Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Luther's Words to Music: From Medieval to Modern

PRAETORIUS [c. 1571-1621] Puer nobis nascitur (22 December 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

For Christmas, we return to Martin Luther (1483-1546). Here is an example of how Luther influenced the incredible evolution of German music. In 1543, Luther departed from the Roman Catholic Latin and wrote German words to the hymn, Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar (From Heaven Came a Throng of Angels), with music adapted from Puer nobis nascitur (Unto Us is Born a Son), a 15th century tune.

In 1609, Michael Praetorius composed music for the hymn, Puer nobis nascitur, which also relied on the medieval tune. In 1688-1689, the composer Johann Schelle (1648-1701), who was Johann Sebastian Bach's predecessor as Kantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, also used Luther's hymn to write a Baroque Christmas cantata, Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar.

Luther's hymn was later one of Bach's sources for the 1714 chorale prelude for organ, Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar, BWV 607, a precursor for the 1734 Christmas Oratorio also by Bach (1685-1750). You can see how the chorale and words were used and reused by different composers in related hymns and pieces over three hundred years, here. Luther's hymn was translated into English as To Shepherds as They Watched By Night, with the commonly used translation dating from the mid-19th century.

Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar
1 Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar,
Erschien den Hirten offenbar;
Sie sagten ihn’n: Ein Kindlein zart,
Das liegt dort in der Krippe hart.

2 Zu Bethlehem in Davids Stadt,
Wie Micha das verkündet hat.
Es ist der Herre Jesus Christ,
Der euer aller Heiland ist.

3 Des sollt ihr billig fröhlich sein,
Dass Gott mit euch ist worden ein.
Er ist gebor’n eu’r Fleisch und Blut,
Eu’r Bruder ist das we’ge Gut.

4 Was kann euch tun die Sünd’ und Tod?
Ihr habt mit euch den wahren Gott.
Lasst zuernen Teufel und die Hoell’
Gott’s Sohn ist worden eu’r Gesell.

5 Er will und kann euch lassen nicht,
Setzt ihr auf ihn eur’ Zuversicht.
Es moegen euch viel fechten an:
Dem sei Trotz, der’s nicht lassen kann!

6 Zuletzt müsst ihr doch haben recht,
Ihr seid nun worden Gott’s Geschlecht.
Des danket Gott in Ewigkeit,
Geduldig, fröhlich allezeit!

Schelle - Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar (23 June 2011). Video Source: Youtube.

To Shepherds as They Watched By Night (This English translation of Luther's words is by Richard Massie (1854).
1 To shepherds as they watched by night
Appeared a host of angels bright;
Behold the tender Babe, they said,
In yonder lowly manger laid.

2 At Bethlehem, in David’s town,
As Micah did of old make known;
’Tis Jesus Christ, your Lord and King,
Who doth to all salvation bring.

3 Oh, then rejoice that through His Son
God is with sinners now at one;
Made like yourselves of flesh and blood,
Your Brother is the eternal God.

4 What harm can sin and death then do?
The true God now abides with you.
Let hell and Satan rage and chafe,
Christ is your Brother—ye are safe.

5 Not one He will or can forsake
Who Him his confidence doth make.
Let all his wiles the Tempter try,
You may his utmost powers defy.

6 Ye shall and must at last prevail;
God’s own ye are, ye cannot fail.
To God forever sing your praise
With joy and patience all your days.

Vom Himmel kam der Engel schar BWV 607 J.S. Bach (14 December 2012). Video Source: Youtube. You can hear another version here.

Bach: Christmas Oratorio [Herreweghe] Schlick, Chance, Crook, Kooij (14 December 2015): Chorus and Orchestra of Collegium Vocale, Ghent/Gand; conducted by Philippe Herreweghe (1989). Video Source: Youtube.

To Shepherds as They Watched by Night - Max Reger [1873-1916] (3 November 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

For the whole Luther interview and all related posts, go here.

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