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The Chorale in the Church Service

By Albert Scheitzer (1908)

How was the congregational song introduced into the church service at the time of the Reformation? It is usual to look upon the question as very simple, and to suppose that the people had little by little come to sing the melody while the organ played it. Did the sacred instrument really teach the congregation in this way?

We may read through all Luther's writings without finding a single place where he speaks of the organ as the instrument accompanying the congregational singing.[1] Moreover he, the admirer of true church music of every kind, gives no directions as to how the organ is to co-operate in the service. It is really incredible, however, that in the few places where he mentions the organ at all, he speaks of it not enthusiastically but almost scornfully! He does not look upon it as necessary or even desirable in the evangelical service, but at most tolerates it where he finds it already.

His contemporaries shared his view. We need not be astonished that the Reformed Church dealt drastically with the organs and banished them from the churches. In the Lutheran and even in the Catholic churches at that time it fared almost the same. It had always had, indeed, its adversaries. No less a person than St. Thomas Aquinas had declared war on it, not regarding organ music, or indeed instrumental music in general, as calculated to stimulate devotion. In the sixteenth century, however, complaints against it arose on all sides, and the Council of Trent, (1545-1563), which dealt with all the doubtful questions relating to the church and its service, was compelled to enact severe regulations against the erroneous and too prevalent employment of the organ in worship. Catholics and Protestants alike at that time imposed on it a term of penance, in order that it might alter its ungodly nature, in default of which the Church would excommunicate it.

It had fully merited this disgrace. The character of the tasks allotted to it may be seen from the Cæremoniale Episcoporum issued by Pope Clement VIII in the year 1600. The organ preludised in order to give the tone to the priest or the choir. It further gave out the liturgical songs and hymns in alternation with the choir, one verse being sung and the next played on the organ. It was never used, however, to accompany the choir. The primitive structure of the organs of that time quite forbade this; their heavy keys did not permit of polyphonic playing, while their crude, untempered tuning made it as a rule impossible to play on them in more than one or two keys.

Since therefore they could not co-operate, the choir and the organ functioned in turns. When the organ had completed its verse, the text, in accordance with the above-mentioned regulations of the Pope, was either recited loudly by a chorister, or else sung, which latter was recommended as the better course.[2]

With the organ employed in this independent way, abuses could not fail to creep in. As the organist was unable to play polyphonically on his instrument, he was tempted to amuse himself with quick running passages in his preambles to the verses or during the course of these. Still worse was it when he indulged in well-known secular songs, which seems to have been a wide-spread practice. In 1548 an organist in Strassburg was dismissed from his post for having played French and Italian songs during the offertory.[3]

At a later date the organ unwarrantably deprived the choir of many of the hymns, taking almost everything upon itself. The extent to which this had become prevalent appears from an incident that happened to Luther, which he tells in his best style in the Table Talk: "When I was a young monk in Erfurt", he says, "and had to make the rounds of the villages, I came to a certain village and celebrated mass there. When I had dressed myself and stepped before the altar in my fine attire, the clerk began to strike the Kyrie eleison and the Patrem on the lute. I could with difficulty keep from laughing, for I was not used to such an organ; I had to make my Gloria in excelsis conform to his Kyrie."

It seemed so much a matter of course at that time to substitute the organ for the choir in the liturgy that this clerk, in default of an organ, simply had recourse to the lute!

In the Evangelical church the role of the organ had for a long time now been the same as in the Catholic church. It preambled to the hymns of the priest and the choir and alternated with the latter; only now the congregational song is merely an addendum, to which the organ preambles and wherewith it alternates. In Wittenberg it preambled to almost all the vocal pieces, whether of priest, choir or people, and shared with the choir in the rendering of the Kyrie, the Gloria and the Agnus Dei. We learn this from Wolfgang Musculus, who in 1536 attended the Concordia conferences at Wittenberg, and described the singing at the service in the Wittenberg parish church on the fifth Sunday after Easter.[4]

This explains the curious injunction which we find in the church ordinances of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, namely that the organ "shall strike into the song in the churches". It means that certain verses are to be played by the organist alone, the congregation being silent. At the same time the caution is given that this must not happen too often, but at the most two or three times in the one hymn. It is so laid down in the "Strassburg Church-ordinance" of 1598,[5] and, in exactly the same way, in the "Nuremberg Congregation ordinance" of 1606. At first, and for another three generations at least, there was no question of the organ accompanying the congregational singing.

