The festive cantata Preiset den Herrn, WAB 16, is a cantata composed by Anton Bruckner in 1862 for the celebration of the laying of the foundation stone of the new Mariä-Empfängnis-Dom of Linz.
To celebrate the laying of the foundation stone of the new Mariä-Empfängnis-Dom (Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception) of Linz, bishop Franz-Josef Rudigier asked Bruckner for a cantata. Bruckner responded enthusiastly with the composition of the Festive Cantata Preiset den Herrn (Praise the Lord) on a text of the theologian Maximilian Pammesberger.
On 1 May 1862 the foundation stone was laid. To celebrate the event the cantata was performed by the choir Frohsinn, invited guest singers and members of a local regimental band under the baton of Engelbert Lanz.
The manuscript of the cantata is stored in the archive of the Episcopacy of Linz. A facsimile was first published in band III/2, pp. 197-216 of the Göllerich/Auer biography. A choir and piano score has been issued by Doblinger in 1955. It is put in Band XXII/2 No. 6 of the Gesamtausgabe.
The Festive Cantata, WAB 16, is the first notable religious work, which Bruckner composes after his strenuous study period by Sechter. It will be followed one year later by Psalm 112 (1863), and again one year later by the secular cantata Germanenzug and the first great mass, Mass No. 1 in D minor (1864).
The cantata uses a text of the theologian Maximilian Pammesberger.
The 241-bar long work in D major for men's chorus, male solo quartet, bass soloist, and wind band (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 4 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 bass tuba) and timpani, is composed of eight short parts:
- Opening choir: "Preiset den Herrn", D major veering to F-sharp minor – Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell
- Aria: "Taue deine Kraft und Stärke", A major veering to F-sharp major – Solo quartet a cappella, choir repeat with woodwinds (flute, clarinet and bassoon) – Langsam, bittend
- Bridging choir: "Preiset den Herrn", D major – Bewegt, nicht zu schnell
- Arioso: "Aus der Erde Schoß", G major – Bass soloist – Langsam, nicht schleppend
- Aria: "Das ist der Unbefleckten Haus", E-flat major – Solo quartet a cappella with internal repetition - Langsam bewegt
- Prelude by reed instruments (clarinets and bassoons), E-flat major veering to G major
- Chorale: "Des Landes Stämme wallen fromm", a cappella, G major
- Final choir "Preiset den Herrn", D major – Bewegt, nicht zu schnell
Total duration: 10 to 13 minutes.
The opening choir with its starting octave-leap in unison, as in the Overture in G minor, and its reminiscence to the Hallelujah-chorus from Händel’s Messiah – on which Bruckner often made improvisations – is majestic and solemn. It thereafter evolves in a fugato on "Grund und Eckstein bist du, o Herr". To bind the work together the solemn opening choir is repeated twice, in the third and eight parts.
A commercial recording in full accordance with the original score edited by the critical Gesamtausgabe is still awaited.
Out of the seven commercial recordings, Fiala's live performance – with extra trombone accompaniment during the choir repeat of part 2 (m. 70–82) – is the most in accordance with the original score. Kerbl's live recording – with extra organ accompaniment for a cappella parts 2, 5 and 7 – is, according to Hans Roelofs, also a convincing performance.
The Festive Cantata has undergone several adaptations: for choir, only with organ accompaniment, for mixed choir with a different text ...
The two recordings by Track follow his own adaptations, one for male-voice choir (1990), the other as Festkantate zur Weihnacht for mixed choir with Herbert Vogg’s text "Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe" (1996).
In the version for male-voice choir the Arioso (part 4) is skipped. Parts 2 and 5 are accompanied by organ, part 7 is sung a cappella
In the version for mixed choir (Festkantate zur Weihnacht
) part 4 is sung by the male voices with the original instruments, parts 2, 5 and 7 – the last converted to C major – are sung by the whole choir with organ. Because of the female voices and the organ accompaniment this version sounds smoother than the original version.
Martin L. Fiala, Steyrer Männergesang-Verein Sängerlust and Bläserkreis Oberösterreichischer Landesmusikschullehrer, Festkonzert – CD: Ensemble Electronique EE-004CD, 1994 (Live)
Thomas Kerbl, Männerchorvereinigung Bruckner 08, Ensemble Linz, Philipp Sonntag (Organ), Anton Bruckner, Männerchöre – CD: Bruckner Haus LIVA027, 2008 (Live)
Gerhard Track, Wiener Männergesang-Verein, Wiener Schubertbund, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Manfred Schiebel (Organ), Ausgewählte Chorwerke – CD issued by the Wiener Schubertbund, 1990 (Live)
Gerhard Track, Choir and Symphony Orchestra of the Konservatorium Wien, Manfred Schiebel (Organ), Gerhard Track dirigiert Anton Bruckner – CD: PMI Records-USA PMI 20105, 1996 (Live)