Johann Crüger

9 April 1598–23 February 1662



JOHANN CRÜGER was born in 1598, and, by his skill in music, obtained, in 1622, the position of precentor, organist, and chapel-master of St. Nicholas Church, Berlin, and held it until his death in 1662. He is the author of that peculiarly touching eucharistic hymn, which, translated by Rev. Charles Wesley (the 23d of his Hymns on the Lord's Supper, 1745), begins, “Hearts of stone! relent, relent.”* The original German hymn is found in a Lutheran Collec­tion, Praxis Pietatis (1640), of which thirty editions had been published in 1701, and many more at a later date. Previous to 1651, he had published Synopsis Musica, and several other musical works. He wrote quite a number of beautiful tunes, of which HARWICH is quite well known in America. The melody that he composed for Rinkart's popular German hymn, “Nun danket alle Gott,” etc., is said to be the best known tune in the world. At mid­night on New Year’s eve, as the clock strikes twelve, it is customary for every orthodox German household, at least in the fatherland, to sing the hymn to Crüger's tune. It has also attained great popularity in England.

by Edwin Hatfield
The Poets of the Church (1884)

* see Mearns’ biography below.

JOHANN CRÜGER was b. April 9, 1598, at Gross-Breese, near Guben, Brandenburg. After passing through the schools at Guben, Sorau and Breslau, the Jesuit College at Olmutz, and the Poets’ school at Regensburg, he made a tour in Austria, and in 1615 settled in Berlin. There, save for a short residence at the University of Wittenberg, in 1620, he employed himself as a private tutor till 1622. In 1622 he was appointed cantor of St. Nicholas’s Church at Berlin, and also one of the masters of the Greyfriars Gymnasium. He d. at Berlin Feb. 23, 1662.

Crüger wrote no hymns, although in some American hymnals he appears as “Johann Krüger, 1640,” as the author of the supposed original of C. Wesley’s “Hearts of stone, relent, relent.” He was one of the most distinguished musicians of his time. Of his hymn tunes, which are generally noble and simple in style, some 20 are still in use, the best known probably being that to “Nun danket alle Gott,” which is set to No. 379 in Hymns Ancient & Modern, ed. 1875. His claim to notice in this work is as editor and contributor to several of the most important German hymnological works of the [17th] century.

by James Mearns
A Dictionary of Hymnology (1892)


Featured Tunes:

NUN DANKET ALLE GOTT

Publications of Hymns & Tunes:

Newes vollkömmliches Gesangbuch (Berlin, 1640): WorldCat

Praxis Pietatis Melica (Berlin eds.)

1st ed.
2nd ed. (1647)
3rd ed. (1648)
5th ed. (1653): WorldCat
7th ed. (1657): WorldCat
10th ed. (1661): WorldCat

Geistliche Kirchen-Melodien (Leipzig, 1649): WorldCat

D.M. Luther’s und anderer vornchmen geistreichen und gelehrten Männer Geistliche Lieder und Psalmen (Berlin, 1657): WorldCat 1 | WorldCat 2

Psalmodia Sacra (Berlin, 1658): WorldCat

Related Resources:

J.F. Bachmann, Zur Geschichte der Berliner Gesangbücher (Berlin, 1856): PDF

J.F. Bachmann, Paulus Gerhardts geistliche Lieder (Berlin, 1866): PDF

Edwin Hatfield, “Johann Crüger,” Poets of the Church (NY: A.D.F. Randolph & Co., 1884): Archive.org

James Mearns, “Johann Crüger,” ed. John Julian, A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), pp. 271-272.

Johannes Zahn, Die Melodien der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenlieder, vol. 6 (1893), nos. 523, 558-590, 591, 615, 641, 643-651, 660, 661-662.

Ulrich Asper, “Johann Crüger,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:
http://www.hymnology.co.uk/j/johann-crueger

George J. Buelow, “Johann Crüger,” Grove Music Online:
https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.06901

Johann Crüger at Hymnary.org:
https://hymnary.org/person/Cruger_Johann