ANTON BRUCKNER: AVE MARIA

Josef Anton Bruckner (September 4, 1824 – October 11, 1896) was born in the Austrian town of Ansfelden. His father was a schoolteacher and church organist, and Bruckner's own course of studies followed similar lines. His Father died in 1837, and the adolescent son was enrolled at the church school in St. Florian. There he studied organ, piano, and music theory. At sixteen he began teacher-training in Linz and assumed a teaching position at St. Florian by 1845. Soon he became organist at the cathedral, and it was in this position that he began to compose sacred music. In 1855 he travelled to Vienna to commence formal study in counterpoint and harmony with Professor Simon Sechter at the Vienna Conservatory. One year later he was named cathedral organist at Linz, where he studied orchestration with Otto Kitzler, a cellist, who introduced Bruckner to the Wagner operas. He studied intently the music of Palestrina and Bach and by 1862 he had begun to forge a reputation as a composer and organist. In 1868 he was named organist at the court of Vienna and assumed Sechter’s professorship at the Vienna Conservatory. His final decades were spent composing his nine symphonies, the last of which remained unfinished at the time of his death. The dimension of his symphonic movements, great architectural structures, belie the stature of Bruckner himself at 4’ 11”. Extremely shy and unobtrusive, he was known to alter passages in his works to accommodate the requests of others, presumably owing to his need to please. He serves in the continuum of music history as a link between Wagner, his idol, and Mahler, whom he inspired.

Ave Maria is a supplication to the Virgin Mary, drawn from the text of the annunciation. Bruckner’s Ave Maria dates from 1861 and features three parts for female and four for male voices.


Ave Maria,                                                Hail Mary, Mother of Grace

gratia plena Dominus tecum.                    The Lord be with you.

Benedicta tu in mulieribus                        Blessed are you among women

Et benedictus fructus ventris tui,              and blessed is the fruit of your womb,

Jesus Sancta Maria, mater Dei,                Jesus Holy Mary, Mother of God

Ora pro nobis peccatoribus,                     Pray for us sinners

Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae, Amen.    Now and in our hour of death, Amen.


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