Full Text for Lutheran Musical Tradition in The Sacred Choral Works of Brahms (Text)

May Women Be Ordained As Pastors? DAVID P. SCAER . From "Marburg Revisited" To "Princeton '72" EUGENE F. KLUG The Theses Of The Ratzeburg Conference To The "Leuenberg Concord" TRANSLATION BY THE EDITOR Did The Patriarchs Know Yahweh? Or Exodus 6 : 3 And It's Relationship To The Four Documentary Hopothesis RAYMOND F. SURBURG Priest And Priesthood : Image Of Christ And His Church WILLIAM J. MEYER Lutheran AiIusical Tradition In The Sacred Choral Works Of Brahms Reason And The Two Kingdoms: An Essay In Luther's Thought STEVEN A. HEIN Lutheran Musical Tradition in The Sacred Choral Works of Brahms The writer is assistant professor for liturgics at the seminary and dean of the chapel. He is completing the re- quirements for the degree of doctor of musical arts at the University of Illi- nois. I N LUTHERAN musical tradition, the composer's primary concern is the proclamation of the Word. That is why music is one of that church's pedagogical tools for teaching and reinforcing its theology. Therefore, certain thematic essentials will invariably exist in Luth- eran texts, if, indeed, they are to be considered as functionally "Lutheran." Thus, when ascertaining the Lutheran musical tradition in the sacred choral works of Brahms, both compositional and textual fea- tures will be analyzed. This dual consideration wilI bring out the fact that with Brahms there is a complete identification with the typical compositional forms of the Lutheran past, but very little theological similarity between his and its traditional texts. This observation, of course, elicits the question, why such a dichotomy in Brahms? An- swers to this question will be proposed subsequently, but after first describing the particulars of Brahms' compositional and textual characteristics. When surveying the whole nineteenth century, it is significant to note that AIendelssohn, Brahms, and Reger were the only major composers to manifest serious interest in the chorale compositional forms of Lutheran tradition. And this mas done at a time when the prevailing interest of composers was in symphonic, chamber, oper- atic, and solo literature. Of the three composers, Brahms maintained the closest ties with the past, for he limited himself ~rimarily to the genres of the chorale prelude (Cf. Eleven Chorak Preludes for Or- gan, Op. 122) and the chorale motet.' Hence, the compositional as- pect of his sacred works may be seen, for the most part, as a logicaI continuation of the chorale composition of representative men like Heinrich Schiitz and J. S. Bach. Since Brahms mas an eminent Schiitz-Bach scholar, well-known especialIy through his activities as director of the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreutzde2 and his edit- ing pursuits, it is without surprise that Brahms' sacred music bears the influence of these his traditional Lutheran "idols." Many are the compositions which exemplify the Bach-Schiitz influence. For example, Schaffe in wir, Gott, citi rein Herz, Op. 29, No. 2, we11 demonstrates the chorale motet styIe of Bach. It sho\vs an ingenious command of Bach counterpoint. The four sections feature two canons and two fugues in alternating sequence. The first section is of special interest since canon by augmentation is here so beautifully Lutheran i\Iusical Tradition Of Brahms 135 reproduced. Secondly, Drei ~lloteten, Op. 110, demonstrates the Schiitz styles. Nos. 1 and 3 remind one oE the separated double choir motet tradition n-ith its multi polyphonic-homophonic contrasts and its interesting imitative procedures. In No. 2 Brahms salutes the Schiitz "Becker" Psalter through his use of homophony with its typical cadential rhythmic shiftings. And finall! strains of the Bach double choir motet tradition (i.e. Komm, Jeszc, komm) can frequently be heard in Brahms' Fest- und Gedenkspriiche, Op. 109, with its more predictable polyphon! and extended fugal developments. As the above adequately demonstrates, the sacred choral works of Brahms obviously reflect Lutheran compositional tradition. Brahms has thoroughly di- gested the chorale motet idiom and has ingeniously preserved the numerous compositional developments of both Schiitz and Bach in his own sacred choral works. However, with Lutheran textual tradition Brahms does not identify. For example, when texts of Luther, Schiitz, and Bach are perused, four characteristics consistently appear. First of all, texts will usually be objective, or be within an objective context. The vicarious atonement of Christ and His resurrection are dominant themes. Sanctification is ah-a!s clearly a result of Justification. It's the sa\ing activity of God which is a greater concern than the way ne feel about "being saved." Secondly, the majority of texts will in some way implicitly or explicitly identify with a confession of the Trinity. A third trait most texts show is corporateness. That is, a sense of being a part of the Bod! of Christ, the Church, the Com- munion of Saints. It is an awareness that the child of God functions not in a \ acuum, but with fello\v believers. It is a recognition of the universal needs of all believers. And the final characteristic found in many texts is a sense of responsibilit\- toward one's fellolvman, that is, neighbor, community, country, and \\orld. Appendix A shons two typically Lutheran hymn texts and identify some of the four textual characteristics by number. In contrast, Brahms' texts seem to purposely avoid what is typically Lutheran."hough, in general, many manifest an objective approach, not one is specific as to the