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"Ein Feste Burg" - Four Settings

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In honor of Reformation Day (which was already almost a week ago,) and Martin Luther, I've put together a recording containing four arrangements of Luther's most famous hymn, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Here's a rundown of the settings and their composers:

1) 4-part, melody in the tenor - Johannes Walther
2) 4-part, melody in the bass(!) - [Anonymous]
3) 2-part, melody in the lower voice - Brandon Pieplow, 2011
4) 4-part, melody in the tenor - Martin Agricola

The cool thing about these settings (well, three of them, anyway) is that they are some of the first ever composed for this hymn; they were most likely published even before Luther's death.

Walther's setting definitely has the most finesse of the four and, in my opinion, is the most beautiful. Agricola's setting lacks the soaring Superius lines of the first two, but it sure is powerful (just listen to those stacked fifths at the beginning!) and of course the one by Yours Truly is just me trying my hand at arranging something in a Renaissance style...

The anonymous setting doesn't quite measure up to Walther's and Agricola's, but having the tune in the bass line is a nice touch, and actually gives us an interesting look into Renaissance music theory. Here's how: In the Renaissance composers' minds, it was unthinkable for the bassline to ever step down to its final note; it had to drop by a fifth (C to F, in this case) to make a proper cadence. That's why the composer tacks on two more measures after the bass finishes the melody - just so it can get back up to a cadence tone! I love it! :)

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Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott,
Ein gute Wehr und Waffen;
Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,
Die uns jetzt hat betroffen.
Der alt’ böse Feind,
Mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,
Gross’ Macht und viel List
Sein’ grausam’ Ruestung ist,
Auf Erd’ ist nicht seingleichen.

Mit unsrer Macht is nichts getan,
Wir sind gar bald verloren;
Es steit’t für uns der rechte Mann,
Den Gott hat selbst erkoren.
Fragst du, wer der ist?
Er heisst Jesu Christ,
Der Herr Zebaoth,
Und ist kein andrer Gott,
Das Feld muss er behalten.

Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär’
Und wollt’ uns gar verschlingen,
So fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr,
Es soll uns doch gelingen.
Der Fürst dieser Welt,
Wie sau’r er sich stellt,
Tut er uns doch nicht,
Das macht, er ist gericht’t,
Ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.

Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn
Und kein’n Dank dazu haben;
Er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan
Mit seinem Geist und Gaben.
Nehmen sie den Leib,
Gut, Ehr’, Kind und Weib:
Lass fahren dahin,
Sie haben’s kein’n Gewinn,
Das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.
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Uploaded: Nov 04, 2011 - 12:06:14 PM
Last Updated: Nov 04, 2011 - 12:06:14 PM Last Played: Jul 02, 2019 - 12:12:33 AM
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PatriciaGirl said 2849 days ago (November 4th, 2011)
Reformation Day!
I always feel transported when I listen to the pieces you play. You play very well. If there were ever a performance I would come to see you play :)

Thanks for sharing
Check out my latest song called Derelict
richard13 said 2849 days ago (November 4th, 2011)
Absolutely delightful!
Transported indeed, to a time of ... well, who knows, but different. I know these are hymns but if I didn't, they'd be dances. Whatever, a nice listen. Thanks.
Check out my latest song called one last night with you
Feter said 2825 days ago (November 28th, 2011)
Ein Feste Burg"
This is a real piece of art ...I have never heard this piece before ...superb recorders work ...thanks a lot for the well informed description and music !!
Check out my latest song called Roll with it
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