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date: 28 April 2017

Martin Luther and the Arts: Music, Poetry, and Hymns

Summary and Keywords

From the beginning of the Reformation, Martin Luther had a significant impact on church and society through his contributions to sacred music. His intention to spread the gospel among the people through song achieved its manifold purpose. This remains true not only for his own time but for the following centuries up to the present day, all over the world. Other poets, contemporaries and descendants alike, were inspired by Luther’s songs and composed their own hymns. Among these the most significant ones in German literature, poetically and theologically, are Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676) and Jochen Klepper (1903–1942).

Luther’s lifelong love of music was accompanied by an in-depth musical education. He knew secular and sacred songs from an early age, played the lute well, and sang in the convent when he was a monk, as a husband and father with his family, and as a professor with his students. Music was an indispensable part of his life. He first began writing sacred songs in 1523, sometimes composing the melody as well. He also crafted a four-part motet.

Luther was able to assess the composers of his time well. He considered Josquin des Prez (d. 1521) the greatest master, and among his living contemporaries he appreciated in particular Ludwig Senfl (c. 1490–1543). He was also acquainted with other composers and their works.

The incorporation and promotion of music in the schoolroom resulted in a close relationship between church and school, as well as between classrooms and religious services. Pupils took part through chanting at services, and the evangelical hymns in the chantry were spread through the choir’s chanting books. Numerous musical prints originated in Georg Rhau’s printing shop in Wittenberg that carried the Protestant repertoire into the world.

From central Germany, starting in Saxony and Thuringia, the Protestant musical culture covered all of evangelical Germany and later shaped Protestant musical culture. In addition to choir-related music, it cultivated the musical rendering of biblical texts.

Heinrich Schütz and Johann Sebastian Bach are the finest representatives of this specific Protestant musical culture. In addition, the culture of the organ, first cultivated in northern Germany, became widespread. One of several masters of the organ was Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637–1707), who established evening concerts in Lübeck, which in turn served as precursors to the bourgeois musical culture.

Luther’s approach to music is formed through the conviction that music is a particularly beautiful and unique offering of the divine creation. Music moves human hearts and allows them to anticipate the heavens. To bring people joy and to praise the Lord is music’s true task and, indeed, its service.

Keywords: Martin Luther, Luther’s hymns, Luther as musician, music theory, Johann Sebastian Bach, Hugo Distler, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Heinrich Schütz, Protestantism and music

Music in Luther’s Youth, Education, and Later Practice

Musicam semper amavi—I have always loved music.1 This is Luther’s credo: music is a lifelong love. According to his own account, Luther grew up with music, perhaps with his mother’s singing or local songs, but certainly with some religious hymns. Christmas carols were among them—for example, the songs “Ein Kindelein so löbelich” (A Child So Worthy) and “Sei willkommen, Herre Christ” (Be Welcome, Lord Christ). The Easter hymn “God Is Risen” was sung in his youth during the Feast of the Resurrection. When Luther took over and re-formed music from the Latin and German hymn tradition, he introduced to the evangelical church a musical tradition that persists to the present; it has remained alive in German texts and translations in other languages in church and culture.

Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, singet dem Herrn alle Welt!” (Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord all the world!) This is the beginning of the preface to the Valentin Bapst book of hymns (1545), the last to be published during Luther’s lifetime. “Because God made our heart and spirit merry through his beloved Son, who was given to us to absolve us from sins, death, and the devil. Everyone who believes that earnestly cannot leave it be, he must merrily and with passion sing about it and say it thus others hear it and come along.”2 The heart of Luther’s love for music is formulated in these sentences—that the gospel, the merry news from Jesus Christ, should be spread among the people through the hymns. His songs serve that goal, and the music serves that purpose, too. It is thus that Luther explains: “the first place after theology I assign to music.”3

Luther’s Musical Education

Luther had up-to-date knowledge of musica theorica (the theory of music) and musica practica (the practice of music). The scholarly knowledge of music, which he must have had, was acquired without us being able to verify in detail through his textbooks how this came to be. Scire musicam—this task (to know music) can be regarded as fulfilled by Luther. Agere musicam, i.e., performing already-existing music—that too Luther practiced his entire life. He sang available melodies and, in fact, both chorali (chorales) and mensurali modo (songs in measured style, i.e., not plainchant).

Music (musica) belonged as a part of medieval sciences to the seven liberal arts (septem artes liberales), the fundamental studies that all medieval students had to learn before they sought to attend one of the higher schools to continue their studies in fields like theology, law, and medicine. Artes, according to that understanding, are scientific disciplines; they were also called disciplinae or scientiae.

It is well known that the seven arts were divided in two different areas: the trivium comprised grammar, rhetoric, and logic.4 These disciplinae had to deal with language in different respects: grammar as the ars recte loquendi (speaking rightly), rhetoric as ars bene loquendi (speaking well), and logic as the art of proper differentiation between right and wrong. The second group of disciplinae are the computational arts, which dealt with numbers and proportions: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy—and music, because ars musica initially dealt with the proportions of numbers, with the musica caelestis and the musica humana (music of the heavens and human music).

These artes liberales have been included in the fine arts ever since the appearance of handwritten illustrations accompanying Martianus Cappella’s encyclopedic poem “On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury” (book 9). Such depictions are numerous, and they mirror the foundations of the medieval teaching system—the theory and practice of teaching at the cloister, cathedral, and civil schools adhered, more or less, to this system. Hortus deliciarum (Garden of Delights) by the abbess Herrad of Landsberg in Alsace is one of the most famous portrayals. The manuscript was one of the particular treasures of Strassburg’s public library, which burned in 1870 during its shelling by German troops. In this impressive manuscript the artes are represented as a system—in a circular order in the middle of which philosophy presides. Musica appears personified as a woman with a string instrument described as cithara. On the right and left of Musica are to be found instruments, on the left side a lira and on the right an organ. The transcription in semicircle reads: Musica sum late doctrix artis variate—“I am Music, the teacher of a broad and manifold science.” Ars thus brings together things that diverge later in art or science. Luther praises music both as optima ars5 (the best art) and as optima scientia (the best science or discipline).6

According to the 1412 bylaws of the University of Erfurt, music was taught according to the music teachings of Johannes de Muris (c. 1290–c. 1347).7 It is likely that Luther read and studied this musical treatise. However, around the year 1500 a change in the conception of music took place: musica would no longer be understood as ars in the sense of scientia, but as ars musica in the sense of musica practica, in which case its quadrivial character receded behind the trivial, and music drew nearer to grammar and rhetoric. In hindsight, the humanist Crotus Rubeanus described Luther in 1520 as “musicus et philosophus eruditus” (learned musician and philosopher).8 Luther could play the lute and write tablature and note music in it.9 Luther had possibly been introduced during his studies to the works of contemporary composers,10 including Josquin des Prez (d. 1521), Ludwig Senfl (c. 1490–1543), and Heinrich Finck (1444 or 1445–1527), whom he later singles out as the beacons of music.11

In churches and at the university, Luther listened to music at worship services and at church High Holidays, at days celebrating saints and festive burials, especially instrumental and vocal music. But most important for the monk Martin Luther was the music in his monastery. Music was always present in the liturgy of which the young monk partook, including musica choralis (choral music sung in parts). Here he learned by heart not only the Book of Psalms but also its musical form as well as the church hymns that formed another part of the Liturgy of the Hours. The rule of St. Augustine, the rule of his order, defined the practice of the divine office as follows: “When you pray to God in psalms and hymns then it should live in the heart what the mouth pronounces. And sing only what is to be sung according to the commandment.”12 Part of the novice master’s duties was to instruct the monks in liturgical singing.13 Apparently there was no organ in Luther’s monastery.

