Dresden amen

Dresden amen
Dresden Amen

The Dresden amen is a sequence of six notes sung by choirs during church services in the German state of Saxony from at least the beginning of the 19th century. The motif was particularly associated with the city of Dresden, hence it became known as the Dresden amen.

Composition

The Dresden amen was composed by Johann Gottlieb Naumann (1741-1801) for use in the Royal chapel in Dresden. Such was its popularity that it spread to other churches in Saxony, both Catholic and Lutheran. The "Dresden amen" is actually the second and third amens of a threefold amen.

The sequence is significant in Western classical music because it has been used in various forms by composers since the 19th century.

Use in Classical Music

Felix Mendelssohn used the Dresden amen in his fifth symphony, the "Reformation". In the first movement, the theme appears in the strings: Mendelssohn5 DresdenAmen.png

The theme was also used by Richard Wagner, most notably in his last opera, Parsifal. Wagner was a Kapellmeister in Dresden from 1842 to 1849, however he would probably have learnt the motif as a boy during his attendance at church in Dresden. It was incorporated into one of his earliest operas Das Liebesverbot, and also appears in the third act of Tannhäuser.

Anton Bruckner also uses the Dresden amen in the adagio of his last symphony, the 9th, while Gustav Mahler incorporated it into the fourth movement of his First Symphony and the last movement of his Second Symphony. Manuel de Falla quoted from it in his incidental music for Calderón de la Barca's El gran teatro del mundo.

Sound version

Eric Ball's tone poem The Kingdom Triumphant, a musical picture of the first and second coming of Christ, uses the Dresden amen prior to the presentation of the hymn Helmsley with its associated words "Lo, He comes with clouds descending".


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