Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Durch Adams Fall (Wed night's prelude)

Through Adam's fall human nature
And character is completely corrupted...
Just as another's guilt has brought us
Shame in Adam,
So another's grace in Christ has brought
Us all reconciliation;
And just as for me through Adam's fall
Everything perished eternally in death,
So God through Christ's death
Has renewed what was ruined.

(Hymn's full text available here)

We're nearing the end of Lent. The week before Holy Week is always a busy time of preparing music, and it can make me feel bipolar to rehearse for the last Lenten service and Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter. There is such a contrast and variety of musical styles and moods involved in the Passion story that follows the celebration of Palm Sunday.

Before that story unfolds in scripture, music, and worship, however, the prelude this Wednesday hearkens back to Ash Wednesday and the necessity of Christ's sacrifice. The prelude will be a trio setting of the hymn "Durch Adams Fall" by Wilhelm Friedrich Bach (grandson of J.S. Bach). The hymn no longer appears in many modern hymnals, but it has a long and notable history in the Lutheran and musical traditions.

Luther quotes the hymn in the Book of Concord when discussing original sin. The hymn begins with the reminder that we are sinners in need of forgiveness, dust of the earth, as we confessed on Ash Wednesday. But the text goes on to speak of redemption: Christ, as another Adam, has redeemed us all.

The music for the hymn can be found in church books as far back as 1529, and it inspired multiple arrangements, fugues, and chorales from many notable composers, including J.S. Bach, Pachelbel, Buxtehude, and Telemann. It's a shame that we don't sing or know this hymn any longer because it negates the meaning of the melody. This Wednesday night, though, I hope you listen to the music and meditate on the transition from Lent to Holy Week.

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