Luther also practiced music in his later years. According to the accounts of his doctor Matthäus Ratzeberger and the composer Sixtus Dietrich, Luther used to sing in parts with his sons and students at his house in Wittenberg—proof of the extraordinary high esteem that Luther bestowed on singing and, especially, on the chorale within music.14 Prayer and hymns of praise, he would say at the consecration of the palace chapel on October 5, 1544, in Torgau, were the answer to the word that God spoke to the people.15

Music and Musical Views in the Early 16th Century

Music and musical views changed substantially during Luther’s lifetime, not least because of him.16 Musical theory in particular evolved because of the changes in composing and performance practices. We have already seen that the place of musica within the artes shifted—but the interest of Luther’s contemporaries in modern music grew, becoming more cultivated, and the Reformation contributed in no small part to this shift. Three theorists from Wittenberg influential in the Protestant world of the 16th century had a much larger influence: the former cantor of St. Thomas, composer, editor, printer of music, and publisher Georg Rhau, as well as the music theorists Martin Agricola and Nicolaus Listenius.

Rhau was born 1488 in Eisfeld on the Werra.17 He studied in Erfurt and Wittenberg, and in 1518 he became the cantor of St. Thomas in Leipzig where a twelve-part mass was performed, perhaps composed by him. Following brief sojourns in Eisleben and Hildburghausen, he lived in Wittenberg from 1523 until his death in 1548. Rhau was the first to publish not only the Large Catechism and Augsburg Confession but also numerous other Reformation prints, an elementary booklet on musical teaching (Enchiridion utriusque Musicae practicae … pro pueris in Schola Vitebergensi congestum, 153818), and most notably a large musical oeuvre. This served the needs of the new reformist worship service as well as the chants for public schools, which were used in Protestant schools for centuries, and shaped the repertoire of evangelical church music. This held until the early 20th century: the rediscovery of the music of the 16th century during the youth movement was a factor for the reclaiming of evangelical church music and the Western repertoire in the 20th century, the importance of which cannot be underestimated.

The second theorist in the Wittenberg’s circle of Reformers is Martin Agricola.19 He was probably born in 1486 in Silesia and lived from 1519/20 as a cantor, music theorist, and composer in Magdeburg, where he died in 1566. In 1528 Agricola published Ein kurtz deudsche Musica (A Brief German Music), the first printed textbook for school instructions in the German language. In 1529 he published Musica instrumentalis deudsch and in 1533 Musica choralis and Musica figuralis deudsch (instrumental German music, choral music, and German polyphonic vocal music), which followed the writings of Franchinus Gaffurius. From his numerous compositions, in particular his adaptations of church songs and hymns, one found its way onto a silk tablecloth—“Ein feste Burg” (A Mighty Fortress). Whoever did not own a musical table could spread such a cloth and, standing around it, sing a multi-part composition.20 The inner square contains the embroidered notes of a song by Luther and the outer one a wedding song. The designations of the vocal ranges—descant, contralto, tenor, and bass—are clearly recognizable.

The third and most successful evangelical music theorist was Nicolaus Listenius. He published his Musica first in 1529, prefaced by Johannes Bugenhagen, and then in 1533 in a revised edition. The book underwent more than forty editions until 160021—it became something like the Protestant normal music textbook. In his preface, Listenius addressed the electoral prince Johann Georg von Brandenburg, the eldest son of Joachim II. Music, explains Listenius, belongs to the general public, but particularly to those of princely upbringing, because music leads the heart to humanitas, to clemency, to righteousness; moderates the unbridled emotions; allays pains and anger; diverts from ferocity and corrupt desires; and leads to a certain harmony in all deeds in life (ut in sonis et cantu ita in omnibus vitae actionibus harmoniam quandam servemus). From time immemorial music has been used to bring out the harmonia animi (harmony of the soul), and it has been customary for all peoples to search and apply music in religious contexts for the calm of the soul and the contemplation of the divine guidance (ad cogitandam harmoniam divinae gubernationis), so that such thoughts through the sounds of music were oriented firmer toward the goal of understanding. Finally, music was suitable to lead people to praise their rulers, to inspire hearts to diligence, and to foster love of virtue (et accendunt animos ad studium atque amorem virtutis). The goals of musical education include becoming truly “human,” soothing of the soul, and respect for divine guidance, love, and power. Hence it still reflects the medieval theory of the correlation between musica mundana and humana, but it is primarily the emotions with regard to God and one’s conduct in the world that are at stake here.22

Luther’s Theory of Music

Luther did not write one particular treatise on music, but he consistently expressed an opinion on the fundamental questions of music. His insights into music and its place in life are best understood from his fundamental statements regarding this question. They range a number of decades of his work between 1523 and 1545 and yield a good and authentic impression of his reflections on the favorite subject of his life.23 Important statements about music are to be found in Luther’s prefaces to the books of hymns from 1524, 1528, 1542, and 1545,24 as well as in Vorrhede auff alle gute Gesangbücher (Preface to All Good Hymn Books) from 1538.25 In the preface to Wittenberg’s Book on Choral Singing, he updates 1 Corinthians 14:15 and 26 and Colossians 3:6 and encourages the singing of sacred songs and psalms: “To which, through God’s word and Christian doctrine, we must be driven and trained.”26 In the preface for the burial chants, he stated in 1542 that he retained “the beautiful music or chant” from the pre-Reformation worship service and rewrote the texts because “the chant and the notes are precious and it would be a pity if they were to perish” (Der Gesang und die Noten sind köstlich, Schade were es, das sie solten untergehen.” The old idolatrous texts were “stripped off the beautiful music and dressed in the living sacred word of God therefore the same to sing, to praise, and to honor” (die schöne Musica abgestreifft, und dem lebendigen heiligen Gottes wort angezogen, dasselb damit zu singen, zu loben und zu ehren). At the same time divine praise and strengthening the faith go hand in hand: “We are driven, improved and strengthened in faith by a sweet song in our heart, and thus the beautiful jewel of music does its Christian service by meeting our need to praise and honor the Creator.”27 Music, is according to Luther’s views, inspired by good, divine creation (Primum, si rem ipsam spectes, inuenies Musicam esse ab initio mundi inditam seu concreatam creaturis vniversis, singulis et omnibus).28 It belongs to the realm in which Luther, in the exegesis of the first article of the Small Catechism, declares: “Ich gleube, das mich Gott geschaffen hat sampt allen Creaturn” (I believe that God created me along with all creatures).29 Luther’s high esteem for music is based on this appreciation of the creaturely and the realization that man alone is endowed with the divine gift of the ability to speak and sing, and thus the sung word is in a particular way suited to praise the Lord and the fellow men to comfort, so that we “through his sacred word with sweet chant in heart are driven, improved, and strengthened in faith” (durch sein heiliges wort, mit süssem Gesang jns Hertz getrieben, gebessert und gesterckt werden im glauben). And it is only logical that he moves the creation music in a special relation to its creator: “Deinde assuescas in hac creatura Creatorem agnoscere et laudare” (You should grow accustomed, in this creation, to recognize and praise the creator).30 This Lord, “qui loquitur per vocale verbum (who is heard through his spoken word).31Sic Deus praedicavit euangelium etiam per musicam” (thus God preached the gospel through music).32 Hence Luther also explains: “I wanted to see all arts, especially music, in service to the one who had given and created it” (ich wollt alle künste, sonderlich die Musica gerne sehen im dienst des, der sie geben und geschaffen hat).33 Luther’s reflections on music are summed up in two preserved texts:

