How Fair the Bright and Morning Star

One of my newest anthems is actually two years old. Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern is from Vespers. I’ve written a keyboard reduction for it and added a translation. Some choirs have been performing two sections of Vespers separately—Psalm 113 and the 16-part hymn Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohnso now Philipp Nicolai’s hymn, in my translation, How Fair the Bright and Morning Star, is also available by itself.

Vespers includes the translation in the front of the score, which I gathered together for program notes. But only the German is sung in the original. In this new separate anthem I’ve added the English to the music with the German, so it now can be sung in either language.

I came to make my own translation only because I could not find a public-domain translation of the second verse “Zwingt die Saiten in Cythara,” and I really wanted to set that verse. I thought bringing the theorbo to the fore at that point would make for nice text-painting. There was no need, however, to make a rhymed translation; I think I simply relished the challenge. In any case, I’ve now put it to fuller use. Here’s a sample of Wie schön leuchtet from the Vespers CD (in the original the accompaniment is four shawms, two sackbuts, and theorbo):

Video from the premiere, Piffaro and The Crossing (Wie schön starts at 2:30):

The original text:

Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern
voll Gnad und Wahrheit von dem Herrn,
die süße Wurzel Jesse!
Du Sohn David aus Jakobs Stamm,
mein König und mein Bräutigam,
hast mir mein Herz besessen,
lieblich, freundlich,
schön und herrlich, groß und ehrlich, reich an Gaben,
hoch und sehr prächtig erhaben.

Zwingt die Saiten in Cythara
und laßt die süße Musika
ganz freudenreich erschallen,
daß ich möge mit Jesulein,
dem wunderschönen Bräutgam mein,
in steter Liebe wallen.
Singet, springet,
jubilieret, triumphieret, dankt dem Herren;
groß ist der König der Ehren.

Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh,
daß mein Schatz ist das A und O,
der Anfang und das Ende.
Er wird mich doch zu seinem Preis
aufnehmen in das Paradeis;
des klopf ich in die Hände.
Amen, Amen,
komm, du schöne Freudenkrone, bleib nicht lange;
deiner wart ich mit Verlangen.

and my translation:

How fair and bright the morning star,
my Lord, with grace and truth, you are
the sweetest root of Jesse!
O David’s son, of Jacob’s line,
you are my bridegroom, King divine,
here, take my heart, possess it:
loving, caring,
glorious, shining, now consigning for my pleasure
splendid gifts beyond all measure.

Now strike the strings on the guitar,
behold sweet music near and far
the joyous kingdom sweeping.
I long to be with Jesus dear—
who is my lovely bridegroom here,
in love forever keeping—
singing, leaping,
celebrating, thanks unfading, always praising
my great King, his greatness raising.

My heartfelt joy can therefore ring,
to Alpha and Omega spring:
the first and last, my fortune.
He will redeem me at great price,
receive me in his Paradise;
my bliss is past proportion.
Amen, amen!
Crown of Joy, all blest, most royal, haste returning.
Yours, I wait with every yearning.

Click on the page below to see it larger, and if you’d like to see more, just let me know. Of course, the full score is available for viewing if you buy the enhanced CD; go here for details on how to order.

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