The five hundreth anniversary that we commemorated in 2017 is a good opportunity to remind the significance of vocal works by Martin Luther. Creative musical activity of Dr. Martin Luther is somehow in the shadow of his other historically significant activities. It is a well-known fact that he was an outstanding musician who could play lute and could sing. In his household, he constantly played music and sang, while he actively engaged his family in performing music. In performing the reformatory ideas, he was aware of the extremely important role of religious singing, which he started composing since 1523. He is the author of 38 songs – chorales, while at the same time, he is the author of 20 melodies. In most cases, he used the texts of the Psalms. From his chorals the best known is entitled Ein feste Burg is unser Gott – The Fortified Castle is the Lord our God, that became worldwide the anthem of the Protestants. Luther have become an important inspirational source for the next generation of composers, and they culminated in the work of Johann Sebastian Bach, including the works of contemporary Slovak composers – Roman Berger, Víťazoslav Kubička. The prevailing majority of Lutheran chorales is also the part of the Protestant Songbook in Slovakia.
Passions are exceptionally important in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. His passion compositions are based particularly on Luther’s reformation, chiefly on developmental tendency which is based on the works of Johann Walter, Hans Leo Hassler and Michael Praetorius. The most significant forerunner of J. S. Bach was Heinrich Schütz. J. S. Bach’s textual aspect is aimed at the model of passion oratorio the main representative of which was a librettist Heinrich Brockes who worked in Hamburg. The interesting fact is that before the arrival of J. S. Bach, in 1723, there was no long tradition of passions in Leipzig. They were performed there in 1721 for the first time. J. S. Bach is demonstrably the author of the two passions: St Matthew Passion BWV 244 and St John Passion BWV 245. The authorship of Johann Sebastian Bach in St. Lukas Passion BWV 246 is strongly called into question and from St Mark Passion BWV 24 only the text was preserved.
The work of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750), significantly influences the work of the contemporary composers even almost 270 years after his death. It is undoubtedly caused also by the fact that by his work Bach impersonates contemporary musical tradition. There are the three most significant areas in his work – the influence of family tradition on his work, which we can observe throughout the Thuringia, where they have had a significant musical position for 200 years in all the areas of music – secular, urban, spiritual and ecclesiastical. The tradition of German music is not less important. It influenced Johann Sebastian Bach during his studies and was based directly on the essence of protestant educational principle. Filip Melanchton, the most significant collaborator and a friend of Martin Luther, was contributory in the reform of this principle. The most important is the influence of Luther’s Reformation on the spiritual world of J. S. Bach, which reached such dimensions that he unites theology and music. Under the influence of the aforementioned three areas, the work of Bach has acquired exceptional artistic and spiritual quality, a unique phenomenon in the history of music.