  1. 1. One account comes from a terse record from the year 1530, Peri tes mousikes.34 These reflections have a certain similarity to Luther’s letter to Ludwig Senfl from October 1, 1530, but they were not conceived as a draft for an independent work. The short text reads:

    Peri tes mousikes. Mousiken erao Eciam damnantes non placent Schwermerii, Quia 1. Dei donum non hominum est, 2. Quia facit letos animos, 3. Quia fugat diabolum, 4. Quia innocens gaudium facit, Interim pereunt irae libidines Superbia Proximum locum do Musicae post Theologiam. Hoc patet exemplo David et omnium prophetarum, qui sua omnia metris et cantibus mandaverunt. 5. Quia pacis tempore regnat. Durate ergo et erit melius arti huic post nos, Quia pacis sunt.

    Duces Bavariae laudo in hoc, quia Musicam colunt. Apud nos Saxones arma et Bombardae praedicantur.35

    The one who hates music, as do all the Schwärmer, does not please me. For music is a gift of God, not a gift of humans. Music drives away the devil and makes people happy; it helps one to forget all wrath, lust, arrogance, and other vices. After theology I accord to music the highest place and the greatest honor. We see that David and all the saints used verse, rhymes, and songs to express their godly thoughts; because music reigns in days of peace.

    I praise the Dukes of Bavaria in this regard: that they appreciate music better than we Saxons.

  2. 2. The second fundamental statement is a letter to Ludwig Senfl, the court music director of the Roman Catholic Bavarian dukes and one of the most significant and famous composers of his time.36 Luther wrote to him from the Veste Coburg castle, where he spent the summer months of 1530, industrious and impatient, wary of what would be decided in the Imperial Diet (Reichstag) in Augsburg on the matter of the Reformation. Luther admired and revered Senfl.37 In him Luther characterized first and foremost the impact of music on human mind:

    Grace and Peace in Christ! Even though my name is detested, so much that I am forced to fear that this letter I am sending may not be safely received and read by you, excellent Ludwig, yet the love for music, with which I see you adorned and gifted by God, has conquered this fear. This love also has given me hope that my letter will not bring danger to you. For who, even among the Turks, would censure him who loves art and praises the artist? Because they encourage and honor music so much, I, at least, nevertheless very much praise and respect above all others your dukes of Bavaria, much as they are unfavorably inclined toward me.

    There is no doubt that there are many seeds of good qualities in the minds of those who are moved by music. Those, however, who are not moved by music I believe are definitely like stumps and blocks of stone. For we know that music, too, is odious and unbearable to the demons. Indeed I plainly judge, and do not hesitate to affirm, that except for theology there is no art that could be put on the same level with music, since except for theology, music alone produces what otherwise only theology can do, namely, a calm and joyful disposition. … This is the reason why the prophets did not make use of any art except music; when setting forth their theology they did it not as geometry, not as arithmetic, not as astronomy, but as music, so that they held theology and music most tightly connected, and proclaimed truth through Psalms and songs. But why do I now praise music and attempt to portray … such an important subject on such a little piece of paper? Yet my love for music, which often has quickened me and liberated me from great vexations, is abundant and overflowing.

    Returning to you, I ask if you would have copied and sent to me, if you have it, a copy of that song “In Peace I Will Both Lie Down and Sleep.” For that tenor melody has delighted me from youth on, and does so even more now that I understand the words. I have never seen this antiphon arranged for more voices. I do not wish, however, to impose on you the work of arranging; rather, I assume that you have available an arrangement from some other source. Indeed, I hope that the end of my life is at hand; the world hates me and cannot bear me, and I, in turn, loathe and detest the world; therefore, may the best and most faithful shepherd take my soul to him. And so I have already started to sing this antiphon, and am eager to hear it arranged. In case you should not have or know it, I am enclosing it here with the notes; if you wish you can arrange it—perhaps after my death. The Lord Jesus be with you forever and ever. Amen. Forgive me my temerity and verbosity. Extend respectful greetings to your whole choir on my behalf. From Coburg, October 4, 1530, Martin Luther.38

At Coburg castle Luther interpreted numerous psalms; indeed, the occupation with the psalter constituted the core of his work there.39 Luther was particularly taken by the psalm verse: “I shall not die but live, and proclaim the works of the Lord” (Non moriar sed vivam et narrabo opera domini).40 Luther set to music this verse in his only surviving multipart composition—a short motet that is a proof of his compositional ability.41 In order to musically understand the small work, one should talk about Luther’s high esteem of Josquin des Prez. Josquin died in 1521, and his death was regarded as an epochal event in that he was considered the best musician of his time. Luther characterized Josquin in a toast speech as an outstanding artist. “Er ist der Noten Meister, die habens müssen machen, wie er wolt; die andren Sangmeister müssens machen, wie es die Noten haben wöllen” (He is the master of the notes, and the notes must do as he pleases, but the singers must do as the notes would have them do), he emphasized, and further Josquin was a musician “des alles composition frolich, willig, milde herausfleust, ist nit zwungen und gnedigt per regulas” (all of whose compositions were joyful, free, flowing and not limited by convention). What Luther praises most in Josquin is that beyond the mastery of the rules of the compositional technique and their free spirit, he stands as it were about the rules and the music follow him, instead of him submitting to the rules.

Luther’s small work is described and characterized by current musicological scholarship in this context:

it is a flawless phrase that however lacks exactly that what Luther admired in Josquin: a text-oriented concept that the musical form shapes and besides every trace of spontaneity expresses the counterpoint. Instead an automated composition technical mode governs the togetherness of the parts … This technique Luther possibly learned from Gaffori, who published an example of it in his Practica musicae (1496); the classic example seemed to have served Luther as a compositional leitmotif for his psalm motet, he emulated it in detail …42

In the history of composition, that kind of composition was not exactly an innovation—Ludwig Finscher describes Luther’s reworking of the cantus firmus as “seeming dated.”

