New Music: Symphonic Meditation on "A Mighty Fortress" ("Ein' Feste Burg")

November 06, 2012 16:14

Reformation Sunday just passed, and I wrote and played this new piece for the occasion at First Presbyterian of San Bernardino where I am organist.

Martin Luther (1483–1546) wrote both the words and music to "A Might Fortress" (c.1528), and it became the 'fighting song' of the Reformation. As we now happily sing it, it is easy to forget that people marched to be burned at the stake singing this hymn—it has a serious edge to it when you stop to think about what it stood for. And since in many ways the Reformation was when the effects of the Renaissance finally percolated down to the average person on the street, this hymn in a sense has one foot still in the Middle Ages and the other in what was the beginning of modern times.

In this piece I've tried to capture some of that spirit. (To begin with, for those of you who know about such things, I put the hymn in the Dorian Mode.) Each stanza gets its own musical treatment, and the piece concludes with a 'ground bass' (a repeating bass line in the pedals) on the last stanza—and the first stanza makes a simultaneous appearance over this repeating last stanza!

Here it is on YouTube

Here is the mp3 (5:15)

Here is the pdf

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