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Stationen auf dem Wege zur Freiheit

Stationen auf dem Wege zur Freiheit (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
1998; soprano, tenor saxophone, piano; 15′

1. Zucht (Discipline) score example

2. Tat (Deed) score example

3. Leiden (Suffering) score example

4. Tod (Death) score example


Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) wrote this while in prison for his part in the failed 20 July 1944 assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor, and had already left Germany by the early 1930s to study and minister in the U.S. and England. But as the Nazis strengthened their grip on Germany, and as rights were increasingly trampled, Bonhoeffer felt compelled to return, to be with his family and the nation he loved.

His leadership in the Confessing Church, a group opposed to the Reichskirche and its Nazi ideology, brought him under suspicion. After his arrest Bonhoeffer was kept in a Berlin prison from where his writings, including these poems, were smuggled by a beneficent guard.

He was hanged, on direct orders from Hitler, on 6 April 1945, not three weeks before the end of the war. His books The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together have been read by millions, and he is now regarded as one of the most influential theologians of the 20th Century.

The musical setting of Stationen was conceived in the form of a Baroque solo cantata, as recitative—aria—recitative—aria.


Ziehst du aus, die Freiheit zu suchen, so lerne vor allem
Zucht der Sinne und deiner Seele, daß die Begierden
und deine Glieder dich nicht bald hierhin, bald dorthin führen.
Keusch sei dein Geist und dein Leib, gänzlich dir selbst unterworfen
und gehorsam, das Ziel zu suchen, das ihm gesetzt ist.
Niemand erfährt das Geheimnis der Freiheit, es sei denn durch Zucht.


Nicht das Beliebige, sondern das Rechte tun und wagen,
nicht im Möglichen schweben, das Wirkliche tapfer ergreifen,
nicht in der Flucht der Gedanken, allein in der Tat ist die Freiheit.
Tritt aus ängstlichem Zögern heraus in den Sturm des Geschehens,
nur von Gottes Gebot und deinem Glauben getragen,
und die Freiheit wird deinen Geist jauchzend empfangen.


Wunderbare Verwandlung. Die starken, tätigen Hände
sind dir gebunden. Ohnmächtig, einsam siehst du das Ende
deiner Tat. Doch atmest du auf und legst das Rechte
still und getrost in stärkere Hand und gibst zufrieden.
Nur einen Augenblick berührtest du selig die Freiheit,
dann übergabst du sie Gott, damit er sie herrlich vollende.


Komm nun, höchstes Fest auf dem Wege zur ewigen Freiheit,
Tod, leg nieder beschwerliche Ketten und Mauern
unsres vergänglichen Leibes und unsrer verblendeten Seele,
daß wir endlich erblicken, was hier uns zu sehen mißgönnt ist.
Freiheit, dich suchten wir lange in Zucht und in Tat und in Leiden.
Sterbend erkennen wir nun im Angesicht Gottes dich selbst.

Stations on the road to freedom


If you would search for freedom, first learn
to discipline your mind and your soul, that your desires
and your flesh are not ever leading you here and there.
Chasten your spirit and your body: keep them completely subject
and obedient to you, that you may seek the goal set before you.
No one experiences freedom’s mystery except through discipline.


To do and to dare what is right, not what merely presents itself;
not to waver between options, but bravely to seize what is true.
Not in the flight of thoughts, but only in the deed is freedom.
Stamp out fearful hesitation in the tumult of events;
be carried only by God’s command and your faith,
and freedom will receive your spirit with exultation.


A marvellous transformation: those strong, active hands
are now bound. Powerless and alone, now you see the result of
All your activity. Yet with a sigh you lay your claims
silently and confidently in a stronger hand, and are content.
But for a moment did you touch the blessing of freedom,
then you gave it back to God, that he might perfect it in glory.


Now, come, highest feast on the road to everlasting freedom.
Death, throw down the heavy chains and prison walls
of our mortal body and blinded soul,
that we at last may see what here is only confusion in our eyes.
Freedom, long have we sought you through discipline, action, and suffering.
Now dying, we recognize you in the face of God.
translated K.S.


Posted on

26 February, 2018

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