Johann Walter, Luther’s Most Important Musical Collaborator

Luther’s most important partner in all questions regarding music and the reshaping of the Lutheran worship service was the “original cantor of the Reformation,” Johann Walter (1496–1570). Like Martin Luther, he was a stroke of luck for the Reformation and music. Walter was born 1496 in Kahla, Thuringia. He sang bass in the choir of the Frederick the Wise Chapel, which was part of the court of the Elector of Saxony. After the elector’s death the court chapel was to be abolished (closed down) and Walter let go, but Luther’s colleague Melanchthon wrote a letter to the new elector emphatically advocating keeping Walter in seigneurial service due to Walter’s great merits. In 1526 Walter was appointed cantor at Torgau’s St. Mary’s Church (Marienkirche), in 1529 he became city cantor for Torgau, and in 1548 he became the head of the Court’s Church in Dresden. The last years of his life were spent in Torgau, where he died in 1579. In 1538 Johann Walter completed his panegyric “Lob und preis der löblichen kunst Musica” (In Praise of the Laudable Art Musica),43 including Luther’s thoughts as to why the Lord created music—in order for the glorification of the Creator and his mercy and for the sake of the joyfulness of the human spirit. The slim volume was published both with Georg Rhau in Wittenberg as a stand-alone work and in his as the preface of Rhau’s collected edition of choral chants, the Symphoniae iucundae. Luther added Walter’s couplet verse as a Preface for All Good Chant Books (Vorrhede auff alle gute Gesangbücher). In it the personified Lady Musica (Fraw Musica) speaks, and she praises music as the greatest joy on earth, which not only is not a sin but in fact God prefers it to all the other joys of the world because music makes the heart calm and ready for divine wisdom. At the end of this preface is the verse “The best time in the year is mine,” which assumed a life of its own as a song.44

In 1526 Luther and Walter deliberated for three weeks over the new structure of the German Mass. It had to do, on the one hand, with the relationship between Latin and German texts and, on the other hand, with the assignment of particular sounds (keys) to the Epistle and Gospel readings. According to Walter, Luther explained: “Christ is a kind Lord and his speeches are delightful; therefore we want to put to the Gospel sextum tonum (sixth tone), and because St. Paul for him is an earnest apostle, we want to designate octavum tonum (eighth tone) for the Epistle.”45

Luther’s Musical Experience

Walter also gives an account about his collective music making with Luther. He informs “‘that the Holy man of God Luther was enthusiastic about the Musica in choral and figural singing’—as well as monodical and polyphonic vocal music—‘and with him I’ve spent a number of lovely hours singing and have seen often how the dear man became merry and jolly after singing and he could not simply get tired or full from it and knew how to talk about the Musica so delightfully’” (“dass der heilige Mann Gottes Lutherus … zu der Musica im Choral- und Figuralgesange”—also zu einstimmiger und mehrstimmiger Vokalmusik—“grosse Lust hatte, mit welchem ich gar manche liebe Stunde gesungen vnd offtmals gesehen, wie der thewre Mann vom singen so lustig vnd frölich ward/das er des singens schier nicht köndte müde vnd satt werden/vnd von der Musica so herrlich zu reden wuste”).46

But Walter was not the only one who experienced this way of music making. Luther’s physician Matthäus Ratzeberger and Luther’s student and biographer Johannes Mathesius, in his Luther’s Sermons, bear witness to such music making in Luther’s house. Ratzeberger tells how Luther, in his home in the evenings, together with his sons and students, sang in several parts and that Luther sang many figural songs—and in particular older and contemporary compositions, which he in some cases was able to adapt . On December 17, 1538, people gathered to sing motets in Luther’s home,47 perhaps from that year’s published Symphoniae iucundae. Also, the musician, music theorist, and composer Sixt Dietrich from Constance reported in 1543 from Wittenberg: “D. M. Luther has a lot of love for music, and with him I sang much and often” (D. M. Luther hat sonderlich grosse liebin zuo der music, mit dem ich vil vnd oft gesungen). Motets, hymns, responsories, and Gregorian songs were sung.48 The abilities of the singers in Luther’s home were admittedly limited, and they did not always render the musical scores correctly. “Darumb müßt Ihr Componisten uns auch zu gut halten, ob wir Säue [Fehler] machen in Euren Gesängen. Denn wir wollen´s wohl lieber treffen denn fehlen” (Your composer must consider whether we can be good even if we make sows [mistakes] in your songs. Because we would rather meet to sing than not meet not to make mistakes).49

Luther had particularly high regard for singing in the context of music-making: “Canticum et cantus ex abundantia gaudentis cordis oritur” (songs of the heart arise from an abundance of joys).50 For Luther, singing is a form to communicate the gospel, music in the guise of viva vox evangelii (living voice of the gospel). So it manifests itself in his Christmas hymn: “Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, ich bring´ euch gute neue Mär, der guten Mär bring´ ich so viel, davon ich singen und sagen will” (From Heaven above I come and bring you good news, the good news I bring you so much that I’d like to sing and say). Music serves to strengthen the effect of the text: “beautiful text and beautiful notes” can together lift up the afflicted conscience. “Solchen hertzen ist der Psalter, weil er den Messia singet und predigt, ein süsser, tröstlicher, lieblicher gesang, wenn man gleich die blossen wort, on noten daher lieset oder saget. Doch hilfft die Musica, oder noten, als ein wunderliche Creatur und gabe Gottes seer wol dazu, sonderlich wo der hauffe mit singet, und fein ernstlich zu gehet” (The Psalter, because it sings of and preaches the Messiah, is for the heart a sweeter, more trustworthy and lovely songbook, even if you speak the words without singing the notes. But music, or musical notes, help show the wonderful creation to be a gift of God, no matter how well one can sing the notes).51

If singing should be and is a form used to communicate the gospel, then consequently through the poeticizing of divine songs and also through chanting, the gospel should spread among the people.52 Indeed, the early movement of the Reformation emerged time and again partially as a polemical singing movement. Singing belongs to the hallmarks of the church; sacred Christian people can be recognized by public worship, praise, and gratitude where one sings “psalms or sacred songs.”53 And so Luther defines the worship service in his preaching at the consecration of the court church in Torgau as an event in which “our beloved Lord alone speaks with us through his sacred word and we in turn talk to him through prayer and hymns of praise”54—“At a good sermon one should do a strong prayer or a good hymn of praise.”55

Luther wanted text-bound music to be geared toward the actuality of the target language: “I’d like to have today a German Mass …, but I’d like it to have a proper German art … It must be both text and notes, accent, melody, and manner of rendering ought to grow out of the true mother tongue and its inflection; otherwise all of it becomes an imitation as monkeys do.”56

This intention to have the correct relationship between text and the manner of singing he put into practice in his own songs. In his musical practice, Luther proved to be a technically and practically skilled musicus. At the same time, he was conscious of his limitations; he knew that he would never compose a motet like Senfl even “if I tore myself in pieces” (wan ich mich tzureißen soltte).57 On the other hand, he had the skill to devise a fourth voice for an already-existing three-voice movement, as a witty letter Luther wrote to Johannes Agricola attests.58

For some of his sacred songs he also composed the melodies; there is certain evidence for his authorship of “Jesaja, dem Propheten, das geschah59; other parts of the German Mass were musically reworked by him. He partially changed some traditional melodies—there is a signed outline of an ionic melody (which was again rejected) to “Vater unser im Himmelreich” (Our Father in Heaven).60

