Heinrich Schütz

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Heinrich Schütz, portrayed by Christoph Spätner, around 1660

Heinrich Schütz , always Henrich in autograph manuscripts , Latinized Henricus Sagittarius (* 8 October July / 18 October  1585 greg. In Köstritz ; † 6 November July / 16 November  1672 greg. In Dresden ) was a German composer of the Early baroque .


Childhood and youth

Heinrich Schütz memorial plaque at the Marburg Kugelhaus

Schütz was the second born of eight siblings. He was born in the Goldener Kranich , his father's inn, in Köstritz (then Reuss , East Thuringia) and baptized there on October 9, 1585 in the St. Leonhard Church.

His father's family came from Franconia and had moved to the Ore Mountains around Chemnitz in the 15th century . His father was a town clerk in Gera and moved to Köstritz to work as an innkeeper and estate manager. In 1583 he married Euphrosyne Bieger, the daughter of the later mayor of Gera, Johann Bieger , as the third wife. Her sister's son was Heinrich Albert , who became his cousin's pupil in 1622.

When he was five years old, his family moved to Weißenfels because his father took over another inn there. Heinrich Schütz spent his childhood here. In 1599 his musical talent was discovered by Landgrave Moritz von Hessen-Kassel , with whose support he was trained as a musician , attended the Kassel court school , the Collegium Mauritianum , and was able to study law in Marburg from 1607 . His apartment there is not exactly known. From 1609 to 1612, thanks to a scholarship from the Landgrave, Schütz completed a three-year course in Venice with the organist Giovanni Gabrieli , which he completed with the madrigal collection Il Primo libro di Madrigali, published in 1611 . Gabrieli Schütz bequeathed one of his rings on his deathbed. Gabrieli was the only one whom Schütz referred to as his teacher throughout his life.

When he returned to Kassel in 1613, he was appointed second organist by Landgrave Moritz. A few years later he entered the service of the court of the Saxon Elector Johann Georg I in Dresden and took over the management of the court orchestra there , initially alongside the ailing Kapellmeister Rogier Michael and Michael Praetorius, who was "inherently" Kapellmeister . It was only after Praetorius' death that Schütz became the sole conductor at the Saxon court. He held this position until the end of his life. His move to Dresden was the subject of diplomatic disputes between the Landgrave and the Saxon Elector from 1614, which only ended in 1619, when the Elector was finally able to assert himself. In the same year Schütz published the Psalms of David , which he dedicated to his sovereign (Johann Georg), and married Magdalena Wildeck. They had two daughters. Anna Justina died at the age of 17. Euphrosine Schütz was born in 1623 and married the later mayor of Leipzig, Christoph Pincker . Their daughter Gertraud Euphrosine had no children herself.

As Kapellmeister Schütz was in charge of the members of the court orchestra, which consisted of singers and instrumentalists. With her he was responsible for all music at court: spiritual and secular, for entertainment and worship as well as for political representation. Unfortunately, his dramatic secular works (Singspiele and ballets), of which only the texts were usually printed, have been lost.

Heinrich Schütz 1627, the year Dafne was created

Thirty Years' War

In 1618 the Thirty Years War broke out, the devastating effects of which not only cost the lives of a third of the German population, but also caused the almost complete collapse of all cultural life. Schütz himself wrote about how "the laudable music of the continuing dangerous war runs in our dear father-country, the German nation, are not only in great decline, but have been completely put down in some places" . He had to considerably reduce his demands on performance practice and instruments, "so that my God-given talents in such noble art do not remain entirely obsolete, but only want to create and present a little" (dedication preface of the first part of the Small Sacred Concerts , Leipzig, 1636) . There were also repeated epidemics of the plague. After the early death of his wife in 1625, Schütz did not remarry. In order not to lose touch with the latest achievements in music, Schütz visited Venice and its surroundings for the second time in 1628, where he stayed for over a year. That he met Claudio Monteverdi is conceivable, but not certain. There he heard new theatrical music and received significant new impulses for his work. The first part of his Symphoniae sacrae , which he published after his return in 1629, is evidence of this stay. The so-called protective today lived from 1629 to 1657 in Dresden on Neumarkt 12, Quartier V . However, the Dresden band already had such great difficulties in supplying and paying its members during those years that Schütz kept looking for jobs outside of Dresden.

