"Music - A Luther Legacy"



    The Lutheran Journal, Vol. 52, #2, 1985 - Erwin Weber


Music played a very important part in Luther's life. As a child, he sang in school. In Magdeburg and Eisenach, he belonged to a group of singers that went from house to house to sing songs. Luther continued to sing throughout his life, playing the lute and composing songs. He wrote more than 36 hymns for the Lutheran hymnal. Luther's music and theology condtinued to live in the works of such composers and musicians as Heinrich Schuetz, Johann Sebastian Bach, George Friedrich Haendel, and Felix Mendelsohn.

Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the most devout followers. He has been called as the 5th Evangelist. According to Conrad Bergendoff, president emeritus of Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois: "Bach can be understood only in the closest relationship with Luther. In the sphere of church music, he advanced Luther's work to the supreme heights of art. Luther and Bach sought to serve Him alone who is Christ-Incarnate, Crucified, and Risen from the dead."

This article traces the footsteps of Bach's life from his birthplace in Eisenach where Luther sang as a boy two centuries earlier, to his place of death in Leipzig where Bach was choir director, composer and organist for 27 years.

My cover photo shows the simple grave plate of Johann Sebastian Bach in front of the altar of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig which, at the time, was located behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany. Notice the flowers left by admirers of the great composer.