How did the choir stand with regard to the congregational chorale? Did it take the place of the organ, guiding and supporting the song of the people? A glance at the earliest hymn books appointed for the service shows us that this solution also did not occur to Luther.

The above - mentioned[6] Erfurt Enchiridion of Justus Jonas was a hymn-book not for the church but for the home, as, indeed, its title expressly indicates. The melody alone was noted over the poem, so that the father of the household could give it out to the children and the servants. The Strassburg reformer Catharina Zell hoped that "a poor mother should go to sleep, and, if at midnight the crying child had to be rocked, sing it a song of heavenly things;" this would be the right kind of lullaby, and would please God more than all the lullabies played on the organ in the Catholic church.[7]

The Church chorale book published at Wittenberg in 1524 by Luther and Walther, while the Enchiridion was being printed at Erfurt, makes no reference whatever to congregational singing. It merely consists, in fact, of the vocal parts of chorales written in four and five parts, and the co-operation of the faithful is barred at the outset by the fact that the chorale melody lies in the tenor, not in the soprano.[8] These vocal parts, — which were probably engraved by Luther's friend, the painter and wood engraver Lucas Cranach - are those of chorale motets sung by the choir, and therefore having a cantus firmus, as was customary in the religious and secular music of that time.

Luther was not only a reformer but an artist. The logical outcome of his reforming ideas would have been a remodelling of the church service on the lines of the simple home service, in which case the congregational chorale would have been the only music used in the church. This, indeed, is the line we find him pursuing in his first drastic treatise othe service.[9] But, as in most men of genius, there was a fatal side to his greatness that prevented him from thinking out his ideas to their logical conclusion, and made him endow a thing and its antithesis with equal life. He was an admirer of the contrapuntal music of the Netherlands school. He regarded artistic music as one of the most perfect manifestations of the Deity. "When natural music is heightened and polished by art", he said once, "there man first beholds and can with great wonder examine to a certain extent, (for it cannot be wholly seized or understood) the great and perfect wisdom of God in His marvellous work of music, in which this is most singular and indeed astonishing, that one man sings a simple tune or tenor (as musicians call it), together with which three, four or five voices also sing, which as it were play and skip delightedly round this simple tune or tenor, and wonderfully grace and adorn the said tune with manifold devices and sounds, performing as it were a heavenly dance, so that those who at all understand it and are moved by it must be greatly amazed, and believe that there is nothing more extraordinary in the world than such a song adorned with many voices." The wonders of contrapuntal polyphony have never been so admirably described before or since.[10]

His favorite composers were Josquin des Prčs (1450-1521), the court musician to Louis XII. of France, and Heinrich Isaak's pupil Ludwig Senfl (died 1550), who was successively in the service of the courts of Vienna and Munich. His remark upon Josquin is well-known : "He is the master of the notes; they have to do as he wills; other composers have to do as the notes will." On one occasion, when a motet of Senfl's was being performed in his house, he called out : "I could not write such a motet if I were to tear myself to pieces, just as he, for his part, could not preach a sermon like me".[11]

The musician in Luther could not tolerate the banishment of choir and art-song from the church, as many people desired, or the restriction of the choir to leading the congregational singing. "And I am not of the opinion" he says in the preface to Walther's chorale parts of 1524, "that on account of the Gospel all the arts should be crushed out of existence, as some over-religious people pretend, but I would willingly see all the arts, especially music, in the service of Him who has given and created them".[12]

A licence was thus granted to the art in the Lutheran service; it took its place in the ritual as a free and independent power. All the phases of the development of music in general are to be clearly seen in the Lutheran service. Finally, when the motet, under the influence of Italian art, was transformed into the cantata, bringing not only instrumental music but an undisguised opera-style into the church, the service actually came to be interrupted by a sacred concert, which was looked upon as its culminating point. It was at this juncture that Bach came on the scene. On the covers of his scores he writes, not "cantata", but "concerto".