A forgery made around 1930 - probably for the Schütz anniversary in 1935 - which Heinrich Schütz allegedly portrayed in 1670.

So he was happy to be able to accept twice an offer from King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway to conduct the music at large wedding celebrations. From 1633 to 1635 and from 1642 to 1644 he worked in Copenhagen as the Danish chief conductor. Schütz also worked as a musical advisor to the royal courts in Hanover , Wolfenbüttel , Gera , Weimar and Zeitz . On the occasion of the funeral service for his sovereign Heinrich Posthumus Reuss he composed the musical exequies in 1635/1636 . In 1636 he published the first part of his Little Sacred Concerts in Leipzig , which he had a second part follow in 1639. His publishing activities reached their peak at the end of the 1640s: the second part of the Symphoniae sacrae appeared in 1647, the sacred choral music in 1648 and the third and final part of the Symphoniae sacrae in 1650 . His requests for retirement, which he had repeatedly submitted since 1645, were all rejected by Johann Georg I; only after his death in 1656 did his son Johann Georg II Schütz allow him to retreat to a large extent. As the “oldest” conductor, Schütz kept his title until the end of his life.

Late years

The completely renovated Heinrich-Schütz-Haus Museum in Weißenfels / Saxony-Anhalt opened in 2012.

Schütz spent most of his old age in his house in Weißenfels, the place where he grew up. His three passions after Luke (around 1664), Matthew (1665) and Johannes (1666) as well as his Christmas story (1664) date from this time . His last work is the complete setting of the 119th Psalm (1671), divided into eleven motets , followed by a setting of the 100th Psalm and a German Magnificat . Psalm 119 is the longest in the Bible, and the entire work is consisted of two choirs. Since it was supposed to be his last composition - which he himself wanted - the work is also commonly called swan song . Schütz died at the old age of 87 in Dresden. He was buried in the old Frauenkirche in Dresden . When it was demolished in 1727, his grave was also lost. A memorial ribbon embedded in the church floor in today's Frauenkirche commemorates this first German musician of European standing.

In October 2010, during the renovation of the Schütz residential building in Weißenfels, two text fragments from a no longer preserved composition were found, in which Psalm 10 is set to music. The fragments date from between 1650 and 1660.

Musical creation

Title page of the
Psalms of David

Heinrich Schütz is considered the most important German composer of the early Baroque. Although initially trained as an organist, following early madrigals in Italian, he mainly composed sacred vocal music, partly to Latin, but especially to German texts. His music was intended for court services, but above all for courtly entertainment and representation as well as for documenting his own compositional art. Schütz saw the provision of music for extraordinary occasions such as large court festivals or political events as his main official duty.

The difficult living conditions resulting from the encounter of the Thirty Years' War, epidemics and social upheaval contributed to Schütz, who initially entered a glamorous court and led a happy family life until the early death of his wife, later his life as an "almost painful existence" described. However, these experiences were only partially reflected in his works.

Schütz introduced the new concert style, originating from Italy, with obbligato figured bass in Germany and combined it with German Bible prose. His masterful “translation” of German texts into music - here Schütz was able to fall back on his experience with the Italian madrigal - has always fascinated his audience. In addition to biblical prose (with special preference for the psalms ), Schütz rarely set rhyming or even strophic texts to music, also because he missed German poetry based on the Italian madrigal and was unable to write such texts himself. Nevertheless, Schütz worked with well-known poets; the collaboration with Martin Opitz led to the creation of the pastoral comedy Dafne , although it is not certain whether it was a thoroughly composed opera or a play with music.

A singular example of Schütz's analysis of the "today's Italian manner [...] of the astute Mr. Claudii Monteuerdens" is his concert "Es ist Gott auf" (SWV 356) from the second part of his Symphoniae sacrae (1647, quotation from the preface) .