Luther’s Hymns

Luther’s hymns are the texts that have shaped Protestant piety most lastingly since it originated. These hymns are a concentrated expression of his theology. Through singing in the parishes, the schools, and the homes, the sung gospel was most strongly disseminated in the guise of Lutheran theology. This conforms to Luther’s intention and wish that the gospel conveyed through chanting should remain among the people. Beyond their acceptance as church and sacred music, the hymns have found into way into concert halls. During the Lutheran Reformation the hymn distinctly bloomed—unlike during the influence of Zwinglis and Calvin. Cantus firmus movements from sacred hymns—especially those by the reformers from Wittenberg—determined the musical repertoire for decades. This was spread in particular through Georg Rhau’s Neue deutsche Geistliche Gesenge (New German Spiritual Singing) from 1544. A thriving music culture developed through the church choirs into evangelical cities and at Protestant courts—it is not unreasonable to characterize the 16th and 17th centuries as the epoch of Protestant music in Germany. Luther was a master of the language, with a poetic gift of distinction. He is well regarded in the history of poetry, most of all as a poet of spiritual hymns. His hymns are a firm part of the church cannon of Christian literature, and they are used today and will be in the future as they have been used for centuries within and outside of the church. They are sung during worship services and appear outside of the liturgical context: in literature and in compositions. The seminal text about the history of the origin of Luther’s hymns is a letter addressed to Georg Spalatin (1484–1545) from the end of the year 1523. This letter recounts the birth hour of the evangelical book of hymns. Luther asked Spalatin to take part in a joint undertaking, which did not materialize as planned, but its intention and plan are clear in Luther’s letter.

Grace and Peace! [Our] plan is to follow the example of the prophets and the ancient fathers of the church, and to compose psalms for the people [in the] vernacular, that is spiritual songs, so that the Word of God may be among the people also in the form of music. Therefore we are searching everywhere for poets. Since you are endowed with a wealth [of knowledge] and elegance [in handling] the German language, and since you have polished [your German] through much use, I ask you to work with us on this project; try to adapt any one of the psalms for use as a hymn as you may see [I have done] in this example. But I would like you to avoid any new words or the language used at court. In order to be understood by the people, only the simplest and the most common words should be used for singing; at the same time, however, they should be pure and apt; and further, the sense should be clear and as close as possible to the psalm. You need a free hand here: maintain the sense, but don’t cling to the words; [rather] translate them with other appropriate words. I myself do not have so great a gift that I can do what I would like to see done here. So, I shall find out whether you are a Heman, or an Asaph, or a Jeduthun. I would like to ask the same of Hans von Dolzig, whose German is also rich and elegant. Nevertheless, you people should work on this only if you have the leisure, which I suspect is not the case just now. You have my Seven Penitential Psalms and the commentaries on them, from which you can catch the sense of the psalm. If this is satisfactory to you, either the first one can be assigned to you [O Lord, do not rebuke me in thy anger], or the seventh [Hear my prayer, O Lord.). To Hans von Dolzig I would assign the second. “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven. I have done ‘Out of the depths,’ and ‘Have mercy on me’ has already been given to someone else. If these psalms are too difficult then take these two: ‘I will bless the Lord at all times,’ and ‘Rejoice in the Lord, all you righteous,’ that is, Psalms 33 and 32. Or you may take Psalm 103, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul.’ But let us know what we can expect from you. Farewell in the Lord.61

Luther’s relation to, indeed, love for music found its most significant expression in his hymns. The letter to Spalatin is a testament to this, and it is at the same time the beginning of a blooming poeticizing of hymns in the years to come. Luther had numerous things in mind:

  1. 1. The gospel should remain also through chanting among the people.

  2. 2. The psalms are good examples and models for evangelical hymns.

  3. 3. The words for the texts should be simple, common, appropriate, and comprehensible.

  4. 4. In the translation, one may act freely, “when only the sense is retained.”

Luther doesn’t write about the melodies, but one could add: the melodies shall be equal to the texts, they shall be simple and easy to sing. The congregation is supposed to sing them. He may not write about the melodies, but surely we may add that the melodies should match the texts, they ought to be catchy and singable, allowing the congregation to “sing with pleasure and love.” Out of this impetus grew the first hymn verses of the Reformation, which made their way into the hymn books. The Reformation’s hymnals became the hallmark of the new thriving Reformation’s churches, a nota ecclesiae. (mark of the church) From the first song sheets—broadsheet with one or two hymns—paved the way at the turn of the year 1523/24 to the Achtliederbuch (The Book of Eight Hymns) (the first Lutheran hymnal)—it contained four of Luther’s hymns, including “Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g´mein,” three hymns by Paul Speratus, including “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her,” and an anonymous text, as well as the first books of hymns from Erfurt for the Wittenberg choral book. This initial choral book of hymns with spiritual songs, “Geystliche gesang buchleyn” (The Booklet of Spiritual Hymns), was Johann Walter’s creation. In its first edition it included thirty-eight German songs and five Latin hymns.62 Further milestones include the publication of Wittenberg’s congregational book of hymns that appeared in the year 1529, which was preserved only in one publication from the year 1533, as well as the last book of hymns that was printed during Luther’s lifetime by Leipzig publisher Valentin Bapst in 1533, which Bapst referred to as the Bapst’s Hymnal (Bapstsche Gesangbuch).63

From 1523 until the end of his life, Luther composed more than thirty spiritual songs. In the years 1523 and 1524 Luther created a total of twenty-four songs. After this initial “spring of songs,” four additional songs were written before 1529, among which was “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God) (also 1528); after that came a lengthy pause in song creation. The hymn “Vater unser im Himmelreich” (Our Father in Heaven) was published first in 1529 in a chorale book from Leipzig; the appearance of “Was fürchtst du, Feind Herodes, sehr” (Why Fearest Thou, Foe Herod, So) can be dated to December 12, 1541.

Luther’s first hymn, from 1523, is about a martyr from Brussels, whose fate Luther captured in a narrating ballad. From the turn of that year originate mostly psalm hymns—over time Luther set to music Psalms 12, 14, 46, 67, 124, 128, and 130. The most widely known of these are “Aus tiefer Not” (From Deep Affliction) (Ps. 130, 1523/24) and “Ein feste Burg” (A Mighty Fortress) (Ps. 46, 1527/28). A second group includes adaptations of Latin hymns by Ambrosius and other poets, for example, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (Now Come, Savior of the Gentiles), taken from Veni redemptor gentium. There are certain difficulties in rendering the Latin verse intelligibly into German. Other hymns take German templates or incorporate pre-Reformation German poems and develop them, mostly the so-called Leise (hymns) that end in Kyrieleis (Kyrie eleison). These include, among others, the Christmas carol “Gelobet seist du, Jesus Christ” (Praised Be You, Jesus Christ) and the hymn “Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist” (We Now Implore the Holy Ghost). The hymn “Sie ist mir lieb, die werte Magd” (She Is Dear to Me, the Worthy Maid) is a special case, as the hymn is reminiscent of courtly poetry due to its ornate form and melody.

