For the 500th anniversary of the year that priest and scholar Martin Luther made his new theses public there is no shortage of performances commemorating the Protestant Reformation. On 26 May, the Staatskapelle Weimar and Chor des Deutschen Nationaltheaters will perform Krzysztof Penderecki’s Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott at the Nationaltheater Weimar under the baton of Kirill Karabits. The title translates as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and is based on Luther’s hymn of the same name.
Composed in 2010 for mixed choir, brass, percussion and string orchestra, Penderecki’s Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott is a relatively short work that was written to mark the 1200th anniversary of the city Cieszyn in Poland, Penderecki’s native country. There is a tradition of composers setting Luther’s text and in the past Mendelssohn, Reger and Handel have all written works based on the hymn. One of the best known adaptations is J.S. Bach’s chorale cantata BWV 80, a work which Penderecki quotes in the final chord.
The orchestration of the work is carefully considered with no woodwind; instead the brass instruments are the focus of the piece and open the work. Initially the music is solemn but as more brass followed by percussion join, the music develops a strong, romantic and celebratory character, highlighting the festivity of the anniversary for which it was composed. Finally the strings and choir are added to start the hymn.
“I have spent decades searching for and discovering new sounds. At the same time, I have closely studied the forms, styles and harmonies of past eras. I have continued to adhere to both principles … my current creative output is a synthesis.” – Krzysztof Penderecki
Further performances take place at the Nationaltheater Weimar on 4 and 30 June.
- Krzysztof Penderecki – Profile
- Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott – Workdetails
- Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar
Photo: © Marek Beblot (Krzysztof Penderecki)