In addition to the style with figured bass, Schütz also cultivated the older figured bassless style and valued it as the basis of all composing. This is shown not only by his madrigals, but also by the motets of the Cantiones sacrae from 1625 as well as the sacred choral music from 1648. It is precisely the fusion of both styles, the work with elements of the concert as well as with elements from the motet and madrigal, and the virtuoso handling of them the vocal parts as well as the obligatory instruments and the variable handling of the most diverse line-ups (from a single-part small concert to multi-choir, sonorous works) are among the composer's special achievements, which his contemporaries recognized.


During his lifetime, Schütz was known as parens nostrae musicae modernae , ie “father of our [d. H. of German] modern music ”. Wolfgang Caspar Printz mentions in his music history, published in 1690, that around 1650 Schütz was considered to be “the very best German composer”. On his tombstone he was described as “the most outstanding musician of his century” (saeculi sui musicus excellentissimus) . Schütz's students include David Pohle , Matthias Weckmann , Johann Theile , Adam Krieger , Johann Vierdanck and Sophie Elisabeth von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel . Despite the esteem of his contemporaries, he was forgotten for around 200 years after his death.

Schütz was first mentioned in more detail in 1834 in Carl von Winterfeld's monograph on Giovanni Gabrieli . From 1870, the Leipzig choir director Carl Riedel performed works by Schütz, especially his Passions and the Seven Words , in his own arrangements and thus made them known to a larger audience. Franz Liszt campaigned for the reprint of Schütz's works. At the beginning of the 1880s, Arnold Mendelssohn performed several choral works in Bonn at the suggestion of Friedrich Spitta . Also Johannes Brahms has some works by Schütz performed in Vienna. In 1885, Philipp Spitta began to publish Schütz's collected works for the first time.

A more intensive Schütz care, however mainly focused on the motets of the sacred choral music , began in the 1920s. The consequence was u. a. In 1922 the first, short-lived Heinrich Schütz Society was founded. It was followed in 1930 by a Neue Schütz-Gesellschaft , which was later renamed and still exists today as the "International Heinrich Schütz-Gesellschaft" (ISG) based in Kassel. With annual Heinrich Schütz Festivals or Heinrich Schütz Days, this promotes the dissemination and understanding of the music of Schütz and his time. One of the co-founders, Hans-Joachim Moser , published his first biography about Schütz in 1936, after Erich Müller had arranged for an edition of Schütz's writings and letters in 1931. In 1955 the ISG began to publish a new edition of all works ( New Schütz Edition ), of which 37 volumes are now available (as of December 2016). In 1979 the ISG began to publish a Schütz yearbook , which contains important essays on the music of Schütz and his time. At the same time, the GDR record company Eterna made the first complete Schütz recording. Protagonists such as Peter Schreier and Theo Adam , the Dresdner Kreuzchor under Rudolf Mauersberger (after his death under Martin Flämig) and the Capella Fidicinia Leipzig under Hans Grüß already recorded all the great cyclical works in the late 1960s and early 1970s, made music on historical ones Instruments. This edition must be seen as a pioneering achievement.

Stamp pad of the GDR (1985) for the 400th birthday of Schütz and 300th birthday of Bach and Handel

In addition to the New Schütz Edition , the Stuttgart Schütz Edition , edited by Günter Graulich, is also published , which also meets practical performance needs. Accompanying this, a complete Heinrich Schütz recording is being made under the overall artistic direction of Hans-Christoph Rademann and in a cooperation between the Dresden Chamber Choir , Carus-Verlag Stuttgart and MDR Figaro. The Italian harpsichordist and conductor Matteo Messori has also presented an extensive Schütz edition on CD with the “Cappella Augustana” ensemble, but it does not include all works.

In the 1980s, on the occasion of Heinrich Schütz's 400th birthday , the house in which he was born in Bad Köstritz was transformed into a research and memorial site and officially opened as Heinrich Schütz House on October 15, 1985. Headed by Ingeborg Stein , it was the first international scientific address exclusively in honor of Schütz. Supporters of the Heinrich-Schütz-Haus Bad Köstritz founded the Schütz-Akademie e. V.

The Heinrich Schütz Archive in Dresden was founded in 1988 by Wolfram Steude . His former home became the Heinrich Schütz House . In 1990 the asteroid (4134) Schütz was named after him. The important Central German life and work stations (Bad Köstritz, Weißenfels, Kassel, Dresden) are still connected with Heinrich Schütz: There is a Heinrich Schütz House in Weißenfels . The Heinrich Schütz Music Festival is an annual festival of early music in honor of the composer.

