Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Jeffery, Charles. "BWV 80: Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott." In Johann Sebastian Bach: Four Chorale Cantatas: A Commentary, 9-46. Stratford-upon-Avon: Sapphire Book Club, 1980.

Luther's hymn Ein feste Burg falls into a category of many tunes with a revolutionary cause, from La Marseillaise to John Brown's Body, because it signifies the German Reformation and the religious triumph of Lutheranism. Indeed, Luther's hymn emerges from a vernacular tradition, not only in the translation of the Bible into German, but also in the poetic and musical union meant to appeal to the people in the entire congregation rather than to specific members of the choir and clergy. J. S. Bach, inspired by many Lutheran chorales, chose to exhibit this piece for a Festival of 1730, marking the Bicentenary of the Confession of Augsburg in which the Protestants declared the aims of the Lutheran church. Bach entitled his setting In Festo Reformationis, and he meant for it to represent his piety. Some movements, including the soprano and bass duet as well as the bass recitative, feature the relatively unembellished tune to evoke its military and unifying purposes. In a more complex setting, the chorale fantasia on verse one, Bach uses the tune as a cantus firmus embedded within a set of variations. In addition, later composers such as Mendelssohn and Roderick-Jones, like Bach, use the tune to invoke powerful religious sentiment, whereas Meyerbeer strips it of its religious content and uses it to accompany a ceremonial march.

Works: J. S. Bach: In Festo Reformationis, BWV 80 (16-47); Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Reformation (46); Meyerbeer: Les Huguenots (46); Richard Roderick-Jones: Chanticleer (46).

Sources: Luther: Ein feste Burg (9-15).

Index Classifications: 1700s, 1800s, 1900s

Contributed by: Katie Lundeen

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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