Luther and “from heaven high” – mina music lessons

Luther and "From Heaven Up"

"God respects you when you work, but he loves you, when you sing."

Martin Luther likes this quote from the Bengali poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore from the Have spoken soul. The famous reformer was himself a passionate singer and musician – in addition to studying theology, he had also studied music and composition technology. He described singing as "the best art and practice":

"It has nothing to do with that world; is not for court nor in rag matters. Singers are also not careful, but are happy and beat the worries out with singing. "

It is hardly surprising that Martin Luther wrote one of the best-known and most popular Christmas carols: "An angel came bright and clear", better known under the title "I come from heaven," wrote Martin Luther in 1535 on the occasion of his family’s Christmas. He leaned on the following, then very well-known wreath song 1: "I came from foreign lands / and bring you vil the new mär. / I bring the new mar so vil, / whatever I want to say here today. ”The similarity to today’s version of the Christmas carol is more than clear.

In its original form, "From Heaven Up There I Come From" was given the title "A children’s song / on Christmas Eve / from Kindelein Jhesu". The 15 stanzas written by Luther tell the Christmas story after Luke and begin directly with the words of the proclaiming angel. As an introduction and for a better understanding, the pastor and composer Valentin Triller added a stanza two decades later, with which the song begins today in praise to God.

In order to make it easier for his children to sing the previously unknown text, Luther used the catchy tone sequence of the well-known wreath song. He only composed the current melody four years later in the form of a choral 2. What is striking is the frequent use of the top note c, with which the tone sequence also begins. The melody, descending again and again from the highest point, clarifies the content of the text: as the angel descends from heaven to go to the level of the people, the melody also moves from high to low, only to finally reach the very end of the keynote land. In addition, the downward movement illustrates the birth of Jesus Christ, who is sent from heaven to earth as a representative of God and thus connects the heavenly divine with the earthly human. The use of the choral form underlines the importance of the event and gives the composition its solemn character. The fact that Luther’s melody was very well received despite or perhaps because of its simplicity is also evident in her frequent reception in music history. In addition to Max Reger and Igor Stravinsky, Johann Sebastian Bach also worked on the chorale. In his Christmas-He performs oratorio BWV 248 three times in total, and Bach’s "Some canonical changes about the Christmas carol" From heaven, there I come from "" BWV 769 is one of the most important works of counterpoint 3 composition art. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy created the large choral cantata "Vom Himmel hoch" in 1831, in which only Luther’s text elements are used.

With "From Heaven Up There I Come Here" Luther has created a unique work that expresses his devoted love for music. Fine art has its own very special effect, which the reformer was convinced of. It was not for nothing that people said that his songs "seduced more souls than all his writings and sermons".

Complete original text:

An angel came bright and clear
from God to the field to the flock of shepherds;
he was very happy from the heart
and said to them cheerfully:

1. From heaven, that’s where I come from.
I’ll bring you good new Mar,
I bring so much to good tales,
Of which I sing and want to say.

2. You’ve had a baby today
Chosen by a virgin,
A child’s leash, so delicate and fine,
That should be your joy and delight.

3. It is the Lord Christ, our God,
He wants to guide you out of all need,
He wants to be your Savior himself,
Make clean of all sins.

4. He brings you all bliss,
The god the father has ready,
That you with us in the kingdom of heaven
You should live now and forever.

5. So the sign now realizes:
The crib, diaper so bad,
You will find the child there,
That all the world sustains and carries.

6. Let us all be happy
And go in with the shepherds,
To see what God has given us,
Adored with his dear son.

7. Notice my heart and look there!
What is there in the crib??
Wes is the lovely child?
It is dear Jesus.

8.Welcome to me, noble guest!
Have not spurned the sinner
And come to me in misery,
How should I always thank you?

9. Oh, Lord, you creator of all things,
How did you get so low?,
That you’re lying on dry grass,
Of which a beef and donkey ate!

10. And if the world were so far,
Ready from gem and gold,
So it would be far too small for you,
To be a close cradle.

11. Collect and silk yours,
That is rough hay and diaper,
Then you king great and rich
Arising as if it were your kingdom of heaven.

12. So you liked that,
To tell me the truth:
Like all the world power, honor and good
Nothing counts in front of you, nothing helps nor does anything.

13. Oh, my dear Jesus,
Make yourself a clean, gentle beggar,
To rest in my shrine of my heart,
I will never forget yours.

14. Of which I am always happy,
To jump, always sing freely
The right Susaninne already,
With sweet heart the sweet tone.

15. Praise, honor be to God in the highest throne,
Who gives us his own son.
The angels are delighted
And sing us such a new year.


1 Wreath songs were songs that were mostly improvised in singing competitions. The main aim was to impress the audience with the most exciting news and scandals. The winner of the competition received a wreath as a prize from the organizing prince.

2 Choral here refers to a rhythmically simple, homophonic melody with the character of a cadenza..

3 Counterpoint here denotes a composition technique in which suitable countervotes to an existing melody are created, which both harmoniously match and are independent in themselves.


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Christina Cherry
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