Thus had Luther not been an artist, Bach would never have been able to write his sacred concert-music for church purposes and as part of the church service. Would he nevertheless have written it in any case? What would he have done had he been born in Zürich or in Geneva? At first, then, the congregational chorale was not supported either by the organ or by the choir, but sung unisono without accompaniment, precisely as in the Catholic church at the end of the Middle Ages.

We must not over-estimate the number of the congregational chorales that were sung during a service. Where a choir existed, the congregation took little part in the singing, being restricted to the Credo, - sung between the reading of the Gospel and the sermon - and perhaps a communion hymn. In Wittenberg - so it appears from the account given by Musculus, - the congregation as a rule did not sing, but left even the chorales to the choir. In other places, - Erfurt, for example, - it was customary for the people to sing alternately with the choir between the Epistle and the Gospel, in such a way that the choir sang the sequence and the people joined in with a German chorale appropriate to the time of the year. Five or six chorales in the year sufficed for this, since the same chorale was used on each Sunday during that particular period.

In the churches that had no choir, more importance attached to the congregational singing, since in that case the Kyrie, the Gloria and the Agnus Dei were sung in the corresponding German chorales. But here again, as a rule, fifteen or at most twenty chorales, which had been laid down, once for all, for their particular Sundays, sufficed for the whole year.

On closer inspection we get the impression that the congregational singing, instead of gaining ground, was in the course of the sixteenth century driven back by the art-singing and by the organ, the pretensions of the latter increasing everywhere, in spite of all ordinances.[13]

There was thus good cause for the attempt that was made, at the end of the first century of the Reformation, - not indeed by a musician but by a priest - to improve the position of the chorale. In 1586 the Würtemberg court preacher Lucas Osiander published his "Fünffzig geistliche Lieder und Psalmen, mit vier Stimmen auf kontrapunktweise, für die Kirchen und Schulen im löblichen Fürstentumb Würtemberg, also gesetzet, dass eine gantze christliche Gemein durchaus mitsingen kann." ("Fifty sacred songs and psalms, for the churches and schools in the worshipful principality of Würtemberg, set contrapuntally in four parts in such a way that the whole Christian congregation can always join in them"). This was the first real chorale book in our sense, except that it was written for the choir instead of for the organ. The fact that Osiander relies only on the choir, not on the organ, for the leading of the congregational singing, proves that the instrument in his time had no concern whatever with the latter.[14]

In his preface he expresses his confidence that he has made things easier by removing the melody from the tenor to the soprano, and thinks that when the laity recognise the tune they will joyfully take part in it.[15]

Was not his confidence misplaced? It was indeed only a half-measure, a false compromise between polyphony and melody. If he wanted polyphony, he should have allowed the whole congregation to sing in chorus in four parts, as was the custom later in Switzerland; on the other hand, if he wished to do without polyphony, he should have let the choir sing in unison, acting, as it were, as precentor, somewhat in the way the village cantors in his day led the chorale without choir or organ, simply by the unison singing of the school children. His desire, however, was to reconcile artistic singing and popular singing, and instead of a solution he achieved only an unstable compromise. For what support could the harmonies of a choir - and the choirs at that time were very weak in numbers - give to a cantus firmus sung by a mass of people?

Hans Leo Hassler also tried to make a forward step in this direction, and published, besides his splendid Cantiones sacrae and Sacri concertus (for performance by the choir only), his Kirchengesäng, Psalmen und geistliche Lieder auf die gemeinen Melodien mit vier Stimmen simpliciter gesetzt, which, according to the preface, were so constructed that the ordinary man could sing them in the Christian assembly to figurate music.[16]

It would be wrong, however, to suppose that all the masters of church music who, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, removed the melody to the soprano part, were imitators of Osiander, that it was for purely practical reasons that they abandoned the earlier system. The real reason is quite different, and must be sought in the fact that in the meantime German church music had shaken off the influence of the purely contrapuntal music of the Netherlands school, and had fallen under that of the Italians, in which the melodic style began to dominate the contrapuntal. Melchior Vulpius,[17] Seth Calvisius,[18] Michael Praetorius,[19] and Johann Eccard [20] thus follow in their admirable music not so much the lead of the Würtemberg Court preacher as the trend of the art itself.

