Rahul Sharma

Helgoland (Bruckner)

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Key  G minor
Form  Patriotic cantata
Catalogue  WAB 71
Dedication  Men's Choir of Vienna
Helgoland (Bruckner)
Performed  8 October 1893 (1893-10-08): Hofburg Palace, Vienna
Published  1893 (1893) (vocal and piano score)

Helgoland, WAB 71, is a secular, patriotic cantata for male choir and orchestra, composed by Anton Bruckner in 1893. Since Bruckner did not complete the 9th symphony, Helgoland is his last complete work.



One year earlier, Bruckner had already composed another, shorter patriotic work, Der deutsche Gesang (WAB 63), that was premiered at the First German Academic Song Festival in Salzburg in June 1892.

Helgoland was composed in April 1893 for the Men's Choir of Vienna to celebrate its 50th birthday. The text was written by August Silberstein, who had already provided poems, which Bruckner set to music (Germanenzug in 1864, and Vaterlandslied in 1866).

The setting was a case of interest, as the Frisian island of Heligoland had just been given to Germany in 1890 by Great Britain (in exchange for Zanzibar). Helgoland was conducted on 8 October 1893 by the Men's Choir of Vienna and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Eduard Kremser's baton in the Winterreitschule of the Hofburg Palace.

Bruckner legated the manuscript to the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek. The work was first published as vocal and piano reduction score by Cyrill Hynais in 1893. The vocal and orchestral score was posthumously issued by Doblinger, Vienna in 1899. It is put in Band XXII/2 No. 8 of the Gesamtausgabe.

Text and music

The text from August Silberstein's Mein Herz in Liedern focuses on the Saxon people of the island who are threatened by the invasion of the Romans, but divine intervention saves them:

The 317-bar long composition in G minor, scored for TTBB male choir and orchestra (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, contrabass tuba, timpani, cymbal and strings), is set as a three-part sonata form with coda.

The piece is full of strength and enthusiasm, and carries the mark of Wagner's influence. The orchestral introduction depicts already the atmosphere of storm and fate, which hangs over the text. The first part (first three strophes) depicts the approach of the enemies and the announcement of the prayer, the mid-part (next two strophes) depicts the invocation of the deity, and the third part (reprise with development) depicts the storm and the sinking of the enemies. The coda on the last verse "O Herrgott, dich preiset frei Helgoland!, with a cymbal crash near the end (bar 309), is a hymn to the deity.

Duration: about 13 minutes.


Helgoland is seldom played for such a mature work, and many noted Brucknerian conductors have neglected to record it, though Daniel Barenboim has done it twice, at the time of his playing the symphonies of Bruckner with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

There are only four commercial recordings of the work:

  • Wyn Morris, Symphonica of London, Ambrosian Choir – LP: Symphonica SYM 11 (with Wagner's "Das Liebesmahl der Apostel"), 1977; transferred to CD: IMP PCD 1042, 1993; CD: Klassic Haus KHCD-2012-043, 2012 (with Symphony No. 6 by Heinz Bongartz)
  • Daniel Barenboim, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Choir – LP: DG 2707 116, 1979 (with Symphony "No. 0" and Psalm 150); transferred to DGG CDs: 6 October 6 1992 and 1 May 1995.
  • Daniel Barenboim, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus – CD: Teldec 0630 16646-2, 1992 (with Symphony No. 1); reissued on CD: Elektra/Wea/Teldec, June 16, 1998; in a CD-box of Barenboim's Berlin cycle by Warner Classics, 10 January 2006.
  • Alberto Hold-Garrido, Choruses for Male Voices and Orchestra, Lund Student Singers and Malmö Opera Orchestra – CD: Naxos 8572871, 2012
  • References

    Helgoland (Bruckner) Wikipedia

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