“It almost unfolds like a flower—you can almost see and hear the generations of believers for whom the kingdom of heaven has been opened.”
That’s how HS Chorus Director Betsy Cook Weber describes one of her favorite choral masterpieces, Bruckner’s Te Deum. This major work has inspired many attempts to translate its heavenly beauty into words. A great composer in his own right, Gustav Mahler wrote on his copy of the score: “…for the tongues of Angels, heaven-blessed, chastened hearts, and souls purified in the fire!”
Featuring a large orchestra and chorus plus a quartet of vocal soloists, Bruckner himself regarded it as his greatest work, even though it is far more compact than the monumental symphonies he’s best known for. A deeply spiritual man, he is reported to have said:
“When God finally calls me and asks, ‘What have you done with the talent I gave you, my lad?’ I will present to him the score of my Te Deum.”
Part of Bruckner’s secret to composing profoundly moving music is his mastery of gradually building up to incredible climaxes. This poses a great challenge for conductors, who must carefully control the flow of the music to maintain suspense up until the climactic moment.
Fortunately for us, our former Music Director Christoph Eschenbach is returning to Jones Hall this weekend to lead an all-Bruckner program. Principal Horn William VerMeulen said of Eschenbach: “Christoph has a way of pacing things that’s just amazing…there’s a sense of restraint that builds up in a way so that when these climaxes do happen, they’re even more powerful…”
Bruckner’s Te Deum shares the program with his Symphony No. 1, a work that has been somewhat overshadowed by Bruckner’s later (and much longer) symphonies. Had it been by another composer, a work of such quality would likely be more famous today. As VerMeulen told us, “You’re still talking about a great genius…it’s still a fantastic piece and it’s been great to study.” Eschenbach has chosen to champion it this season, conducting Bruckner’s First in Washington D.C. and right here in Houston.
Don’t miss Eschenbach Conducts Bruckner March 3, 4 & 5, 2017! Get tickets and more info here.