Super ‘Mitten wir im Leben sind’


clarinet and string quartet


For the Bennewitz Quartet and Harry-Imre Dijkstra. Part of the projected Super Suite (working title), seven pieces based on hymns.


This is a lyrical paraphrase of a melody from the very first ‘Evangelisches Gesangbuch’, published in Wittemberg in 1524. It is ascribed to Johann Walther but said to hark back to a melody from mid-fifteenth century Salzburg. Its notoriety stems from the German text that Walther’s melody in the Gesangbuch begot by the hand of Martin Luther. His text adapts the famous Latin hymn ‘Media vita in morte sumus’, itself said to be the work of Notker I of St. Gallen (also known as ‘Balbulus’ or ‘The poet’). It urgently reminds us how death is a threat always and everywhere (Notker may have been inspired by seeing workmen risking their lives in building a high bridge) – in Luther’s version: ‘Mitten wir im Leben sind mit der Tod umfangen.’
My paraphrase stresses, with a rather desperate ostinato in the middle section, the melodic invocation ‘Heiliger Herre Gott, heiliger starke Gott’.

Super Suite: II – Super ‘Mitten wir im Leben sind’