Luther devoted particular attention to the catechism pieces he favored since his early literary work. Both catechisms were published in 1529. In his hymns he adapted the Decalogue in two hymns—“Dies sind die heilgen Zehn Gebot” (These Are the Holy Ten Commandments) and “Mensch, wiltu leben seliglich” (Man Wilt Thou Live Blessedly)—and the creed—“Wir glauben all an einen Gott” (We All Believe in One True God)—the Our Father—“Vater unser im Himmelreich” (Our Father in Heaven)—and baptism—“Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam” (Christ our Lord came to the Jordan)—into a single hymn each. Not only the hymns but their collection and arrangement are Luther’s work.64

In 1529 in Wittenberg the publisher Joseph Klug published a hymnal titled Geistliche Lieder auffs new gebessert zu Wittemberg. D. Mart. Luther. M. D. XXJX (Spiritual Hymns New and Improved to Wittenberg’s D. Mart. Luther. M. D. XXJX). It included 160 pages in duodecim book size (Duodezformat). The last known copy was from the 19th century (Jenny Anm. 2).65 Two hymnals from Erfurt and Rostock in 1531 draw upon this hymnal. A second edition was published in 1533 in Wittenberg, which is preserved only in one copy (Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt, Lutherhaus).66

The hymnal from 1529 was divided into five sections, the first of which included Luther’s twenty-eight hymns, each of which bore his name. The second section had the heading “Nu folgen andere der unsern Lieder” (Now follow others our songs). On the third part is written “Nu folgen geistliche lieder/von den alten gemacht” (Now follow sacred songs made from the old ones). They prove that even in the darkest time of the church, people have been able to acknowledge Christ. A fourth part gathers hymns from different contemporary poets, including Hans Sachs and Albrecht of Prussia. In the fifth part are compiled biblical cantica from the New and Old Testament, in which the Magnificat received a preliminary remark.67 (For reconstruction and description in detail, compare Jenny, The Lutheran Hymnal.)

Within the five sections Luther ordered his songs as follows: church years, catechism, songs of psalms. The hymnal was more than just a book for the worship services—together with the catechism and a new edition of the prayer book (first in 1522), which were published in the same year, lay the fundamentals of a comprehensive introduction to the Christian faith and life. In 1533 a new, altered edition (Jenny, Luther’s Hymnal 315f.)68 of Wittenberg’s hymnal was published, only one copy of which still exists. Klug published further editions in 1535, 1543, and 1544. Most likely the editions that were published between 1535 and 1543 are the ones that did not survive.

Other Poems

Besides the hymns, only a handful of Luther’s German and Latin poems still exist.69 Their authenticity is currently questionable, and an unambiguous clarification is hard to give. Luther wrote epitaphs on the Saxon electors Friedrich the Wise (d. 1525) and Johann the Steadfast (d. 1532)70 as well as a small poem to Wittenberg that belongs to the genre of city panegyric.71 A few other Latin poems of mixed content exist,72 of which only one summary summa of Psalm 23 deserves much attention.73 Some of the poems may have been lost, but numerous sayings and quotes assigned to Luther were either appropriated by him or did not originate from him at all. The most famous example of these is the word Apfelbäumchen (young apple tree) used in the saying “Und wenn ich wüsste, dass morgen die Welt unterginge, würde ich heute noch ein Apfelbäumchen pflanzen” (And if I knew that tomorrow the world would end, I would today plant a young apple tree), proved for the first time in 1943.

In 1528 was published “Eine newe fabel Esopi Newlich verdeudscht gefunden/vom Lawen vnd Esel” (A new fable by Aesop in New German/The Lion and the Donkey).74 During his otherwise productive stay at Coburg in 1530, Luther adapted “Etliche Fabeln aus Esopo” (Several Fables by Aesop).75 They were published in 1557 after Luther’s death; the manuscript is preserved in the Vatican Library.

After 1535, Luther compiled a collection of German proverbs (WA 51, (634) 645-662), and asked others to contribute materials for it. This collection has survived as a manuscript (Oxford, Bodleian Library) and listed, according to the edition of the Weimar issue 489, Sententiae, Maxims, Riddles, and Proverbs, which show his interest in coined phrases that he also used abundantly in his writings.

Music, School, and Upbringing

Luther wanted music to be included in the canon of disciplines taught in schools. With great determination, he campaigned for music to become a school subject. This development arose from the position music occupied in the canon of artes, but it also corresponded to the newly recognized meaning of ars and disciplina. Contrary to the views of the “Abergeystlichen” (pseudo-religious),76 Luther held on to the existing educational canon; he wanted “alle künste, sonderlich die Musica gerne sehen im dienst des, der sie geben und geschaffen hat” (to see all arts, in particular music, in service to the one who gave and created them)77 Besides the “languages and history” (sprachen und historien) he considered “singing and music with the range of mathematics” (singen und die musica mit der gantzen mathematica)78 to be indispensable components of school instruction.79 Inn Unterricht der Visitatoren the subject is explicitly instruction in music.80

Luther believed that “one ought to keep musicam necessario in the schools. A school teacher ought to know how to sing, otherwise I can’t see him as such” (Man muß musicam necessario in der schulen behalten. Ein schulmeister muß singen können, sonst sehe ich ihn nicht an).81 Whoever could master music Luther was convinced was “the good kind, capable of everything” (guter Art, zu Allem geschickt).82 Therefore, one ought to keep music in the school at all cost. Luther held the uplifting value of music in high esteem: “The youth should be made constantly familiar with this art, because it cultivates fine skillful people.”83

Luther expected the establishment to promote the arts, which is why he advocated for the preservation of the Saxon court chapel.84 He promoted part singing for youth, “damit sie der bul lieder und fleyschlichen gesenge los werde und an derselben stat ettwas heylsames lernete, und also das guete mit lust, wie den iungen gepürt, eyngienge” (to remove vain and fleshly singing and to learn something salutary, thereby singing with pleasure in all one’s senses).85

Music and Theology

Music is not only or even foremost about its social benefits but rather about consolation and edification, about repairing the sadder souls and broken hearts, about their approach to one another—as it were the “redeemed world.” Whoever comes to the music outgrows the world and himself—and find himself again outside of his own self. For this reason theology and music are closely related: the same way in which people received their life from Christ, they regain their self from the music, from outside, ab extra. Nos extra nos—this is also and precisely true for music and music making. And this being-outside-oneself is then the reason for joy, for casting away the troubles that burden people and keep them from being joyful. Luther’s high esteem for the musica as a sounding music originates from his understanding of the gospel as spoken Word and from his conviction that faith comes from hearing the word of the Lord. In his lecture on the Epistle to the Hebrews he notes: “solae aures sunt organa Christiani hominis, quia non ex ullius membri operibus, sed de fide iustificatur et Christianus iudicatur” (Therefore the ears alone are the organs of the Christian person, who is justified and judged a Christian not by the works of any member but through faith).86

Luther’s understanding of music cannot be separated from his understanding of language: just like language, musical language creates a new reality, which can and ought to be viva vox eangelii. Luther differentiates speaking from singing through ordering the Word to intellectus and the voice of the hymn to affectus.87 For Luther, music—in particular, singing—is a communication of the gospel, divine praise of vindicated sinners and freer Christians. Such music and such singing come out of the belief that “Gott hat unser hertz und mut frölich gemacht, durch seinen lieben Son, welchen er für uns gegeben hat zur erlösung von sunden, tod und Teuffel. Wer solchs mit ernst gleubet, der kans nicht lassen, er mus frölich und mit lust dauon singen und sagen, das es andere auch hören und herzu komen” (God made our heart and courage joyful through his beloved son, whom he sacrificed for us, our redemption from sins, death, and the Devil. Whoever believes that earnestly, he cannot let it go, he must sing and speak merrily and with passion about it, so that others hear and join him).88

