When the E minor Mass was premiered in Linz it was heard in its first version. Bruckner made several changes to this version in 1876 and 1882: he reviewed its architecture and phrase structure and improved the melodic writing and the instrumentation in several passages.
The second version, completed in July 1882, is generally preferred today and forms the basis of the present edition. It received its first public hearing in the composer's presence on October 4, 1885, when it was given in the Old Cathedral at the conclusion of the centennial celebrations for the Linz bishopric.
Of the three Mass settings that Bruckner produced in Linz, the Mass No. 2 in E minor occupies a special position. If the orchestral Masses in D minor and F minor are dominated by the ethos of the classical symphony, the uniqueness of the E minor Mass resides in its blend of the ancient Palestrina style and a modern nineteenth century treatment of the instruments.
All in all, Bruckner's three great settings of the Mass from 1864 to 1868 form an impressive route to the monumental symphonies which were to follow and which form the actual basis of his fame.