It was a pure accident that through this change in polyphonic art the possibility was opened to the congregation to join in the cantus firmus with the choir. How far it availed itself of it we do not know, for in the history of art, as a rule, we never get to know the things that would be of practical interest to us, for these, being looked upon as matters of daily custom, are not recorded. The fact that at this epoch the term "chorale" begins to be applied to the melodies sung by the congregation throws no light on the question,[21] unless we regard it as proving that by this time the melodies of the church song had ceased to be congregational property and had become the property of the choir.

In any case the composers themselves, in spite of the fine practical suggestions as to congregational singing that they put forward in their prefaces, thought only of the choir when composing, as is shown by their counterpoint, which, with all its simplicity, becomes richer and more and more in the style of the motet.[22] For us these chorale pieces, with their singularly beautiful blending of Italian and German art, are choral works pure and simple, and the idea of trying again the experiment of letting the congregation join in them would not occur to us. But if only we could hear them even as choral works! When will the time come when these treasures are exhibited each Sunday in our church services?

The attempts to have the singing of the congregation led by the choir were made about the end of the sixteenth century and in the first decade of the seventeenth. By the middle of the seventeenth century the question is settled by the organ assuming this role. In 1650 appears the Tablature-book of Samuel Scheidt, with a hundred chorale harmonisations intended for the accompaniment of the congregational singing.[23]

This was no thought-out experiment, but a solution arising out of the facts, i. e. the progress of organ-building. The sacred instrument had in the meantime been made more practically fitted for polyphonic playing, and endowed with such fulness of tone that it overwhelmed the small and weak choirs of that time. Whereas hitherto it had accompanied the choir, which supported the singing of the congregation, its powerful tone now made it possible for it to assume the lead. But again we cannot be sure of the date at which the organ began to support the choir in the chorale, or when it began to co-operate with the choir in general. This was certainly not the case before the beginning of the seventeenth century. Vulpius, Praetorius, Eccard and the others appear to know nothing of it. But as early as 1627 Johann Hermann Schein, Cantor of St. Thomas's church in Leipzig, adds a figured bass, - intended for "organists, instrumentalists, and lutenists" - to the four, five, and six-part chorale pieces for the choir in his Cantionale of that year; and this most probably points to a joint performance by choir and organ.[24]

We must not, however, conceive the organ accompaniment to the chorale, as it was practised in the second half of the seventeenth century, as a supplanting of the choir by the organ in the chorale. The choir, even in Bach's time, co-operated in the chorale as in earlier times, - polyphonically indeed - although the organ took the lead, as it were a kind of second and stronger choir without words.

This transference of vocal polyphony to the organ by means of chorale accompaniment was of cardinal significance to the art of organ music. The chorale was the teacher of the organists, leading them from the false and fruitless virtuosity of the keyboard to the true, simple organ style. From this moment German organ music severs itself from that of Italy, France, and the Netherlands, and, always under the control of the chorale, pursues the path along which, in the course of two generations, it was to arrive at perfection. Scheidt, already in possession of the true organ style derived from the chorale, sees that his life-work consists in combating the "colored" organ style of the school of the Dutchman Sweelinck.[25]

It is an illustration of how an idea is, in the end, always stronger than circumstances. Organ music did not come to perfection in Paris or in Venice, where everything seemed to be in its favour, but among the poor cantors and schoolmasters of an impoverished country, as the Germany of the two generations after the Thirty Years' War was. How small Frescobaldi, the organist of St. Peter's in Rome, whose fame among his contemporaries was so great, seems beside a Samuel Scheidt, whose name was unknown on the other side of the Alps ![26]

From the moment when organ, choir and congregation together gave out the chorale, it was inevitable that the antiphonal method, under which the organ alone performed certain of the verses, should sooner or later fall into disuse. But of the perfection of these independent organ renderings at that time we may judge from Scheidt's Tablatura nova, published in 1624. It consists for the most part of a species of variations upon the chorales most generally used, - the number of variations corresponding to the number of verses of the song, - and upon the hymns of the various seasons of the church year, which at that time were still sung in Halle in Latin, and not, as in other places, in German. In addition there are liturgical pieces, such as the Kyrie, Gloria, Magnificat, and the Psalmus sub communione "Jesus Christus unser Heiland", which are all treated in the same way.[27]

The Celli Tablature that appeared twenty-three years earlier is on the same lines, except that it also contains the complete "catechism songs".

