commentary to opus 17

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Dem König der Ewigkeit (To the King of Eternity) (in German) for mixed Choir, 2 Ob., 2 Bssn., Tpt. in C, Trb., Db. , op. 17 (1958)






First performance: May 24, 1970, Flensburg, St. Marienkirche
Flensburger Bach-Chor / Dieter Weiss

Translation of Psalms: Romano Guardini 1950, Ulenberg's Psalms, Cologne, 1592

Duration: 16 Minutes

Publisher: Schott Music
Score: ED 21286 /  ISMN 979-0-001-18039-9
Vocal score: ED 21286-1 / ISMN 979-0-001-18042-9
Parts: ED 21286-11 / ISMN: 979-0-001-18043-6


Video: Works by Hummel on youtube

Bertold Hummel submitted his work Dem König der Ewigkeit [To the King of Eternity] as his entry for a composition competition for sacred music held by the south-west German radio broadcaster Südwestfunk in 1958. All composers within the broadcasting region under the age of 35 were eligible to participate and the stipulated title of the work was Zum Neujahrstage [For the New Year]. The text, the utilisation of the melody of the Ulenberg psalm and the scoring for 4-6-voice choir and small instrumental ensemble were specified, but Hummel did not adhere to the regulations concerning the dimension of the choir. The first performance of this composition only took place in 1970 and Hummel produced a revised version of the work in 1985.

Martin Hummel

 Dem König der Ewigkeit (To the King of Eternity)


Dem König der Ewigkeit, dem unvergänglichen, unsichtbaren, allein wahren Gott
sei Ehre und Lobpreis in alle Ewigkeit. Amen.
(1 Tim 2, 17)


To the King of Eternity, to the everlasting, invisible, only true God be honour and praise in all eternity. Amen.


Von Ewigkeit her zu Ewigkeit hin, o Gott, bist Du!
Vor Deinen Augen sind tausend Jahr

wie ein Tag von gestern, der schon vergangen,
wie eine Wache während der Nacht.  (Psalm 90; 2,4)

Unseres Lebens Summe sind siebzig Jahr,
und sind wir rüstig, können es achtzig sein,
und all ihr Prangen ist Mühsal und Nichtigkeit,
denn flüchtig gehn sie vorbei, und wir fliegen dahin.
Unsere Tage zu zählen, lehre uns,
daß wir zur Weisheit des Herzens gelangen. (Psalm 90; 10,12)

Sei deinen Knechten gnädig,
eilends sättige uns mit Deiner Huld,
daß wir uns freuen mögen und jubeln in unseren Tagen. (Psalm 90; 13,14)


From age to age you remain, oh God!
In your eyes, a thousand years
are like yesterday,
like a day that has passed, like a watch in the night.

The sum of our life is seventy years,
and, if we are strong, perhaps eighty,
and all its pride is trouble and emptiness,
for we pass away fleetingly, and we flee from here.
Teach us to number our days,
so that our hearts may achieve wisdom.

Be gracious to your servant,
make haste to satisfy us with your goodness,
so that we may know rejoicing and jubilation in our days.


Wohlauf, mein Seel, sag‘ hohen Preis dem Herren,
Tu sein Lob rühmlich allenthalben mehren,
Was in mir ist, nach allen Kräften mein
Preis dieser Frist den heil‘gen Namen dein.

Wie sich ein Vater seinem Kind erzeiget,
Sich freundlich ihm und väterlich zuneiget:
So nimmt er gern in seiner Gnade an,
Die ihn als Gott und Herrn vor Augen han.

Denn er, der uns den Atem hat gegeben,
Er weiß, daß Staub wir sind in diesem Leben.
Des Menschen Jahr sind wie Gras das hinfällt;
Sie welken gar wie Blumen auf dem Feld.

Jedoch die milde Gütigkeit des Herren
Ist anfangslos und wird auch immer währen
Für die allein, die mit aufrechtem Mut
Beständig sein in seinem Dienste gut.

Sein‘ Gerechtigkeit steht fest zu langen Jahren
Für Kindeskind, die seinen Bund bewahren;
Als treue Knechte beachten sein Gebot
Von Herzen recht im Leben und im Tod.

Drum preist ihn alle Werke seiner Hände,
Soweit sein Herrschaft geht an allem Ende.
Zu gleicher Weis‘, du liebe Seele mein
Nach Kräften preis den Gott und Herren dein.

(Text: Psalm 102 aus Die Psalmen Davids nach Caspar Ulenberg  - Cantus firmus: ebd., Köln 1582, Weise: Genf 1542)


Arise, my soul, give high praise to the Lord,
Let his praise be gloriously multiplied everywhere,
All that is in me, all my strength,
shall now praise your holy name.

As a father treats his child,
bending over him with fatherly love,
so he receives willingly and graciously
everyone who keeps his eye on him as God and Lord.

For he, who gave us breath,
knows that we are dust in this life.
Man's years are like grass that dies,
they wither like flowers in the field.

But the gentle goodness of the Lord
is without beginning and will last for ever
for those alone who, with upright heart,
remain constant in his good service.

His righteousness holds firm during the long years
in which children's children keep his covenant,
those who as true servants observe his commandment
wholeheartedly in life and death.

Therefore praise him, all the works of his hand,
as far as his kingdom stretches to all ends of the earth.
Likewise, oh my beloved soul,
praise your God and Lord with all your might.


Würdig ist das geopferte Lamm
zu empfangen Kraft und Reichtum,
Weisheit und Macht,
Ehre und Ruhm und Preis!
Du bist der Erste und der Letzte,
der Anfang und das Ende;
Du bist der Weg,
du bist die Tür,
Du bist das Brot,
Du bist das Leben,
Du bist das Licht,
Du bist der strahlende Morgenstern.
Dein sind die Zeiten,
Dein die Jahrhunderte.
Dein ist die Herrlichkeit und das Reich
durch alle Ewigkeiten der Ewigkeit. Amen.

(Offb. 5,12; 22,13 und 16; Jo Ev; Liturgie der Osternacht)

Worthy is the Lamb
that was slain to receive power and riches,
wisdom and might,
honour and glory and praise.
You are the First and the Last,
the Beginning and the End;
you are the Way,
you are the Gate,
you are the Bread,
you are the Life,
you are the Light,
you are the bright Morning Star;
yours are the ages,
yours the centuries.


Flensburger Tageblatt, 26th May, 1970

Bertold Hummel is one of those who write music not only for the eye and bombastic debate, but rather remain in the company of a Joh. Nep. David or Kaminsky and defend a front of real values, even though they do of course use modern stylistic means. The cantata is in four movements, all characterised by compact formulation, beginning energetically and captivatingly, with interesting developments almost everywhere. Hummel has put together an attractively rounded-off tonal picture in varied combinations. Seven solo instruments prepare us psychologically, introducing the choral phases with their modern accent and often accompanying them illustratively. In the third movement, an a-capella section of notable fineness is encountered; its closing melody followed by the praise of God is amongst the most beautiful passages that contemporary composers have produced. Hummel composes for our times. His music is intellectually demanding, but also reaches the listener via heart and soul. With the impression made by the première, his Psalm cantata has a bright future.


Main-Post, 20th March, 1986

The central work of the concert turned out to be Bertold Hummel's "Dem König der Ewigkeit", a cantata for mixed choir and seven instruments, op. 17. In this performance, marked by clarity of diction and dynamics, Hummel's concept, contrasting the dissonant-homophone choral passages (sometimes in elementary unison) with the opposing element of woodwind, brass and double-bass, proved very compelling - a procedure that, with Hummel's musical language, produces a remarkable tension between irreconcilability and affinity.

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