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date: 28 February 2020

Chorale settingslocked

  • Robert L. Marshall
  • , revised by Robin A. Leaver


Arrangements of traditional German Protestant hymns for several parts or voices. Chorale settings have developed since the early 16th century within two main traditions: ensembles for two or more voices or for a combination of voices and instruments; and settings for organ, that is, ‘organ chorales’. Compositions in both categories vary from the simplest of harmonizations to the most elaborate contrapuntal and formal designs.

The first substantial musical publication of the Reformation, the Geystliches Gesangk Buchleyn of Johann Walter (i), prepared under the active supervision of Martin Luther, appeared in Wittenberg in 1524. The collection contained 38 four- and five-part arrangements of 35 melodies set to 32 hymn texts. In his foreword to the volume Luther explained that he desired part settings so that ‘young people, who should and must be trained in music and other proper arts, would free themselves from love songs and other carnal music and learn something wholesome instead’, and, further, that he wanted ‘to see all the arts, especially music, used in the service of him who has given and created them’. The compositions, then, were intended primarily for the schools, but they were also to be used in the church service....

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