The Te Deum also has an arch, clearly defined for even the most casual listener by the two similar solo passages (Te ergo quæsumus and Salvum fac populus), enclosing the words Æterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari (“Make them to be numbered with your saints in glory everlasting”; this is the original end of Nicetas’s hymn).
The primitive C major/minor texture of the opening is balanced after the solos by a similar but much briefer passage setting the words Per singulos dies benedicimus te (“Day by day we bless you”, Psalm 145:2), and the entire section devoted to the words In te, Domine, speravi, non confundar in æternum (“In you, O Lord, I have hoped; let me never be confounded”, Psalm 31:2) lies outside the arch form. But in another sense, this final five minutes of the Te Deum can be considered to be balanced by the whole opening section through Iudex crederis esse venturus (“We believe that you will come to be our judge”) which is only a little longer. At any rate, the mood inspired in the listener evolves just as certainly in this piece as it does in any symphonic movement Bruckner wrote.
It is doubtful that Bruckner knew that the text we now know as the Te Deum is not all from the same period, the petitions from Salvum fac onward having been added to the original hymn attributed to St. Nicetas of Remesiana in Dacia, who lived from about 340 or 350 to after 414, at a later time. Nor, if he had known, do I think he would have cared enough to reflect it in his music; to him the liturgical text as accepted by the church for well over a thousand years would all need to be treated equally. The fact that Bruckner placed the join between the hymn and the petitions immediately after the keystone is probably to be ascribed to the similarity of accent between the half-lines Te ergo quæsumus and Salvum fac populum and the individual words sanguine and benedic, which seems to have cried out to him for similar musical expression.
The final words, non confundar in æternum, although set by Bruckner to triumphant music, are not really triumphal but humble and supplicatory. In this respect Bruckner’s Te Deum might appear not as appropriate to liturgical use as, say, his masses where the setting of the words Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem, received hushed, devotional treatment consistent with the mood of the communion service at the time when they are to be sung. However one must remember that the Te Deum’s most socially-prominent use was not so much as the concluding canticle of Nocturns, sung in a monastery in the middle of the night, but instead as a hymn of thanksgiving which could easily be a great public occasion requiring themost impressive music one could bring forward. Once again the arch structure shows how Bruckner was able to balance his treatment of the simple concluding distich with almost the entire original hymn, the many words proclaimed at the beginning expressing the magnificence of the faith, but the few words repeated over and over at the end being closest to the hearts of the people at prayer.
(St. Nicetas or Niketa, bishop of Remesiana in Dacia, today Bela Palanka, southeast of Nis in Serbia, friend of Paulinus of Nola, was consecrated about 370, and remained in the office of bishop until his death. He dedicated himself to spreading the faith in this most difficult region which Rome was seldom able to control. The Te Deum, not being strophic like the contemporary work of Prudentius but rather partaking of the style of the Gloria in excelsis, was a most unusual expression of religious poetry for the time.)