© 2024 WRTI
Your Classical and Jazz Source. Celebrating 75 Years!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Yannick leads a Bruckner experience, with choral masterworks framing the Ninth Symphony

Pete Checchia
Photo by Pete Checchia

Join us on Sunday, Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1 and Monday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2 as The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert brings you an encore presentation of Bruckner’s final symphony, illuminated by his choral works.

Anton Bruckner was a deeply spiritual composer–a devout Roman Catholic and gifted church organist who composed sacred choral works in profusion before focusing on symphonic writing in the latter half of his career. Those symphonies are grand cathedrals of orchestral sound that unite the sacred and secular realms in moving and resonant ways. Music director Yannick Nezet Seguin conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir in this concert that unites two choral works and a symphony by Bruckner in one continuous whole.

The centerpiece of the program is his massive but unfinished Ninth Symphony in d minor, which the composer dedicated to “Almighty God.” Before the symphony we’ll hear an unaccompanied choral motet, “Christus factus est pro nobis” (“Christ was made obedient for us”)–in the same key of d minor – and after it, his triumphant setting for soloists, choir, and full orchestra of the traditional hymn of praise from the Roman Catholic service of Matins, “Te Deum laudamus” (“We praise Thee, o God”). Concluding performances of the Ninth with this majestic choral work–which Bruckner viewed as “the pride of my life”--was, as Yannick notes in an interview with WRTI’s Susan Lewis, “an instruction that Bruckner gave on his deathbed. He said, ‘I didn’t finish my [Ninth] Symphony. Please play the Te Deum as a finale.’ ”

Yannick Nézet-Séguin says that for Buckner, composing music is praying.

Both “Christus factus est” and “Te Deum laudamus” were completed in 1884, a few years before Bruckner began work on his Ninth Symphony. They make fitting bookends to the unfinished Ninth. Like the symphony, the motet is in the key of d minor, with a dramatic arc that forms a perfect prelude to the hushed, mysterious opening of the Symphony. In this performance, the choir’s final, hushed chord merges almost imperceptibly, and magically, into the quiet d minor chord that opens the symphony. After the massive and moving three completed movements of the symphony, the “Te Deum laudamus” comes as a cathartic release, not unlike the choral finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This performance draws on the choral splendor of the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir and four soloists who are stalwarts of the Metropolitan Opera (which Yannick also directs): soprano Elza van den Heever, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, tenor Sean Panikkar, and bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green.


Bruckner: “Christus factus est pro nobis”

Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in d minor

Bruckner: “Te Deum laudamus”

The Philadelphia Orchestra

The Philadelphia Symphonic Choir

Yannick Nezet-Seguin, conductor

Elza van den Heever, soprano

Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano

Sean Panikkar, tenor

Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone


Melinda Whiting: Host

Alex Ariff: Senior Producer

Susan Lewis: Consulting Producer

Joseph Patti: Broadcast Engineer

Listen to The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts every Sunday at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1, streaming at WRTI.org, on the WRTI mobile app, and on your smart speaker. Listen again on Mondays at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2. Listen for up to two weeks after broadcast on WRTI Replay. 

Melinda has worked in radio for decades, hosting and producing classical music and arts news. An award-winning broadcaster, she has created and hosted classical music programs and reported for NPR, WQXR—New York, WHYY–Philadelphia, and American Public Media. WRTI listeners may remember her years hosting classical music for WFLN and WHYY.