Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Zimmermann, Reiner. "Choralvariation und Engführung: Giacomo Meyerbeer verwendet Luthers Choral 'Ein feste Burg.'" In Über Leben, Kunst und Kunstwerke: Aspekte musikalischer Biographie: Johann Sebastian Bach im Zentrum, ed. Christoph Wolff, 293-301. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1999.

Giacomo Meyerbeer sought to study the chorales of J. S. Bach in addition to older secular French chansons. Even with his great success in grand opera, Meyerbeer turned to earlier works in order to complement the historical settings of his pieces by appropriating various types of music that would have been associated with the period. The plot of Les Huguenots concerns St. Bartholomew's night, the 1572 wedding occasion upon which ruling Catholics murdered thousands of Protestant Huguenots. Even though Meyerbeer was aware that the Huguenots might not have sung Luther's tune in their time, he believed the tune evoked religious associations that fit well with the historical plot of his grand opera. To Meyerbeer, the chorale became a symbol of revolution. His innovative use of the tune begins with a theme and shortened variations in the overture, and it functions as an incipit to represent Marcel, a Huguenot hero. The tune transforms to become an emblem of religious heroism and perseverance for the Huguenots by the end of the opera, even as the Catholics defeat them. This reflects a wholly new adaptation not only of Bach, but also of Luther.

Works: Meyerbeer: Les Huguenots (293-301).

Sources: J. S. Bach: Ein feste Burg, BWV 720 (293, 296-301); Luther: Ein feste Burg (294, 296).

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Katie Lundeen

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