Heinrich Schütz, 1585-1682


Selected Recordings

Psalm 119 Schwanengesang

Kleine geistlichen Concerten Op.9

Symphoniae Sacrae III, Op. 12

Selected Sheet Music

Grimmage Gruft

grimmage gruft

Source: IMLSP.org

Showcase Piece

Psalms of David

Notes and Commentary

“Heinrich Schütz was Germany’s most significant composer before the age of Bach and Handel. He represents the transition between not only two epochs but also two cultures.”—David Ewen, The Complete Book of Classical Music

Schütz was a German composer and organist, generally regarded as the most important German composer before Johann Sebastian Bach and often considered to be one of the most important composers of the 17th century along with Claudio Monteverdi. 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.

Schütz’s compositions show the influence of his teacher Gabrieli (displayed most notably with Schütz’s use of 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 three books of Symphoniae sacrae, the Psalms of David, the Sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz (the Seven Last Words on the Cross), and his three Passion settings.

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.

He was one of the last composers to write in a modal style. His harmonies often result from the contrapuntal alignment of voices rather than from any sense of “harmonic motion”; contrastingly, much of his music shows a strong tonal pull when approaching cadences. His music includes a great deal of imitation, but structured in such a way that the successive voices do not necessarily enter after the same number of beats or at predictable intervallic distances.

Schütz’s writing often includes intense dissonances caused by the contrapuntal motion of voices moving in correct individual linear motion, but resulting in harmonic tension. Above all, his music displays sensitivity to the accents and meaning of the text, which is often conveyed using special technical figures drawn from musica poetica, themselves drawn from or created in analogy to the verbal figures of classical rhetoric.

Beyond the early book of madrigals, almost no secular music by Schütz has survived, save for a few domestic songs (arien) and no purely instrumental music at all (unless one counts the short instrumental movement entitled “sinfonia” that encloses the dialogue of Die sieben Worte), 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 as such had a large influence on the German music which was to follow. The style of the North German organ school derives largely from him. A century later this music was to culminate in the work of J.S. Bach. He lived from October 18, 1585, to November 18, 1672.—Excerpted from Wikipedia

Books and Music

Selected Books

Master Musicians: Schütz
Oxford Univ. Press, 2000
Basil Smallman
$53.30 on Amazon


“Oxford has produced another winning entry in The Master Musicians series. Smallman’s narrative weaves discussion of life and works seamlessly, and the extras (calendar, list of works, personalia, bibliography) have been executed superbly.”—B.J. Murray, Choice, on Amazon

Music in the Baroque Era: From Monteverdi to Bach
W.W. Norton, 1947
Manfred Bukofzer
$39.95 on Amazon


Selected Music

schutz-1 Musikalische Exequien (1995), 1 CD

Schutz-2 Motets / German Magnificat (2009), 1 CD

schutz-3 Johannes-Passion: Psalmen Davids (1998), 1 CD

More Heinrich Schütz music

Complete Works

The following are major published works. Access complete list on Wikipedia. There are more than 500 surviving pieces in all.

  • Il primo libro de madrigali (first book of madrigals) (opus 1, Venice, 1611)
  • Psalmen Davids (Book 1) (opus 2, Dresden, 1619)
  • Historia der … Aufferstehung … (The Resurrection) (opus 3, Dresden, 1623)
  • Cantiones sacrae (opus 4, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1625)
  • Becker Psalter (opus 5, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1628, revised 1661)
  • Symphoniae sacrae (Book 1) (opus 6, Venice, 1629)
  • Musikalische Exequien (opus 7, Dresden, 1636)
  • Kleine geistliche Konzerte (Book 1) (opus 8, Leipzig, 1636)
  • Kleine geistliche Konzerte (Book 2) (opus 9, Leipzig, 1639)
  • Symphoniae sacrae (Book 2) (opus 10, Dresden, 1647)
  • Geistliche Chor-Music (opus 11, Dresden, 1648)
  • Symphoniae sacrae (Book 3) (opus 12, Dresden, 1650)
  • Zwölf geistliche Gesänge (opus 13, Dresden, 1657)
  • Historia, der … Geburt … Jesu Christi (The Nativity), (Dresden, 1664)
  • Königs und Propheten 119er Psalm … (Psalm 119, Psalm 100, and German Magnificat: “Swan Song”] (opus ultimum, Dresden, 1671)—Excerpted from Wikipedia

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