How long the custom, testified to in all contemporary tablatures, of rendering vocal pieces on the organ alone, still lasted after the process of decay had once set in, can no longer be ascertained. When we consider the extremely numerous arrangements by Bach of the chorale "Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr", we are inclined to think that even down to his day there persisted, under certain circumstances, the practice testified to by Scheidt, of the organ responding to the Gloria intoned by the priest at the altar.

As to the position of the congregational singing in Bach's time, we have only conjecture to go upon. One thing at any rate had been achieved, - the number of the hymns affiliated to the service had considerably increased. Each Gospel had one or more of these allotted to it, so that the same ones were always sung on a particular Sunday. They were called the Cantica de tempore; in the hymn-books they formed the first class and were arranged according to the Sundays of the ecclesiastical year. The cantor selected them himself without consultanyone else. In our day, on the contrary, the hymns are always selected by the clergyman, to tally with the spirit of his sermon.

This use of the Cantica de tempore helps us to understand how the organists of the time of Pachelbel and Bach came to write cycles of chorale preludes for each Sunday of the ecclesiastical year.

Whether the congregation took possession of all these hymns and took an active and hearty part in the singing of them is, however, another question. It is well known that Mattheson and the famous Hamburg musicians thought nothing at all of the congregational chorale, and in general refused to recognise singing of this kind as music. From this we may conclude that it did not occupy a prominent place in their churches, and that they, for their part, did nothing to encourage it. It must have been the same in other towns that had celebrated choirs. The cantata - that sacred concert intercalated in the service - absorbed all the interest, and the art-song, as at the beginning of the Reformation, had once more triumphed.

We do not know whether things were better in this respect in Leipzig than in other towns. The truth is that no remark of Bach's has come down to us to show that, in contradistinction to his contemporaries, he felt any particular interest in congregational singing. In his Passions, at any rate, he does not desire its co-operation, in spite of the splendid role that he assigns to the chorale in those works. It is highly probable that in Bach's time the singing of the Leipzig congregations was not so good as is commonly supposed.

Not until the concert style of music was banished from the service, in the generation after Bach, and the town choirs that had been allotted to the churches ceased to exist, did congregational singing become the characteristic and sole service-music of the Protestant church. In the epoch of rationalism and pietism the ideal was realised which the Reformation had indeed perceived, but, for conservative and artistic reasons, had not pursued. However barbarously rationalism behaved towards the old hymn, it did good work for congregational singing. Its ultimate aim, of course, was to substitute a new kind of hymn for the old, the diction and the ideas of which had by then become so antiquated as to unfit it for use as a real congregational hymn.

Whether the problem has been really solved by allowing the organ to support the congregational singing is doubtful. The method has established itself, because it is practical. But the ideal is not congregational singing of this kind, directed by, and dependent on, the organ; the true ideal is free and confident unaccompanied singing, as in the congregational singing of the Middle Ages and of the first Reformation period. Perhaps that complete and unfettered cooperation of organ, choir and worshippers was, in its way, an ideal, towards which we shall some day aspire more than we do now.



GEORG RIETSCHEL: Die Aufgabe der Orgel im Gottesdienste bis in das XVIII. Jahrhundert; Leipzig, 1892.
R. V. LILIENCRON: Über den Chorgesang in der evangelischen Kirche; Berlin, 1881.
A. G. RITTER: Zur Geschichte des Orgelspiels, vornehmlich des deutschen, im XVI. bis zum Anfang des XVIII. Jahrhunderts; Leipzig, 1881. Vol. I. Text. Vol. II. Musical examples.
See also the works mentioned in the bibliographies to the articles The Origin of the Texts of the Chorales and The Origin of the Melodies of the Chorales.



