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Three prayers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

author of text
translation © SCM Press

Organist of York Minster for twenty-five years until his retirement in 2008, Philip Moore is one of the few cathedral organists of our time who has an equal reputation as a composer. He modestly describes his settings of Three prayers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as ‘straightforward’, but his music beautifully captures the essence of these moving testaments of faith—their eloquent sincerity, their fluctuations of confidence and doubt, their moments of anguish, and their very real humanity.

The German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed in a Nazi concentration camp in April 1945, just two weeks before the camp was liberated by the Allies. A committed opponent of Hitler’s regime, Bonhoeffer had been denounced as a pacifist and enemy of the state as early as 1936. His arrest in 1943 led to two years in prison, and his fate was sealed when documents came to light in 1945 revealing his close links with the German Resistance. Having lived, preached and lectured in England and America, Bonhoeffer was already an international figure in the 1930s, but the publication after the war of his Letters and Papers from Prison confirmed his stature as an extraordinary man of faith, a rare combination of penetrating intellect, gentle humour and true Christian humility.

The first two of Moore’s responses to the Bonhoeffer texts are each coloured by one dominating melodic interval, a minor second in ‘Morning prayers’ and an augmented fourth in the stark, declamatory invocations of ‘Prayers in the time of distress’. Music was important to Bonhoeffer, and ‘Evening prayers’ is based on the melody of one of his favourite hymns, the Advent chorale Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, beginning as a fugue in flowing 5/4 metre, the individual strands finally coming together in a quietly harmonized chorale: ‘Into thy hands I commend my loved ones …’

from notes by David Gammie © 2014


Music for Remembrance
Studio Master: CDA68020Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
The Evening Hour
Studio Master: SIGCD446Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


No 1: Morning prayers  O God, early in the morning do I cry unto thee
Track 11 on CDA68020 [6'25]
No 2: Prayers in the time of distress  O Lord God, great is the misery that hath come upon me
Track 12 on CDA68020 [4'03]
No 3: Evening prayers  O Lord my God, I thank thee that thou hast brought this day to a close
Track 13 on CDA68020 [4'43]
Track 15 on SIGCD446 [6'03] Download only

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