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Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin

"Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" is a hymn by Martin Luther, a paraphrase in German of the Nunc dimittis, the canticle of Simeon. Luther wrote the text and melody in 1524 and it was first published in the same year. A song for Purification, it has been used for funerals. Luther included it in 1542 in Christliche Geseng... zum Begrebniss. The hymn appears in several translations, for example Catherine Winkworth's "In peace and joy I now depart", in nine hymnals, it has been used as the base for music for vocal music such as Dieterich Buxtehude's funeral music Mit Fried und Freud and Johann Sebastian Bach's chorale cantata Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125. The text and melody were composed by Luther in the spring of 1524. In the same year, it was published in Wittenberg in Johann Walter's Eyn geystlich Gesangk Buchleyn, but was not included in the Erfurt Enchiridion. A song for Purification, it has been used for funerals. Luther included it in 1542 in Christliche Geseng... zum Begrebniss as one of six hymns.

The hymn appears in several translations, for example Catherine Winkworth's "In peace and joy I now depart", in 9 hymnals, for example as No. 48 in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary. The hymn is based on the canticle of Simeon. Luther expanded the thoughts of each of the four verses to a stanza of six lines; the first stanza expresses accepting death in peace, the second gives as a reason the meeting with the Saviour, the third accents his coming for all people, the fourth the coming as a light for the heathen and glory for Israel. The lines are of meter 8.4.8.4.7.7, stressing single statements. Luther, a former monk, was familiar with the Latin Nunc dimittis from the daily night prayer; the hymn was dedicated to the celebration of the Purification on 2 February, kept by the Lutherans as a feast day. It became one of the most important songs for the dying and for funerals, it is listed among those in the Protestant hymnal Evangelisches Gesangbuch as No. 519. The tune in dorian mode follows the text of the first stanza.

"Joy" dotted rhythm and melismas. In the last line, the melody turns below the key note on the text "sanft und stille"; the hymn is the base of several compositions. Organ music has been written though the centuries, such as Dieterich Buxtehude's chorale prelude of 1674, Max Reger's No. 5 and 10 of his Choral Preludes for Organ, Op. 79b, Ernst Pepping's Partita No. 3. Several composers wrote vocal settings, some intended for funerals. Four-part choral settings have been composed by Johann Walter, Lupus Hellinck, published in 1544, Bartholomäus Gesius, Michael Praetorius, Johann Hermann Schein, Samuel Scheidt and others. Heinrich Schütz used it in movement 21 of his Musikalische Exequien, composed for the funeral of Henry II, Count of Reuss-Gera. Buxtehude wrote four different versions for the four stanzas in complex counterpoint as a funeral music for Menno Hanneken, Mit Fried und Freud, which he expanded by a Klag-Lied into a funeral music for his father. Johann Sebastian Bach used the hymn as the base for his chorale cantata Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125.

Bach used single stanzas in his cantatas, the funeral cantata Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106, der ist mein Leben, BWV 95, for the 16th Sunday after Trinity, Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde, BWV 83, for Purification 1724). Georg Philipp Telemann composed around 1729 a first sacred cantata for voices and basso continuo, a second cantata for voice and continuo, lost. Johannes Brahms used the first stanza to conclude his motet Warum ist das Licht gegeben dem Mühseligen?. Wilhelm Lucke: Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin. In: D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe, vol. 35, Weimar 1923 Andreas Wittenberg: Kirchenlieder aus dem Reformationsjahrhundert: Martin Luthers “Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin” Deutsche Lieder. Bamberger Anthologie, 16 December 2013 BWV 125.6 bach-chorales.com

Mathias Christiansen

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