Anton Bruckner subscribed to the Cecilian Movement in choral music, which attempted to restore Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony to Austrian sacred music. Composed in 1885, the text of Virga Jesse floruit is based on Isaiah 11, establishing Jesus’ place in the lineage of King David (Jesse was David’s father). Although written in the stille antico, this rather dramatic motet is nearly symphonic. There is a magnificent climax that builds in imitative sequences on the phrase ‘pacem Deus reddidit’. Of special note is the text: “in se reconcilians imo sumis,” (reconciling in Himself the lowest with the highest). Bruckner’s musical setting mirrors this reconciliation of opposites, climaxing at the extremes of range and dynamics. Harmonically this motet journeys far, until the coda arrives in E major, culminating in a sequence of “alleluias” from the tenors.
© Ryan Turner