Click to enlargeEin Feste Burg (brass double quintet)

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It is amazing that a 500-year-old hymn tune sounds so fresh, and while still especially cherished by Lutheran congregations, this hymn has grown considerable legs throughout Protestantism. A fantastic hymn of the victorious faith, A Mighty Fortress is Our God is perhaps the most popular hymn of its century.

This arrangement is scored for two brass quintets, and it makes use of some anitphonal passages, so separating the quintets physically would be the preferred performance mode. In addition to the antiphonal passages, ensembles of low and high brass are used to add variety of sound.

The first quintet parts (trumpet 1 & 2, french horn 1, trombone 1, and tuba 1) are slightly more difficult than the second quintet parts (trumpet 3 & 4, french horn 2, trombone 2, and tuba 2). This difference is most noticable in the range of the parts, but most of the critical solo passages are also handled by the first quintet.

Following the lyric as the piece progresses it can be readily seen that a programmatic approach was taken. In a hymn, the lyric is at least as important as (perhaps more important than) the tune, so it is appropriate that it illuminated the arrangement.

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A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of Godís own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
Godís truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

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MP3 sound sample: entire piece (synthesizer/midi).



EIN FESTE BURG, by Martin Luther, arranged by Tom Kirkland for two brass quintets, each consisting of two trumpets, french horn, trombone, and tuba, comes in a pdf file of 827K, with a ten-page score, eight two-page parts (trumpet parts within a quintet are combined), and a license page, twenty-seven pages in all. Performance time is approximately 4:40.


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Last update: 16 August 2017