Three Bruckner Motets: “Virga Jesse,” “Tota pulchra es,” “Ave Maria,”

The symphonies of Anton Bruckner are monumental musical edifices which revel in the mystery of the divine. As the musicologist Deryck Cooke noted, Bruckner’s symphonies are “elemental and metaphysical.” Their “majesty and grandeur” is revealed gradually, in a way similar to the experience of walking around a medieval cathedral and observing the same mighty structure from different vantage points. Bruckner’s sacred motets offer a microcosm of this experience. They occupy the timeless, ethereal sound …

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The Power of Six Notes: Exploring the “Dresden Amen”

On Friday, we listened to a few excerpts from Wagner’s epic final opera, Parsifal. Today, let’s return to one of Parsifal‘s most powerful and persistently recurring leitmotifs: the majestic, ascending six-note motive known as the “Dresden Amen.” This liturgical chord sequence was written by Johann Gottlieb Naumann (1741-1801) for use in Dresden’s court chapel some time in the late 18th century. It spread quickly to both Catholic and Lutheran churches throughout the German state of Saxony …

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