Luther’s musical legacy

14 June 2017 | by Rick Jones



Remembering the Reformation

Leipzig, Germany

“Without Luther there would have been no Bach.” So said the Mayor of Leipzig, Burkhard Jung, at the opening concert of the Bach Festival in his city, half a millennium on from the start of the Reformation. This was no mere music festival the Burgermeister was inaugurating, but a comprehensive series of 120 events covering history, religion and art in lectures, concerts, religious services and walking tours over nine days.

From the organ loft of St Thomas’ Church there blazed out the greatest of cantatas, “Ein feste Burg”, based on the chorale tune that Luther himself composed. The performers crammed themselves into the vertiginous space, soloists, quaintly town-band-ish Handelfestspielorchester, and sailor-suited Thomanerchor, two of whom won the audience’s hearts with a piping rendition of Mendelssohn’s “Ich harrete des Herrn” (“I waited for the Lord”).

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