Advent Calendar Day 12: Virga Jesse – Bruckner

Basically, I’ll take any excuse to listen to (or sing) Bruckner.  I am not always a huge fan of Romantic music, but I love the richness and lushness of Bruckner’s choral harmonies, and his tendency to set the sopranos soaring at key moments in the music.  Also, I like to pretend that I’m related to him, because my Brukner relatives come from the same corner of the world as he did, and they were musicians… and never mind the fact that Bruckner/Brukner is a very common name and Vienna was the place where musicians tended to end up if at all possible!

The English text here fits nicely with our blossoming rose theme (though roses don’t actually get mentioned this time):

The rod of Jesse hath blossomed: a Virgin hath brought forth God and man: God hath restored peace, reconciling in Himself the lowest with the highest. Alleluia.

I love the way Bruckner paints with music in this piece. In the early section, the choir parts just grow and bloom into ‘floruit’ (blossomed), and the after the firm certainty of the Virgin bringing forth God and Man, and restoring peace, we return to a lovely, soft major key for the reconciliation part.   And the Alleluias are just as full of joy as they should be.

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Advent Calendar Day 10 – Christus Factus Est Pro Nobis (Bruckner)

Having sung Bruckner for the first time this year, I knew that I had to find some way to shoehorn him into my Advent Calendar! He’s another of the romantic composers, and his harmonies are so deliciously lush, and every line gets the most beautiful melodies. Also, I’ve decided that he is great-great-uncle Bruckner, because my great grandmother was a Brukner and from Vienna and a singer, and really, how many professional-level musician Bru(c)kners could really have been wandering around Vienna in the late 19th – early 20th century anyway? He must be some kind of relative.

(of course, I wouldn’t be saying that if my great-grandmother’s surname had been Rutter)

Anyway, the tricky part here was finding something Advent appropriate. I did find Virga Jesse Floruit, which is pretty much a Christmas anthem (and I certainly recommend it to your attention if you listen to this one and need more Bruckner afterward), and quite appropriate, but it didn’t quite speak to me. But then YouTube led me to this one, and it turns out that I *had* in fact sung Bruckner before and had inexplicably failed to notice that he was my cousin. This anthem is really intended for Lent (being about how Christ was obedient even unto death on the cross for us, and for this reason his name is above all other names), but I have it on excellent authority that Lenten texts can be appropriate for Advent, this being a season of fasting and reflection too.

And to be honest, having heard this anthem again, there was no way I wasn’t going to include it, because it is Cousin Anton (I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me calling him that) at his best. It’s dramatic and lyrical and exciting to sing and has some absolutely heart-stopping moments (and in the alto line, too!) – I love that bit right at the end after the huge climactic chords when the parts come back in one by one on the ‘qui est super…’ – it sends shivers down my spine.