[1] The following remarks are in the main a repetition of the views of Geo . Rietschel, expressed in his masterly essay on Die Aufgabe der Orgel im Gottesdienste bis in das XVIII. Jahrhundert (Leipzig 1892). Rietschel is the first to have thrown a light on this question, since, instead of spinning theories, he lets the documents, - church regulations, prefaces to hymn-books, sermons at the dedications of organs, and funeral orations on organists - speak for themselves.
[2] Cæremoniale Episcoporum: Papst Clemens VIII. 1600. Cap. 28: De Organo, Organista et Musicis seu cantoribus et norma per eos servanda in divinis "Sed advertendum erit, ut quandocuncque per organum figuratur aliquid cantari seu responders alternatim versiculis Hymnorum aut Canticorum, ab aliquo de choro intelligibili voce pronuntietur id quod ab organo respondendum est Et laudabile esset, ut aliquis cantor conjunctim cum organo voce clara idem cantaret."
[3] Rietschel, p. 41.
[4] Rietschel, p. 13 ;
Luther's Tischreden, ed. Erlanger, p. 399.
[5] Rietschel, p. 21 ff.
[6] See:
The Origin of the Texts of the Chorales
[7] Catharina Zell, in the preface to her Gesangbüchlein of 1534. See Rietschel, p. 26.
[8] The title of this edition of the vocal parts runs: Geystliche Gesanck-Büchlein: Wittenberg, 1524. It contains thirty-eight hymns.
[9] Ordnung des Gottesdienstes in der Gemeine; 1523.
[10] The passage is to be found in the so-called Lobrede Luthers auf die Musik, which, however, - as H. Holstein showed in 1883 - is simply a preface which he orginally wrote in Latin to Johann Walther's Lob and Preis der himmlischen Kunst Musica (2nd ed 1564). See Rietschel, p. 36.
Luther's Tischreden, ed. Irmischer, B. 62.
Friedrich Zelle, Das älteste lutherische Hausgesangbuch; Göttingen, 1903, p. 10.
[13] Rietschel, p. 49.
[14] Friedrich Zelle, Das erste evangelische Choralbuch Osianders, 1586; Berlin, 1903.
[15] The fact that among the thirty-eight songs in Walther's vocal parts of 1524 two have the cantus firmus in the soprano does not, of course, imply that the congregation was expected to take part in these two.
Hans Leo Hassler was born in Nuremberg in 1564. The Fugger family sent him, when he was twenty, to Venice, to study music with the masters living there. From 1601-1608 he was organist and choir-master in his native town; in 1608 he was called by the Electoral Prince to Dresden. His constitution, however, was already almost ruined by consumption. He died the 8th June 1612 in Frankfort, whither he had accompanied his master to the assembly of princes.
Melchior Vulpius was born in 1560. In 1600 he became Cantor at Weimar ; his death in 1616 was a great loss to art. Pars prima cantionum sacrarum cum VI, VII, VIII, et pluribus vocibus; Jena, 1602. Kirchengesäng und geistliche Lieder; Erfurt, 1603. A St. Matthew Passion of his was also published at Erfurt.
Seth Calvisius, born in 1556, was equally famous in his day as philologist, mathematician and musician.. He was one of the predecessors of Bach at St. Thomas's church in Leipzig. He died in 1615. Kirchengesänge und geistliche Lieder Dr. Lutheri und anderer frommer Christen mit vier Stimmen contrapunktweis richtig gesetzt; Leipzig 1597.
Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) was Kapellmeister to the Duke of Brunswick. Musae Sionae: Geistliche Concertgesänge über die fürnembsten Teutsche Psalmen und Lieder, wie sie in der christlichen Kirche gesungen werden mit VIII und XII Stimmen gesetzt: (1605-1610, 9 vols., containing 1244 hymns).
Johannes Eccard, born in 1553, studied at Munich with Orlando Lasso. After he had been for some time Kapellmeister to the Fugger family at Augsburg, he entered in 1585 the service of the Duke of Prussia at Königsberg, where he at once began the collection and harmonisation of the melodies in vogue in Prussia. His great work, Geistliche Lieder auf den Choral, oder die gebräuchliche Kirchenmgerichtet und fünfstimmig gesetzt (Königsberg 1597 & 1598) is the result of these labours. In 1608 the Electoral Prince Joachim Friedrich summoned him to Berlin. He died in 1612.
[21] Until then the only term in use had been "sacred song".
[22] Reference may be made to the preface of
Eccard to the hymns he published in 1597, and to that of Michael Praetorius to the Musae Sionae. Only one thing is clear from their remarks, - that so far as they are concerned they are merely experimenting. See also Rietschel, pp. 54 ff.
[23] Tablaturbuch 100 geistlicher Lieder und Psalmen Doctoris Martini Lutheri und anderer gottseliger Männer, für die Herren Organisten, mit der christlichen Kirchen und Gemeine auf der Orgel, desgleichen auch zu Hause, zu spielen und zu singen. Auf alle Feste und Sonntage durchs gantze Jahr. Mit vier Stimmen componiert von
Samuel Scheidt. (Görlitz, 1650). Scheidt (1587-1654) was organist at Halle. He is the real father of German organ music.
[24] Rietschel, pp. 57 and 53. In 1637 Theophilus Stade, organist of St. Lorenz's in Nuremberg, brought out a new edition of
Hassler's hymns, with a preface in which he dedicates them to his "dear and faithful colleagues who, by means of the organ, maintain the congregation in the right tune, height and depth." This shows that at that time, in Nuremberg, the organ participated to some extent in the chorale. How it did so, however, cannot be gathered either from the preface or from the book itself. But the mere employment of the organ with the choir is an interesting fact.
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1540-1621) was organist at Amsterdam. All the North German organists came under his influence.
[26] At the same time the technical powers of the Roman organists were in some respects really extraordinary. It is only lately, when the works as well as the names of these men have become known to us, that we have been able to estimate these powers. Special reference may be made to Alex. Guilmant's Archives des Maîtres de l'orgue, which up to the present have contained the compositions of Titelouze, A. Raison, Roberday, L. Marchand, Clérambault, du Mage, d'Aquin Gigault, Grigny, F. Couperin, Boyvin and Dandrieu. A study of these works gives one the impression that Bach knew more of them, and was more influenced by these composers, than is generally supposed. These publications, that supply one of the most important chapters in the history of organ music, should be available in every library. Very many of these old pieces are still suitable for performance.
[27] Scheidt's Tablatura nova is in three parts. The first two contain the chorales, in which each verse is made the subject of a separate musical treatment, together with variations of the same kind upon secular songs, such as the cantio Belgica "Wehe, Windgen, wehe" (twelve verses) the cantio Gallica "Est-ce Mars" (ten verses), and the German song "Also geht's, also steht's" (seven verses). The third part, with the Kyries, Glorias, Magnificats in the various tones, and hymns, is meant to serve as a liturgical annual for organists. The hymns are:

