim. I wasn’t able to do any comparisons on these but find the Houston forces to be top rate and probably the equal of other recorded versions. The chorus alone is over 150 strong. The work definitely calls for larger forces than would be appropriate for most liturgical settings. It is broken down into 17 separate tracks on the Blu-ray, book-ended by the Praeludium and ending organ improvisation.
We also just reviewed yet another multichannel Bruckner Mass No. 3.