For those who are Protestants today is a big holiday (and I am not talking about Harvest Festival, American Evangelicalism’s version of Halloween) because 495 years ago Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses onto the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. So in celebration of Reformation Day we present the eight best versions of the hymn of the reformation, Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott [A Mighty Fortress is Our God].
Kaisermarch – Wagner
Portions of the hymn appear out of nowhere interspersed with lengthy “Wagnerian” interludes in celebration of the election of Wilhelm I as Emperor of Germany in 1871.
En blanc et noir – Debussy
The hymn appears in the middle of the second movement underpinned with dissonant piano chords in a march-like rhythm (almost as if viewing the world “through a glass darkly”). This movement was dedicated to Debussy’s friend Jacques Charlot who died in World War I.
A Mighty Fortress is Our God – Chris Rice
An acoustic laid-back version of the hymn with a folk-like character.
A Mighty Fortress is Our God – Jim Martinez
A jazz version of the classic hymn done by a great pianist, Jim Martinez. I had the pleasure to play with Jim a few times and he has some very creative jazz arrangements of hymns which I highly reccomend: http://www.jimmartinez.com.
Les Huguenots – Meyerbeer
In the first appearance of the melody in the opera, a choir in the background sings the hymn and are identified as martyrs fighting for the protestant cause in France.
A Mighty Fortress – Sovereign Grace
A combination of the hymn and Psalm 42 but with a marked change to the original melody as to be unrecognizable (in a good way) except for the words.
Reformation Symphony, Movement 4 – Mendelssohn
Opening with a less stately rhythmic structuring of the hymn melody on the flute, the final movement of this symphony develops fragments of the hymn in high Romantic-era fashion.
BWV 80 – J.S. Bach
While Bach did not write the hymn, his arrangement of the hymn is the one all other composers and hymnwriters since Bach reference back to, making it the BEST version.