Hymnus de adventu: Veni redenzptor.
Hymnus de nativitate: A Solus ortus cardine.
Hymnus tempore quadragesimali: Christe qui lux es et dies.
Hymnus de resurrectione: Vita sanctorum, decus angelorum.
Hymnus de sancto spiritu: Veni creator spiritus
Hymnus de sancta Trinitate: O Lux, beata Trinitas. Credo (Choralis in Basso).
Psalmus sub communione: "Jesus Christus unser Heiland".


Source: 'J.S. Bach' by Albert Schweitzer (1908), English translation by Ernest Newman (Breitkopf & Härtel, 1911)
Contributed by Thomas Braatz & Aryeh Oron (September 2005)

Chorales BWV 250-438
Recordings | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Chorales in Bach's Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Hidden Chorale Melody Allusions | Passion Chorale
Individual Recordings:
Hilliard - Morimur | Chorales - Matt | Chorales - Rilling | Preludi ai Corali - Quartetto Italiani di Viola Da Gamba
Chorales BWV 250-300 | Chorales BWV 301-350 | Chorales BWV 351-400 | Chorales BWV 401-438
Texts & English Translations of Chorales:
Sorted by Title
Chorale Melodies:
Sorted by Title | 371 4-Part Chorales sorted by Breitkopf Number | Explanation
MIDI files of the Chorales:
Cantatas BWV 1-197 | Other Vocal Works BWV 225-248 | Chorales BWV 250-438
The Origin of the Texts of the Chorales [A. Schweitzer] | The Origin of the Melodies of the Chorales [A. Schweitzer] | The Chorale in the Church Service [A. Schweitzer] | Choral / Chorale [C.S. Terry] | The History of the Breitkopf Collection of J. S. Bach’s Four-Part Chorales [T. Braatz] | Chorale Melody Allusions in Bach's Vocal Works [T. Braatz]
Hymnals used by Bach | Abbreviations used for the Chorales | Links to other Sites on the Chorales


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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 14:16