Nun Danket Alle Gott

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

In celebration of the occasion, we’ll listen to various permutations of “Nun danket alle Gott” (“Now thank we all our God”) by Johann Sebastian Bach. Most Protestants will be familiar with the hymn, which was written in the early 17th century (words [German]: Martin Rinckart; music: Johann Cruger). You’ll hear the core melody in these pieces, although, as with all of Bach’s variations, each piece is expanded far beyond the original tune.

I prefer Bach’s organ music, so we’ll begin with the chorale prelude “Nun danket alle Gott”, BWV 657, performed by Bine-Katrine Bryndorf on the Wagner organ (built in 1738) in the Nidaros Cathedral at Trondheim, Norway:

I’m aware that Baroque organ music is an acquired taste, and that most people prefer choral or orchestral music. You’ll find both in the cantata “Nun danket alle Gott”, BWV 79, performed by Thomanerchor Leipzig, Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum andns-Joachim Rotzsch:

And finally a longer cantata, “Nun danket alle Gott”, BWV 192, performers and location not listed:

We give thanks for our health and well-being, for our family and friends, for our generous and patient readers, and above all for the grace of the Good Lord who put us here and helps us to continue.

Who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

13 thoughts on “Nun Danket Alle Gott

  1. I am atheist, but Bach was a genius whose works are more than suitable to dignify any grand occasion for all times to come. And the organ is a majestic instrument that never ceases to instill a sense of awe in me. The tradition of celebrating and expressing gratitude for a good harvest is much older than book religions anyway.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Thank you for your wishing us well. This is one area in which reasonable theists and atheists can agree, i.e., the supreme genius of Bach.

      I’ve mentioned this before, mainly because the implications say a lot for Chinese culture on several levels: When the Chinese realized that children able to read music and perform on an instrument significantly improve their STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), they set about making sure that their students learned Western music, particularly Bach. As in let a million pianos bloom.

      When Christianity made inroads into China, the elites co-opted this phenomenon by promoting a Chinese Christian Church. Smart move: organized religion often attracts the kind of compliant person who is characterologically more likely to conform and to do good, and based on their code and creed, to put the good of others first. That conjunction makes a group easy to lead as long as you don’t offend their basic beliefs. So it’s a win for China as long as the ruling elite gets to choose the leaders, etc.

      We all know the Chinese think long-term. They make the Muslim Brotherhood, et al, look impulsive. If Islam weren’t so bloody-minded, it could learn a lot from the Chinese. But when a bunch of tribal desert dwellers truly believe absolutely that Allah wants them to take over the world, they have neither the interest nor the ability to think outside their supremacist box.

      My money is on the Chinese as the eventual Roman Empire Redux. Cold blooded they may be, but no one beats them at strategy for the long term.

    • I recall the Baron’s worrying about the fate of the organist (and the player) at the hands of the enrichers. The secularisation of Norway worries me less than yourself; the loss of the (mainly, imho) beneficial values we’ve inherited from Judeo-Christian culture is more serious.

      Belated Happy Thanksgiving to Americans everywhere.

  2. Thanks you for this wonderful gift. Happy is who gives thanks, and so do we all. Certainly, in the lineup of “thanks for,” somewhere there’d be “Thank you for not creating me a Muslim.”

    As to our atheist friends, I say welcome: I don’t like fundamentalist “conservatives” much; any fundamentalist even the non-MMM (Mad Murdering Muslim) variety reeks of some lacunae in his/her own psyche. However, I would like our atheist friends to at least start calling themselves “Cultural Christians.”

    To stay on the subject of Bach, he was not merely a genius; he signed all his choral compositions SDG, i.e. Soli Deo Gloria. Bach was inflamed with the love of the Triune God and it was an act of worship that he composed. Mendelssohn, a Jew, was born a genius and a Christian, but the extra spark and sparkle came not just from the genius but from the same religious passion as Bach’s had been. Only that can inspire music, or any other creative prroduct, that transcends from a “fine art” to the sublime. Most of the readers here will know as well that had it not been for Mendelssohn, Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” may have been lost for the ages.

    What’s true for music is also true for Western Literature, Painting, Architecture, Science (yes, despite the rocky, Church-inhibited road), Jurisprudence, Mores and Norms. It all came from Western Christianity. Whether there is somehwere an old man with a flowing white beard descendend from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or a mega-force field in some nook of the expanding multi-universe, or if there is nothing but the trial and error of natural selection, our civilization came from Christianity.

    Even the Jewish genius did not manifest itself much throughout the long history of the Jews, creation of the Bible excepted, except since very recent times, i.e. early-mid 19th century, when Jews became “emancipated,” i.e. both able and willing to soak up the attainments of the West’s Christian culture. Hence it wouldn’t be out of plae if our Jewish friends started calling themselves “Cultural Christians” too, though it does not necessarily imply that they ought to alter their current belief system.

    Hence, “Cultural Christianity” to all, Christianity to the believers.

    • Thank you. I wish someone would develop these themes into a book-length meditation. In studying the ways in which early Christians and Diaspora Jews interacted, one gets the sense that so much of the conflict that arose later was from a kind of mutual hubris. To our infinite loss.

      Was it Saint Paul that said love drives out fear?

      Love can’t exist without a profound desire to know, to understand, to pursue the unknown out of some unutterable, always renewing curiosity. Whether it’s a Talmudic scholar or a celestial engineer steering his telescope among the stars – they both experience the thrill of that chase…

      And is that why Islam hates everything? Because it is based ultimately on fear?

  3. K, I’m an atheist too, but deeply involved in classical music.

    Western music tells me everything I need to know about the fundamental ‘good nature’ and spiritual aims of Christianity, and shows that its mistakes were anti-christian.

    The rejection of music by islam tells me everything one needs to know about islam and shows that its violence is islamic.

    • Islam’s ignorant rejection of anything of cultural value in the West is telling. The only things they were/are ever interested in concerned the evolving technology of war. And since they can only borrow or steal ideas, they don’t ever really learn anything.

  4. Takes me back to when I was a kid and in a private school. In the chapel the organist would play classical organ pieces on the circa 1820’s pipe organ they had there for the Christmas gathering at the end of the year.

  5. The first picture — labeled “Blasted Tree” — is very interesting, but too dark and low-resolution to tell whether it is a painting or a photograph. Is it even meteorogically possible to have such a bright sky behind such dark clouds? And where is the light source? Is the sun behind the viewer, or in front of the viewer?

  6. Perhaps it is an acquired taste but I have definitely acquired it! Haven’t there been studies of brain wave patterns in response to various types of music and Baroque tended to be associated with “calm”? My recollection is a bit vague, I’m afraid. Anyway, sublime stuff – thank you.

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