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Friday Night Organ: The organist who left us NO organ music!
Heinrich Schütz (1585 – 1672) was a German composer and organist, generally regarded as one of the most important composers of the 17th century. He wrote what is traditionally considered to be the first German opera, Dafne, performed at Torgau in 1627, the music of which has since been lost. Interesting isn’t it. Go back a couple of weeks to our discussion of Italian opera---and what was the first one? Which is now lost? Jacopo Peri’ Daphne (1633) First two operas written in Italy and Germany composed about the same time, on the same subject and with the same fate. Makes one wonder just what it is about the Greek legend of Dafne that is SOOOO intriguing. The general narrative of the myth is that the God Eros, son of Venus, cursed the God Apollo compelling him to fall madly in love with Daphne the nymph daughter of a river God. Apollo chased her into a forest. Just before being overtaken by him, Daphne pleaded to her river-god father for help, who transformed her into a laurel tree, thus foiling Apollo. I guess #metoo has a longer history than we thought.
Anyway, back to Schutz. He was born in Köstritz. In 1590 the family moved to Weißenfels, where his father managed the inn "Zum güldenen Ring". While Schütz was living with his parents, his musical talents were discovered by Landgrave Moritz von Hessen-Kassel in 1598 during an overnight stay in the inn run by his father. Upon hearing young Heinrich sing, the landgrave requested that his parents allow the boy to be sent to his noble court for further education and instruction. His parents initially resisted the offer, but after much correspondence they eventually took Heinrich to the landgrave’s seat at Kassel in August 1599.
After being a choir-boy he went on to study law at Marburg before going to Venice from 1609–1612 to study music with Giovanni Gabrieli. Gabrieli is the only person Schütz ever referred to as being his teacher. He also inherited a ring from Gabrieli shortly before the latter's death. He subsequently was organist at Kassel from 1613 to 1615. Schütz's compositions show the influence of his teacher Gabrieli (displayed most notably with Schütz's use of resplendent polychoral and concertato styles) and of Monteverdi. Additionally, the influence of the Netherlandish composers of the 16th century is prominent in his work. His best known works are in the field of sacred music, ranging from solo voice with instrumental accompaniment to a cappella choral music. Representative works include his Psalmen Davids (Psalms of David, Opus 2), Cantiones sacrae (Opus 4), three books of Symphoniae sacrae, Die sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz (Seven words of Jesus Christ on the Cross), three Passion settings and the Christmas Story. Schütz's music, while starting off in the most progressive styles early in his career, eventually grew into a style that is simple and almost austere, culminating with his late Passion settings. Practical considerations were certainly responsible for part of this change: the Thirty Years' War had devastated the musical infrastructure of Germany, and it was no longer practical or even possible to put on the gigantic works in the Venetian style which marked his earlier period. Yeah, incredibly destructive wars tend to have that effect on society.
Beyond an early book of madrigals, almost no secular music by Schütz has survived, save for a few domestic songs and occasional commemorative items such as Wie wenn der Adler sich aus seiner Klippe schwingt, and no purely instrumental music at all even though he had a reputation as one of the finest organists in Germany.
Schütz was of great importance in bringing new musical ideas to Germany from Italy, and thus had a large influence on the German music which was to follow. The style of the North German organ school derives largely from Schütz (as well as from the Dutchman Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck see last week); a century later this music was to culminate in the work of J.S. Bach. Next week we will examine the music of several of Schutz’s pupils including Matthias Weckmann and Caspar Kittel.
Schütz died in Dresden from a stroke in 1672 at the age of 87. He was buried in the old Dresden Frauenkirche, but his tomb was destroyed in 1727 when the church was torn down to build the new Dresden Frauenkirche. YUP yet another great composer’s grave lost---it’s a pattern.
Here is the complete Opus 2 Psalms of David. I know it’s a little long—2 hours + but it is fantastic!
There is much to be learned from the Greek Mythology. It is history entwined with stories of entertainment. The hatred of history is usually by those that wish to erase the meaning or the culture that it derived from. If they hate the meaning, they manipulators of knowledge for their own gain. If they are trying to erase the culture, they are invaders attempting to rewrite history to glorify themselves.
This reminded me of what is happening around the world today. The European culture is being attacked, having every possibly mark of achievement being called offensive to create a censorship against it. The invading cultures are trying to erase the culture to rewrite it and glorify themselves.
"Remember, you're fighting for this woman's honor, which is probably more than she ever did."
Groucho Marx: Duck Soup (1933)
OK I knew YOU would get it. That is precisely the reason for my Friday posts. I wanted to demonstrate the continuity between language, culture, art and history. And you are correct all of these things are being eroded away and will ultimately be erased--to be replaced by God knows what. But once gone they are gone forever.