The Impact of Luther’s Music

From the Reformation’s beginnings in Wittenberg and Torgau grew a rich Protestant musical culture. The church choir of Torgau became a model for evangelical choirs, and through them Luther’s purpose became reality—that music should be assigned an official place in schools. This Protestant musical culture began in the school of Saxony and flourished in the century of the Reformation, especially in central/middle Germany.89 But its influence was felt throughout the evangelical community in Germany and beyond its borders. Therefore, it is not surprising that Lutheran religiosity and Protestant devoutness found their expression in music, sacred songs, and sacred music. Michael Praetorius, Paul Gerhardt, Heinrich Schütz, Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, and Jochen Klepper are just a few of the most prominent representatives of this culture in Germany. Also, the North German organ culture cannot be understood without Reformation’s impetus. Dieterich Buxtehude established his Evening Music (Abendmusik) in St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck, thus laying the foundations of a bourgeois musical culture in the proud Hansa city. And beyond the church this evangelical music influenced social culture and continues to shape it today. Germany is a land of music finally because it lived and lives from the impetus of the Reformation, which continues to influence us today.

Further Research

It would be of value to study the early dissemination of Luther’s hymns. Although the hymnals are well researched, missing are comprehensive studies of the incorporation of the hymns into church ordinances and the use of hymns in worship. The history of the translation of the hymns has also not been written. A welcome endeavor would be a study of the European reception for Luther’s hymns.

Primary Sources

Luther, Martin. Vol. 35 of D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe. Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolder, 1883–2009.Find this resource:

Walter, Johann. Lob und preis der löblichen kunst Musica. Wittenberg 1538. Faksimileausgabe Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1938.Find this resource:

Das Klugsche Gesangbuch, 1533. Edited by Konrad Amel. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1954.Find this resource:

Martin Luther Liturgy and Hymns. Edited by Ulrich S. Leupold. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965 (AWA 4–LW Vol. 53).Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. Die deutschen geistlichen Lieder. Edited by Gerhard Hahn. Tübingen, Germany: Niemeyer, 1967.Find this resource:

Das deutsche Kirchenlied. Verzeichnis der Drucke von den Anfängen bis 1800. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1975 (RISM B VIII 1).Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. Geistliche Lieder. Edited by Johannes Schilling and Jürgen Heidrich. Stuttgart, forthcoming.Find this resource:

Further Reading

Anttila, Miikka E. Luther´s Theology of Music. Spiritual Beauty and Pleasure. Berlin: de Gruyter 2013.Find this resource:

Blankenburg, Walter, and Johann Walter. Leben und Werk. Edited by Friedhelm Brusniak. Tutzing, Germany: Hans Schneider, 1991.Find this resource:

Blankenburg, Walter. “Luther.” In MGG 8, 1960, pp. 1334–1346.Find this resource:

Block, Johannes. Verstehen durch Musik. Das gesungene Wort in der Theologie. Ein hermeneutischer Beitrag zur Theologie am Beispiel Martin Luthers. Tübingen, Germany: Francke, 2002.Find this resource:

Brusniak, Friedhelm, ed. Johann-Walter-Studien. Tagungsbericht Torgau 1996. Tutzing, Germany: Hans Schneider, 1998.Find this resource:

Claussen, Johann Hinrich. Gottes Klänge. Geschichte der Kirchenmusik. Munich: C.H. Beck, 2014.Find this resource:

Gurlitt, Willibald. “Johann Walter und die Musik der Reformationszeit.” In Luther-Jahrbuch 15, 1933: 1–112.Find this resource:

Hahn, Gerhard. Evangelium als literarische Anweisung. Zu Luthers Stellung in der Geschichte des deutschen kirchlichen Liedes. Munich: Artemis, 1981.Find this resource:

Herrmann, Matthias, ed. Johann Walter, Torgau und die evangelische Kirchenmusik. Altenburg, Germany: Kamprad, 2013.Find this resource:

Jenny, Markus. “Luthers Gesangbuch.” In Leben und Werk Martin Luthers von 1526 bis 1546 … Edited by Helmar Junghans, 303–321, 825–832. Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1985.Find this resource:

Krummacher, Christoph. Musik als Praxis Pietatis. Zum Selbstverständnis evangelischer Kirchenmusik. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1994.Find this resource:

Kurzschenkel, Winfried. Die theologische Bestimmung der Musik. Neuere Beiträge zur Deutung und Wertung des Musizierens im christlichen Leben. Trier, Germany: Paulinus, 1971.Find this resource:

Liederkunde zum Evangelischen Gesangbuch. Issue 1 ff. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016, 2000ff.Find this resource:

Meding, Wichmann von. Luthers Gesangbuch. Die gesungene Theologie eines christlichen Psalters. Hamburg: Kovac, 1998.Find this resource:

Paasch, Kathrin, ed. “Mit Lust und Liebe singen.” Die Reformation und ihre Lieder. Gotha, Germany: Universitäts- und Forschungsbibliothek, 2012.Find this resource:

Rautenstrauch, Johannes. Luther und die Pflege der kirchlichen Musik in Sachsen (14.–19. Jahrhundert). Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der katholischen Brüderschaften, der vor- und nachreformatorischen Kurrenden, Schulchöre und Kantoreien Sachsens. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1907.Find this resource:

Schilling, Johannes. “Musik.” In Luther Handbuch. Edited by Albrecht Beutel, 236–244. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2010.Find this resource:

Schilling, Johannes. “‘Die Musik ist eine herrliche Gabe Gottes.’ Martin Luther und die Reformation der Musik.” In Das Evangelium in der Geschichte der Frömmigkeit. Kirchengeschichtliche Aufsätze. Edited by Dietrich Korsch and Jan Lohrengel, 187–201. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2016.Find this resource:

Schilling, Johannes. “Die erhaltenen Exemplare von Georg Rhaus Symphoniae iucundae (1538) und Luthers Vorrede.” In Das Evangelium in der Geschichte der Frömmigkeit. Kirchengeschichtliche Aufsätze. Edited by Dietrich Korsch and Jan Lohrengel, 173–186. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2016.Find this resource:


(1.) WA TR 5:557, 18, no. 6248, Grundlegend zur Sache; and Johannes Schilling, “Musik,” in Luther Handbuch, ed. Albrecht Beutel (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 236–244.

(2.) Vorrede zum Bapstschen Gesangbuch, WA 35:476f., especially 477, 5–9.

(3.) Proximum locum do Musicae post Theologiam, WA 30/II:696, 12; cf. WA TR 1:490f.; WA TR 3:636, 3–7; WA TR 6:348, 17–26.

(4.) The term “trivial” derives from this word.

(5.) WA TR 2:434, 8–11.

(6.) WA TR 1:490, 1f.

(7.) Erich Kleineidam, Universitas studii Erffordensis 1–2 (Erfurter theologische Studien 14. 22) (Leipzig: Benno-Verlag, 1964–1969).

(8.) WA BR 2:91, 142.

(9.) WA TR 5:657, 10–12.

(10.) Siegfried Orth, “Zur Geschichte der Musikpflege an der ehemaligen Universität Erfurt,” Beiträge zur Geschichte der Universität Erfurt (1392–1816) 13 (1967): 91–147, especially 127.

