Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn

The Virginia Chorale sang this on their concerts last weekend, and we were able to drive down to hear the first one. So glad we could, as it was a wonderful evening, beautifully programmed by Scott Williamson. We enjoyed it all, and the chance to meet the singers and everyone involved with the group, now beginning its 27th season. This is from Scott’s program notes:

Philadelphia-based composer Kile Smith has written a concert-length Vespers, influenced by Monteverdi and equally indebted to the Lutheran tradition. The hymn, Herr Christ, begins with a four-part chorale that opens like a splendid blossom into 8, 12, and ultimately 16 parts, before folding in on itself, ending in the hymn-like simplicity with which it began.

It actually goes from 4 to 8 to 16 then back to 4, but even I lose track! Here is their fine performance of it on the last concert, in Williamsburg:

“Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn” is one of the sections from Vespers now being performed separately. I’ve made a keyboard reduction of the entire work, and am making octavos of individual sections as needed: so far, “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (with English translation) and “Psalm 113.” Here’s the text of “Herr Christ” followed by my translation:

Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn
Vaters in Ewigkeit,
aus seim Herzen entsprossen,
gleichwie geschrieben steht,
er ist der Morgensterne,
sein Glänzen streckt er ferne
vor andern Sternen klar;

für uns ein Mensch geboren
im letzten Teil der Zeit,
daß wir nicht wärn verloren
vor Gott in Ewigkeit;
den Tod für uns zerbrochen,
den Himmel aufgeschlossen,
das Leben wiederbracht.

Laß uns in deiner Liebe
und Kenntnis nehmen zu,
daß wir am Glauben bleiben,
dir dienen im Geist so,
daß wir hie mögen schmecken
dein Süßigkeit im Herzen
und dürsten stets nach dir.

Ertöt uns durch dein Güte,
erweck uns durch dein Gnad;
den alten Menschen kränke,
daß der neu’ leben mag
und hie auf dieser Erden
den Sinn und alls Begehren
und G’danken hab zu dir.
Elisabeth Kreuziger (1505–1535)

God’s only Son, from all time
heart of the Father, came.
Yes, Christ our Lord forever
stands on the Word, the same.
He is the Star of Morning,
blazing with bright adorning
far past all other stars.

For unto us, in end time
a little child is born
that, in the sight of sublime
God, we are not forlorn.
Now Death for us is broken,
Heaven is thrown wide open,
life is brought back again.

Your love and truth, increasing,
grow in us every hour.
We, in the faith unceasing,
serve in the Spirit’s power.
That we may taste your sweetness,
fill up our hearts’ completeness
so that we thirst for you.

Come, ravish us and quicken,
rouse us with gifts of grace.
May our old Adam sicken,
new life to take his place.
Then here, our dear contrivings—
all earthly thoughts and strivings—
shall ever rise to you.

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