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Work of the Week – Enjott Schneider: “Ein feste Burg”

To mark the 500th anniversary of The Reformation, the German National Youth Ballet will be presenting the new work “Summit Meetings – Reformation” choreographed by Zhang Disha.  The music includes Enjott Schneider’s symphonic poem Ein feste Burg (A mighty fortress) and will be performed by the German National Youth Orchestra conducted by Alexander Shelley.

Ein feste Burg (2010) is based on the hymn of the same name by Martin Luther. It is unclear as to whether Luther wrote the melody as well as the text, but it is undoubtedly the song that embodies Protestantism like no other. In Schneider’s composition, a stark opening gradually evolves to establish a cantus firmus. In turn, increasingly stormy music begins to interweave with counter-themes leading to a battle hymn historically connected to Luther’s original. Bringing the work to its conclusion, innocent birdsong is heard in a peaceful epilogue.

 Enjott Schneider’s “Ein feste Burg” – a battle hymn?

31 October 2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his theses. In 1517, Luther was believed to have posted his 95 theses to the doors of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg. By doing so, Luther pointed out the flaws in the Church, which at the time he felt concerned itself the sale of indulgences and was distancing itself from the Word of God.

Throughout the course of history the hymn Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A mighty fortress is our God) has played an important role in times of crises: during the First World War it was printed and distributed on postcards and evangelical expellees sang it in the Second World War when they were granted refuge in a Catholic church. The song became a self-portrait of Germany, in which faith in God would overcome all suffering, something that Schneider reflects with the epilogue of his composition:

The creation of God, which we increasingly treat with contempt, destroy, pollute and devastate, is the true place of a deep faith and the appearance of God, and  belongs equally to all whether Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim. – Enjott Schneider

The reformation project will be the National Youth Orchestra and National Youth Ballet second collaboration marking the Reformation. Both organisations embark on a tour of Germany this week performing in Berlin (16.01.), Dresden (18.01.), Marburg (19.01.), Ludwigsburg (20.01.) and Schweinfurt (21.01.).


Photo: Silvano Ballone