On July 26th and August 2nd (2013) I will be performing organ concerts at the Stadtkirche in Wittenberg-Lutherstadt, Germany. The Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien zu Wittenberg (Town and Parish Church of St. Mary’s) is the civic church of the German town of Lutherstadt-Wittenberg. The reformer Martin Luther preached there and the building also saw the first celebration of the mass in German rather than Latin and the first ever distribution of the bread and wine to the congregation – it is thus considered the mother-church of the Protestant Reformation.
Because of the strong tie to Luther and the Reformation, and the ongoing decade-long celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Wittenberg, the repertoire I have chosen for both concerts is entirely based on Luther chorales or the chorale settings of Luther texts. The first of the concerts will be comprised of Luther chorale settings by American composers and the second of settings by Johann Sebastian Bach.
The compositions chosen for the second concert represent the entirety of Bach’s compositional output from the early years to the end of his life. The program begins with a setting of Luther’s most famous chorale and text, Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott (originally BWV 720). Thought to be composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, it is now assumed to have been composed by Johann Michael Bach.
Also included in the program are settings of chorales composed by Martin Luther:
Von Himmel hoch da komm’ ich her (BWV 769)
Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland (BWV 661)
Christ lag in Todes Banden (BWV 625) — melody by Wipo aus Burgund of the 11th century with a new melodic version from Martin Luther in 1524
Komm, Heiliger Geist (BWV 651) — existing melody of unknown origin adapted by Martin Luther and Johann Walther
Arrangements of chorales by other composers using Luther texts complete the program:
Von Himmel kam der Engel Schaar (BWV 607) — melody by Michael Praetorius
Wir glauben all’ an einen Gott (BWV 1098) — melody by Johannes Eccard
Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam (BWV 684) — melody first appearing in the Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn of 1524
Bach obviously found great delight in creating organ settings of these Luther chorales. They certainly create a joyous program for the Stadtkirche during this 500th anniversary celebration of the Reformation.