(11.) WA TR 4:215, 21–216, 12; WA TR 2:11, 24–12, 2.

(12.) Augustinusregel chap. 2, sec. 3–4; see Adolar Zumkeller, “Art. Augustiner-Eremiten,” in Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. Ludwig Finscher, Vol. 1 (Stuttgart: J.B. Metler, 1994), pp. 1033–1039, especially p. 1034. Hereafter MGG.

(13.) Franz Körndle, “Orgelspiel in Erfurter Kirchen des späten Mittelalters,” Mitteilungen des Vereins für die Geschichte und Altertumskunde von Erfurt 64 (2003): 29–39, especially 29f.

(14.) See also n. 27.

(15.) In Martin Luther, Deutsch-deutsche Studienausgabe, 2d ed., ed. Dietrich Korsch and Johannes Schilling (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2015); and translation in Johann Hinrich Claussen, ed., 2000 Jahre Gottes Wort und christlicher Protest (Darmstadt: Lambert Schneider, 2015).

(16.) See Gustav A. Krieg, ”Musik und Religion IV,” in Theologische Real Enzyklopädie, Vol. 23 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1994), pp. 457–495.

(17.) Martin Geck, “Rhau,” in MGG 11, 1963, 372–376; and Geck, “Rhau,” in MGG 2, pt. 13, 2005, pp. 1611–1615.

(18.) Georg Rhau, Enchiridion utriusque Musicae practicae (Musica plana), Faksimile-Nachdruck, ed. Hans Albrecht (Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verl, 1951) (Documenta Musicologica 1).

(19.) Armin Brinzing, “Agricola . . , Martinus,” in MGG 2, pt. 1, 1999, col. 221–225.

(20.) Neues Handbuch der Musikwissenschaft, 3, 2, p. 559.

(21.) Åke Davidsson, Bibliographie der Musiktheoretischen Drucke des 16. Jahrhunderts, with 25 facsimiles (Baden-Baden: Verlag Heitz GmbH, 1962), 50–53.

(22.) Musica mundana was the music, or the proportional relationships, between the elements of the whole universe, and musica humana referred to the proportions and thus “music” of the human body itself.

(23.) In addition to the following discussed texts, it is the Gesangbuchvorreden (WA 35:474–483) in which Luther especially expressed his musical approach.

(24.) WA 35:474–483.

(25.) WA 35:483f.

(26.) WA 35:474, 8–10.

(27.) WA 35:480, 3–9.

(28.) WA 50:368, 10–369, 2.

(29.) WA 30/I: 363.

(30.) WA 50:373, 10f.

(31.) WA 29:475, 35f.

(32.) WA TR 2, no. 1258.

(33.) WA 35:475, 4f. (Preface to Wittenberg’s Book on Choral Singing, 1524).

(34.) WA 30/II:695f.

(35.) See WA TR 6, no. 7034.

(36.) WA BR 5:635–640, no. 1727.

(37.) WA T 5:557, 11f.

(38.) LW 49:427–429. A reply fron Senfl was not received. Along with the letter to Senfl appears a record from the year 1530, Peri tes musikes in griechischen Buchstaben (WA 30/II:695f).

(39.) See Luthers Brief an Melanchthon from [April 24] 1530: MBW.T 4, 124–128, no. 891; WA BR 5: 285–288, no. 1552.

(40.) Ps. 118:17.

(41.) Johann Rüppel and Ulrich Zimmer, Martin-Luther-Chorheft (Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1983) (BA 6346), 23.

(42.) Neues Handbuch der Musikwissenschaft 3, 2, 343.

(43.) Johann Walter, Sämtliche Werke VI (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1970); see also Johannes Walter, Lob und Preis der löblichen Kunst Musica 1538. Facsimilie reprint, ed. Willibald Gurlitt (Kassel: Bärenreiter: 1938).

(44.) As in Evangelischen Gesangbuch, 319.

(45.) WA 35:82f., on the claves cf. also WA TR 1, no. 816 = 3; no. 2996. 4; no. 4975.

(46.) Delivered by Michael Praetorius, Syntagma musicum 1. Wittenberg 1614/15 (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1959), 451; and Johann Walter, Abbildungen bei Blankenburg, 423.

(47.) WA TR 4, no. 4192.

(48.) WA TR, no. 3691.

(49.) WA BR 7:154, 18–20 (January 18, 1535).

(50.) WA 3:253, 8; WA 55/II:239, 4.

(51.) WA 54:33, 36–34, 2.

(52.) WA BR 3, no. 698.

(53.) WA 50:641, 20–34.

(54.) WA 49:588, 16–18.

(55.) WA 49:286, 16f.

(56.) WA 18:123, 19–24; see also WA 35:82f. Translation from Steven Saunder, “Music in Early Modern Germany,” in Camden House History of German Literature, Vol. 10, ed. Max Reinhart (Rochester, NY: Camden House Publishing), 674.

(57.) WA TR 5, no. 6247.

(58.) WA B 5R, no. 1569 (May 15, 1530).

(59.) AWA 4:97–99, 243–245.

(60.) AWA 4:114–116, 295–298, 345–351, and enclosed facsimile.

(61.) LW 49:68–70.

(62.) Overview by Walter Blankenburg and Johann Walter, Leben und Werk, ed. Friedhelm Brusniak (Tutzing, Germany: Hans Schneider, 1991), 137–142.

(63.) For further history, see Albrecht Beutel, “Albrecht, Lied V. Kirchenlied,” in Historisches Wörterbuch der Rhetorik, Vol. 5 (Tübingen, Germany: Niemeyer, 2001), 270–275.

(64.) See Jenny, Luthers Gesangbuch.

(65.) Jenny, Luthers Gesangbuch, n. 2.

(66.) Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt, Lutherhaus.

(67.) For a reconstruction and detailed description, see Jenny, Luthers Gesangbuch.

(68.) Jenny, Luthers Gesangbuch, 315f.

(69.) WA 35:568ff.

(70.) WA 35:587–590

(71.) WA 35:593f.

(72.) WA 35:596–606.

(73.) WA 35:602.

(74.) WA 26:(538) 547–554.

(75.) WA 50:(432) 440–460.

(76.) WA 35:475, 3f.

(77.) Ibid., 4f.

(78.) WA 15:46, 14f. An die Ratsherren …, 1524

(79.) See also WA 35:474, 19f.

(80.) WA 26:237, 239.

(81.) WA TR 5, no. 6248; TR 1, no. 968.

(82.) WA TR 1:490, 31f., no. 968.

(83.) WA TR 1:490, 42f., no. 968.

(84.) WA B 3, no. 1020.

(85.) WA 35:474, 20–475, 1.

(86.) WA 57/III:222, 7–9.

(87.) WA 55/II:779, 444–448.

(88.) WA 35:477, 69.

(89.) Johannes Rautenstrauch, Luther und die Pflege der kirchlichen Musik in Sachsen (14.–19. Jahrhundert). Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der katholischen Brüderschaften, der vor- und nachreformatorischen Kurrenden, Schulchöre und Kantoreien Sachsens (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1907; reprint Hildesheim, Germany: Olms, 1970).