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Musical Settings

Compared with most authors of his time Gerhardt wrote but little. His contemporary, Rist (1607-1667), and his successor, Schmolk (1672-1737), composed respectively 659 and 1188 hymns, while Gerhardt has the modest number of 132 poems in all.4242Among them are 18 poems for occasions, 27 founded on Psalms and 24 founded on other parts of Holy Scripture. Yet a complete hymnal might be compiled from them, so thoroughly do they embrace all religious and domestic experiences. They appeared at intervals from the year 1649 on, many of them for the first time in the Praxis pietatis melica, a collection of hymns and tunes by Johann Crüger, the famous organist and composer of chorals. 15 Crüger died in the year 1662 and Cristoph Runge took over further editions of the book. Gerhardt made no further contributions to these publications because henceforth he became more intimately associated with Johann Georg Ebeling, Crüger's successor in his church and organ work. Ebeling was so much pleased with Gerhardt's hymns, that he at once began to set them to music and eventually he published them dividing them by "dozens"4343The tenth and last "dozen" of Gerhardt's hymns which Ebeling had set to music for four voices and with an accompaniment of two violins and a bass, appeared in 1667. The full title, characteristic of Ebeling, reads: Paul Gerhardt's spiritual devotions, consisting of one hundred and twenty hymns, collected into one volume, at the request of a number of eminent and distinguished gentlemen; first to the honor of the Divine Majesty and then, also for the consolation of esteemed and distressed Christendom, and for the increase of the Christianity of all believing souls--in sets by dozens, embellished with melodies for six parts." With such eagerness were these hymns sought after that Ebeling had to publish a new edition two years later. The melodies which proved most popular were those set to "Voller Wunder, voller Kunst," "Schwing dich auf zu deinem Gott" and "Warum sollt' ich mich denn grämen." Each single dozen was again dedicated to a particular class of men with a characteristic preface. The first dozen he dedicated "to the prelates, counts, lords, knights, and estates of the Electorate of Brandenburg, this side the Oder and beyond the Elbe"; the second dozen, "To the high, noble-born, honored, and virtuous women of Berlin" and so on. into separate books. Gerhardt put at Ebeling's disposal the first copy of his hymns hitherto published and also thirty-one separate strophes which had for various reasons been omitted in previous editions. Finally he turned over to him twenty-six more poems which the Praxis pietatis melica had not published up to this time. Among them are a number which in all probability belong to his early period of poetic activity, such as: "O Tod, O Tod, du greulichs Bild," a paraphrase of one of Röber's4444Cf. pp. 1 and 2. hymns. Also among them are several which from content and form must be regarded as products of his mature years, and from which the poet himself derived much comfort and strength.4545 "Die güldne Sonne" Goed. 293. "Der Tag mit seinem Lichte" Goed. 296. "Wie schön ists doch, Herr Jesu Christ" Goed. 302. "Voller Wunder, voller Kunst" Goed. 304. "Gib dich zufrieden und sei stille" Goed. 274. "Ich bin ein Gast auf Erden" Goed. 284. "Herr, du erforschest meinen Sinn" Goed. 287. "Herr Gott, du bist ja für und für" Goed. 315. "Ich danke dir mit Freuden" Goed. 333. "Ich, der ich oft in tiefes Leid" Goed. 298. "Johannes sahe durch Gesicht" Goed. 319. "Mein Seel ist in der Stille" Goed. 307. "Merkt auf, merkt Himmel, Erde" Goed. 278. 16 The most important fact about the Ebeling edition is this, that the personality of Gerhardt, the poet, was for the first time presented to the German people's heart and mind. Hitherto his poems had been grouped together in collections of hymns with those of other and perhaps better known authors. Ebeling's publication placed Gerhardt's works on their own merit. The texts of the hymns in the editions of Crüger and Ebeling and later of Feustking4646Johann Heinrich Feustking: Ausgabe, Zerbst, 1707, text "nach des seligen Autors eigenhändigem revidirten Exemplar mit Fleisz übersehen." in 1707 have often different readings so that it is difficult to determine which the authentic version may be. It is quite within the limits of possibility that Gerhardt himself undertook revisions, as Feustking's title indicates.


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