Chorale Prelude on “Komm, Gott Schoepfer, heiliger Geist”
by Johann Pachelbel
Hymn 501 “O Holy Spirit, by whose breath”
(If you do not see the music mp3 icons below, please click on the May 31, 2020 title line above.)
In honor of Pentecost, this week I chose to do a piece based on the old Lutheran chorale tune “Komm, Gott Schoepfer, heiliger Geist.” (In English, the title is literally translated as “Come, God, Creator, Holy Ghost.”) This Lutheran chorale is a good example of one of the many reworkings of medieval chant tunes done by Martin Luther in the 1500s, a time when many of the old Catholic texts were being translated into the vernacular for the first time. “Veni Creator Spiritus” was the original hymn—written by the ninth century monk Rabanus Maurus. (Side note: some of you might not realize that the reason that the Martin Luther version of the hymn is called a “chorale” as a opposed to a “chant” is this: chorales are sung metrically and are typically in four-part harmony, and chants are usually done without much notated rhythm and are sung in unison, not in harmony. For an example, if you have a hymnal at home, take a look at hymn #501 compared with hymn #502 —that’s an easy way to spot the differences.)
The organ piece I’ve prepared this week is based on “Komm, Gott Schoepfer, heiliger Geist” and is by south German composer Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), whom many people know today as the composer of the chamber music piece “Canon in D Major for Three Violins,” which became extremely popular in the late twentieth century and is now performed very frequently at weddings. Pachelbel also wrote a large amount organ music, though, and had quite a lot of influence on church composers in south and central Germany in the late seventeenth century. Here it is, my performance of the chorale prelude on “Komm, Gott Schoepher, heiliger Geist” by Johann Pachelbel. In this piece, the melody is played in long notes in the top-most voice:
And I’d also like to present a couple verses of hymn #501, which also uses the same Lutheran chorale tune, but the words are a more modern paraphrase of the “Veni Creator Spiritus” text. Here is my accompaniment for verses one and two:
O Holy Spirit, by whose breath
life rises vibrant out of death;
come to create, renew, inspire;
kindle in our hearts your fire.
You are the seeker’s sure resource,
of burning love the living source
protector in the midst of strife,
the giver and the Lord of life.