The South African Heinrich Schütz Society (based in Bloemfontein) organizes a choir week every year under the direction of a choir director or cantor who has traveled from Germany. An average of 120 to 150 singers and musicians take part in these SAHSG meetings.

Memorial days


Neumarkt 12, Dresden, Heinrich Schütz memorial plaque
Heinrich Schütz stele by Berndt Wilde in Dresden

There are two monuments in Bad Köstritz . The older one is located below the church on Kirchberg. The second memorial is on Heinrich-Schütz-Strasse opposite the Heinrich-Schütz-Haus . It was created in 1985 by Berndt Wilde and consists of three relief panels. The struggle between the forces of good and evil in the time of Heinrich Schütz is shown in three pictures. It is about the opposites of love and suffering as well as life and death.

In Dresden, not far from the Zwinger, in the green area west of the Zwingerteich, a stele erected in 1985 reminds of Schütz's work in Dresden. Berndt Wilde created this monument in 1972, which consists of a sandstone stele on which bronze panels are depicted with scenes from Schütz's time. On Heinrich Schütz's house ( Neumarkt 12), which was rebuilt in 2008 and where the composer lived from 1629 to 1657, an original plaque commemorates his life and work. The memorial plaque was buried under the rubble of the house on the night of February 13-14, 1945 , then recovered and stored in the Heinrich Schütz Chapel until the house was rebuilt in 2008 by Martinshof Rothenburg Diakoniewerk. The operator of the "Heinrich Schütz Residenz" had the memorial plaque restored and attached to the old square.



  • I am a calling voice, Heinrich Schütz on his 400th birthday . DEFA studio for documentary films, group effect , 1985, television of the GDR. Actors: Peter Pauli, script: Andrea Klonower, Thomas Kuschel, director: Thomas Kuschel, camera: Peter Milinski, production: Ulrich Möller
  • Heinrich Schütz - The father of German music . A film by Jörg Kobel. Arthaus Music, 2015

Web links

Commons : Heinrich Schütz  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Rifkin 1987, p. 5
  2. Walter Haacke: Heinrich Schütz: Description of his life and work. Karl Robert Langewiesche successor, Hans Köster, Königstein im Taunus o. J.
  3. Steude 1986, pp. 58-61.
  4. Under old wooden floorboards. In: Sächsische Zeitung of May 5, 2011.
  5. Gerald Drebes: Schütz, Monteverdi and the "Perfection of Music" - "God stands up" from the "Symphoniae sacrae" II (1647). In: Schütz-Jahrbuch , Vol. 14, 1992, pp. 25-55. (online) ( Memento of the original from March 3, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.gerald-drebes.ch
  6. Wolfgang Caspar Printz : Historical description of the noble singing and Kling art . Mieth, Dresden 1690, p. 136 ( digitized version in Google book search).
  7. ^ Hans Joachim Moser : Small German music history - Heinrich Schützen school.
  8. International Heinrich Schütz Society
  9. Dresden Chamber Choir. Retrieved June 13, 2018 .
  10. MusicWeb International: Protection Edition Messori BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94361 [JV]: Classical Music Reviews - August 2012 MusicWeb-International. Retrieved June 13, 2018 .
  11. ^ Wolfram Steude: The Heinrich Schütz Archive. In: Contributions to musicology . Issue 3/1989. Published by the Association of Composers and Musicologists of the GDR. Verlag Neue Musik Berlin (East), pp. 207 f.
  12. Minor Planet Circ. 16043
  13. Heinrich Schütz at Glaubenszeugen.de
  14. a b Heinrich Schütz in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
  15. The tablet was buried in 1945 and was stored in the Heinrich Schütz Chapel of the Kreuzkirche Dresden until 2008. After extensive restoration, it can be seen again in its old location. It is one of the authentic Heinrich Schütz monuments in Dresden.
  16. ^ Ingeborg Stein: Heinrich Schütz and Köstritz. Quartus-Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-931505-76-6 , p. 86.
  17. ^ Art in public space . Information brochure of the state capital Dresden, December 1996.