Psalm 150

Anton Bruckner

Psalm 150 in C major

WAB38 • “Halleluja! Lobet den Herrn”

About this work

Psalm 150 belongs to the last group of choral works by Bruckner; in this, as with the Te Deum, the secular Helgoland and some of the motets, much of the unique and daring idiom of the mature symphonies finds its way into the sacred vocal medium. The Psalm is one of Bruckner's very last completed works and is contemporary with the Symphony No. 9. Despite the myriad health problems that beset the aging composer in those last years, his creative skills were not diminished. For all the many eerie and apocalyptic moments that permeate the last symphony, this Psalm, in vivid C major, is heartily confident and joyous. It is often regarded as a companion to the earlier and larger Te Deum but is in fact much more compact and avoids much of the "Sturm and Drang" of that work. It seems occasionally to look back to Bruckner's youthful years as a church musician while peering into the visionary world of the Ninth Symphony.

The Psalm opens heartily with incisive intoning of "Alleluia" by the full chorus, accompanied by rousing fanfares from the full orchestra. This subsides to the chorus's gentler statement of the Psalm's text; this in turn yields to a more militant stance in correlation with the text's injunction to praise the Creator with all forms of instruments. This grows more intense in its chromaticism, a reminder that this work was wrought when Bruckner was forging into that last unknown musical territory. Some relief comes with the gentler interplay of solo violin and the soprano . The hearty return of the opening section gives way to a powerful fugue on the words "Alles, was Odem hat, lobe den Herrn"--"Let every living thing that has breath praise the Lord!", the impetus gained from the repetition inviting parallel with the long "Non Confundar" section of the Te Deum. The music to this text is worked over with growing intensity, almost torturous in its God-inflamed fervor, until a wrenching chromatic descent resolves into a pivot back to the opening Alleluia, this time bolstered by tympani and quoted trumpet fanfares from the Symphony No. 8. Thus comes Bruckner's last sacred choral work to a terse yet powerful and joyous finish.