Four Variations on
Ein Feste Burg
A Chorale Partita for Organ
 Johann Sebastian Bach

1.  Cantus Firmus in Bass: Motet
2.  Cantus Firmus in Soprano: Ornamented
3.  Cantus Firmus in Tenor: Gigue
4.  Cantus Firmus in Soprano: Chorale Fantasia

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     Four verses on Martin Luther’s isometric hymn tune, Ein Feste Burg (from Kirche Gesang: Nürnberg, 1531) offers a chorale partita presented in the tradition of latter Baroque compositions emanating from lands now included within the boundaries of Germany. This set of variations is modeled after similar works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The four titles listed above provide brief descriptions of each variational technique applied to Luther’s celebrated melody.

    The first setting provides a traditional motet technique in which successive phrases of the melody are presented in fugal points of imitation, leading up to cantus firmus statements (in augmented note values) in the bass line (i.e., the pedal registers). The second variation offers an elaborately ornamented soprano presentation of the chorale in a coloratura tradition, appearing phrase by phrase and accompanied in lower voices. The third setting is styled in the manner of a lively gigue, featuring dancing dotted triplet rhythms; the melody is sounded in augmented note values in the tenor register (but played in the pedals on a distinctive unison solo registration), and accompanied by both hands in bass, alto and soprano ranges. The concluding variation offers a richly harmonized statement of successive phrases of the chorale melody, with the chorale melody presented in the soprano register; florid passaggio interpolations are interpolated between each phrase, and an extended codetta provides an affirmative closing flourish over a tonic pedalpoint.

     N.B. These four settings evolved as an accumulative ensemble, and they are best viewed as a student self-teaching experiment. Although each setting is modeled after similar organ works by Johann Sebastian Bach, a critical eye and ear will recognize numerous temporal and stylistic disparities.