Historia (music)

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A historia or history (from the Latin historia "story") is a form of Lutheran church music that was widespread in the 17th century , in which the gospels of high feast days were musically arranged in the style of responsorial chants or sacred concerts .


Historia referred to the antiphons and responsories of the Liturgy of the Hours of a day in the late Middle Ages , presumably because they were taken from the life story of the respective saint. Since the middle of the 16th century, compositions based on the responsorial Passion , in which biblical narratives were set to music with changing line-ups, have been created. The histories were often performed in festive and prayer services.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church took over from the Catholic Church the concept of a fixed pericope order for the church year , i.e. a binding definition of the scriptures for the individual Sundays and holidays. The Sunday Gospel was initially sung in the form of simple melody models ( lesson tones ).

After the setting of Bible texts in the vernacular was initially limited almost exclusively to psalm texts , parts of the gospel were composed for the first time as German gospel sayings towards the end of the 16th century . Andreas Raselius (1594), Christoph Demantius (1610), Melchior Vulpius (from 1612) and Melchior Franck ( "Gemmulae Evangeliorum" , also known as "German Gospel Sayings for the Church Year", 1623) published choir cycles ( Gospel years ) in which for each a whole church year for every Sunday and public holiday a central excerpt from the respective pericope text was composed as a gospel saying. When a gospel verse was performed at that time, most of the gospel reading probably took place in the lesson tone, and the gospel verse was inserted at the appropriate point (as figural music).

The history was created as a particularly festive presentation of the gospels for the highest holidays of the church year: the resurrection history at Easter , the history of the birth of the Savior at Christmas and, in a simpler form, the history of suffering and death ( passion history ) on Good Friday . Other histories have remained isolated. In the history of church music, however, a history is generally understood to be “any composition of a larger and coherent biblical narrative, regardless of style and form”. The term did not appear until the end of the 16th century and was mainly used in the Protestant area.

The increasing division of the sung text into different roles and an increase in expression and scoring meant that history as an independent genre lost its importance in the course of the late 17th century and led to the tradition of the oratorio . History and gospel verse can thus be seen as archetypes of the cantata and oratorio. In the case of the cantata, the performance no longer takes place instead of the gospel , but rather afterwards, the texts are longer and not limited to reading texts, the form is divided into several parts, the inclusion of instruments becomes the rule.

In the course of the renewal movement of Protestant church music after 1920 , interest in history reawakened. The newly created works were often referred to with the German word “Geschichte”, sometimes also - despite the a cappella cast - as an “oratorio”. Examples are The Christmas Story by Hugo Distler (1933), the Christmas Oratorio by Kurt Thomas and works by Karl Michael Komma .

Important composers and works

  • “Easter joy of the victorious and triumphant resurrection” (around 1562 or later) - resurrection history
  • "The reception u. The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . after Lukas and Matthaeus ”(1602), six parts - Christmas history
  • "Historia of the happy and victorious resurrection of our one Savior and Savior Jesus Christ" - resurrection history (1623, SWV 50)
  • " Historia of the Birth of Christ " - Christmas History (1664, SWV 435)
Heinrich Schütz also describes all three passions as Historia: St. Matthew Passion (1666), St. Luke Passion (around 1653), St. John Passion (1665/66), literally: "Historia of suffering and dying ... Jesus Christ ..." . "Of the larger individual works that Heinrich Schütz created, five have the designation 'Historia' in the title".
  • “It came to pass at that time” - Christmas story
  • "And since the Sabbath had passed" - Resurrection History (around 1660)


  • Irmgard Scheitler: German-language oratorio libretti. (Contributions to the history of church music 12) Paderborn: Schöningh 2005 ISBN 9783506729552 , p. 65ff ( digitized version )
  • Jochen Schmedes: Thomas Selle and the biblical histories in the 17th century. Diss., University of Munich, 1992.

Individual evidence

  1. Friedrich Blume : History of Protestant Church Music. Kassel 1965, p. 119.
  2. see e.g. B. Facsimile in: Bruno Grusnick (Ed.): Heinrich Schütz, new edition of all works. Volume 2. Kassel 1957.
  3. ^ Foreword by Kurt Gudewill to: Heinrich Schütz, New edition of all works. Volume 2. Kassel 1957.