Mozart And Martin Luther Essay, Research Paper
The work of Martin Luther had a profound effect on Bach?s chorale music.
Just o give you a little background on Martin Luther, he and Bach were born in
the same province of Eisleben. Luther was raised in a strict religious atmosphere
of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther was terrified by thoughts of the wrath of
God. He continually sought a means in finding inward peace. To achieve this
goal, he entered an Augustinian Monastery in 1505. Two years later he was
ordained as a priest. During this time, Luther was devoted to the church but
turned from philosophy to the Bible as a basis of his theological conclusions.
These conclusions ultimately led him to combat some doctrines and practices of
the church. He was officially branded a heretic and was excommunicated for his
radical defiance of Papal authority. Luther later publicly professed his implicit
obedience to the church and boldly denied the absolute power of the Pope.
One of the most significant events of the Renaissance was the religious
movement of the 16th century. It divided the Western Church into two opposing
factions and produced the various branches of the Protestant Church. Martin
Luther was the man that directed the German formation.
Luther himself composed chorales, the best known of which is Ein? Feste
Burg. The melody is woven from Gregorian and other reminiscences and the
words are a paraphrase from psalm 46. Ein? Feste Burg is hailed as one of the
greatest sources of insight in the Christians battle against Satan.
During Luther?s time, congregational chorales were performed in the
church service without accompaniment. They were most often sung with the
choir in unison and occasionally the congregation would sing the melody while
the choir sang a simple polyphonic harmonization. However, the pipe organ was
used to preludize to give the initial pitch to the priest and choir. It was used with
chorales in alternation with the choir, one verse played by the organ and the next
The cantata Ein? Feste Burg, is the result of a considerable revolution. It
was written for choir, orchestra and continuo. It?s earliest stages can be traced
back to Bach?s stay in Weimar, where it seems originally to have been intended
for presentation on the third Sunday of Lent. It received greater elaboration with
the addition of its stirring first movement and defiant fifth movement, when Bach
revised it as a Reformation cantata.
Cantata 80 is a strong quadruple meter. Once this steady pulse is
initiated, it does not diminish until the completion of the piece. The effect is once
powerful, yet controlled.
Spitta analyzed the fifth part, verse three of the cantata by saying: ?The
orchestra plays a whirl of grotesque and wildly leaping figures, through which the
chorus makes its way undistracted and never misled?as grandiose and
characteristic as it is possible to conceive?the bold spirit of native vigor which
called the German Reformation into being, and which still stirred and moved in
Bach?s art, has never found any artistic expression which would even remotely
compare with this stupendous creation.?
After the chorus has sung the third verse, the tenor recitative issues a
summoning to believe in what Christ has done because of his love for you. All
the language about the devil could mean that the Feind against whom this
recitative is directed is Satan; but the emphasis on hearing the word of God and
keeping it, makes it a consideration that this was written to be sung against the
Pope and Roman Catholics.
Ein? Feste Burg served as a unifying element throughout the elaborate
vocal works which characterized Protestant church service. Traditionally, at the
close of an extended work, the cantata would unfold in simple four-part harmony.
Originally it was simply sung in unison, but Bach changed it to be sung in four-
part harmony with a soprano melody.
As you can tell this piece has a very colorful and respected past. Ein?
Feste Burg not only represents the art and genius of Bach but it is also
representative of a long tradition of German music.