Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Weber, Édith. "Le Cantus Firmus 'Ein Feste Burg': Une aventure littéraire et musicale." In Itinéraires du Cantus Firmus, vol. 2, De l'Orient à l'Occident, 117-36. Sorbonne: Presses de l'Université de Paris, 1995.

Ein feste Burg has had many adaptations. The tune came to symbolize the fighting march of the Protestants in the manner of a national anthem, such as La Marseillaise, in its popularity and rousing characteristics. Indeed, Ein feste Burg is associated with the beginning of the Reformation. The repetitive structure of the tune, its simplicity, and its declamation attracted several composers. Though questions arise about the exact date of the piece, as well as Luther's organization of the text, the historical significance of the piece emerges over the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as several composers adapt it in cantus firmus settings. Johann Walter collaborated with Luther to create a two-voice setting of the tune. Johann Kugelmann set the tune with three voices and, like Walter, placed the cantus firmus in the tenor. Martin Agricola also kept the melody in the tenor but added a fourth voice, increasing the imitative possibilities. Other settings in the sixteenth century adapt the four-voice setting and the imitative characteristics, although Lukas Osiander, Rogier Michael, and Sethus Calvisius all place the cantus firmus in the superius. Seventeenth-century settings exhibit more ornamentation, particularly by means of chromaticism, in the treatment of the cantus firmus, evinced by composers such as Bartholomaeus Gesius, David Scheidemann, and Hans Leo Hassler, who sought to increase the expression of the tune. Subsequent adaptations, such as Meyerbeer's spiritual associations in Les Huguenots and Debussy's appropriation of the chorale to represent German aggression in En blanc et noir, resemble emblematic quotations, showing the distance the tune traveled from its original Lutheran functions.

Works: Johann Walter: Ein feste Burg (127-28); Johann Kugelmann: Ein feste Burg (128-29); Martin Agricola ou Sore: Ein feste Burg (129-30); Sigmund Hemmel: Der ganze Psalter Davids (130); Lukas Osiander: Ein feste Burg (131); Rogier Michael: Ein feste Burg (131); Sethus Calvisius: Ein feste Burg (131-32); Bartholomaeus Gesius ou Gese: Ein feste Burg (132); David Scheidemann: Ein feste Burg (132); Melchior Vulpius: Ein feste Burg (133); Hassler: Kirchengesänge, Psalmen und Geistliche Lider (133); Praetorius: Musae Sioniae (134); Meyerbeer: Les Huguenots (135); Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Reformation (135); Debussy: Suite pour deux pianos: En blanc et noir (135); Langlais: Suite oecuménique (135).

Sources: Luther: Ein feste Burg (117-26).

Index Classifications: 1500s, 1600s, 1800s, 1900s

Contributed by: Katie Lundeen

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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