vicarious atonement or Christ's resurrection. Es ist das Heil zrns komnzetz her, Op. 29, No. 1, is the only work that mentions the name of Jesus Christ. There is not one work that is specifically Trinitarian, although four seem to refer to it by vague implication, namelv, Eitl Dezitsches Reqtciewz, Op. 45; Triumphlied, Op. 55; Motet, Op. 29, No. 2; and Motet, Op. 74, No. 2. In general, Brahms' texts are corporate in nature, since most use the plural pronoun, but not specific in the typically Lutheran sense described above. He also avoids texts that apply faith to life's relationships. And, even though Brahms uses portions of Scriptures and certain stanzas of four traditional chorale texts, his choices do not exemplify typically Lutheran concerns. For example, when quot- ing St. Paul in I Corinthians 15 in Eiiz Dezitsches Reyaiiem, Op. 45, he simply states the question, "0 death, where is thv victory?" and does not give the crucial answer, "But thanks be to God who gi~eth us the victon. through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Furthermore, it is significant that Brahms does not use the typically Lutheran large compositional structures of the cantatas, passion, and oratorio, even though there was a revival of these forms during his lifetime. For if he had used them, it would have been virtually impossible to be as general and vague, since these forms, by their very nature, are so structured to make specific textual applica- tions, moving from the general to the particular, the spiritual account to the mundane meaning. By avoiding these and using only the chorale motet choral forms, he could more easily avoid the typically Lutheran textual characteristics. Why does Brahms then so freely identify with the Lutheran musical tradition, but only through his use of certain compositional forms and not its unique textual features? First of all, Brahms was a Romanticist, and a genuine Romanticist had the utmost respect for the development of the past. This reverence is additionally demon- strated by the homage paid, for instance, to Palestrina through his Drei Geistliche Chore fiir Fratrenstimmen, Op. 37. Secondly, and primarily, he was a devoted German, and his nationalistic pride could not slight his own nation's hvo musical giants. It is not surprising then to observe his main identification with Schiitz and Bach. Lutheran loyalty or fervor for functioning with Lutheran textual tradition had nothing to do with this decision. Incidentally, he mas not reluctant to set typically Roman Catholic texts to music, such as the Aiarienlieder, Op. 22, and the Are Maria, Op. 12. For him the Lutheran function of music mas clearly not his task; but the preservation of the musical forms was. Thus, Brahms can be considered a part of the Lutheran musical tradition only in the compositional sense, since his particular contribution did not accomplish edagogically what that tradition wvas established to do through its t R eologicallp Lutheran texts. APPENDIX A The Lz~theran Hymnal #3 13 AI~ our debt ~hou hast paid; (1) Peace with God once more is made: 0 Lord, we praise Thee, bless Thee, and adore Thee, 0 Lord, have mercy! (2) In thanksgiving bow before Thee. Thou with Thy body and Thy blood didst nourish Our weak souls that they may flourish: (1) 0 Lord, have mercy! (2) May Thy body, Lord, born oE Mary, That our sins and sorrows did carry, (1) And Thy blood for us plead In all trial, fear, and need: (1) 0 Lord, have mercy! (2) May God bestow on us His grace and favor (1 ) To please Him with our behaxior (4) And live as brethren here in love and union (4) Xor repent this blest Communion! 0 Lord, have mercy! (2) Let not Thy good Spirit forsake us; Grant that heavenly minded He make us; Give Thy Church, Lord, to see (3) Days of peace and unity: 0 Lord, have mercy! (2) Thy holy body into death was given, (1) Life to win for us in heaven. The Lutheran Hymnal #3 77 No greater love than this to Thee could Salvation unto us has come bind us; (1) By God's free grace and favor; (1) May this feast thereof remind us! Good works cannot avert our doom, 0 Lord, have mercy! (2) They help and save us never. (1) Lord, Thy kindness did so constrain Thee Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, That Thy blood should bless and sustain Who did for all the world atone; me. (1) He is our one Redeemer. (1) Lzrtheran Musical Tradition Of Brahnzs 137 APPENDIX A (cont.) Since Christ hath full atonement made Faith clings to Jesus' cross alone And brought to us salvation, (1) And rests in Him unceasing; Each Christian therefore may be glad .hd by its fruits true faith is kno~n, .hd build on this foundation. And lore and hope increasing. (1) Thy grace alone, dear Lord, I plead, Yet faith alone doth justify, Thy death is now my life indeed, Works serve thy neighbor and supply (4) For Thou hast paid my ransom. (1) The proof that faith is living. Let me not doubt, but trust in Thee, All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise Thy Word cannot be broken; To Father, Son, and Spirit, Thy call rings out, "Come unto Me!" The God that saved us by His grace,- So falsehood hast Thou spoken. All glory to His merit! (2) Baptized into Thy precious name, (3) 0 Triune God in heaven abore, My faith cannot be put to shame, W'ho hast revealed Thy saving love, And I shall never perish. Thv blessed name be hallowed. (2) FOOTNOTES 1. R. A. Jordahl, "A Study of the Use of the Chorale in the Works of hlen- delssohn, Brahms, and Reger," Unpublished dissertation, University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, 1965. 2. Karl Geiringer, Brahms: His Life and Work, p. 113.