NOTES BY ARTHUR F. EDWARDS
Los Angeles Master Chorale
Alma redemptoris mater, the Marian antiphon for the Advent and Christmas seasons, shows Palestrina at his simplest and most effective. In contrast, Surge, illuminare, Hierusalem is in a mood of Venetian splendor. Schütz's chorus of the angelic host is a direct musical descendant.
Cristóbal de Morales, described by Bermuda as "the light of Spain in music," is represented by a treble motet of peculiarly Spanish incandescence (found in manuscript in the Valladolid, Santiago Codex). Part of its effect is due to the altitude of the second soprano part, a compositional device often found in Spanish music.
Chantez gayement (Psalm 81) is the thirty-eighth of forty-three compositions contained in the posthumous Livre quatrieme et conclusional des Pseaumes de David (1621). The sprightly and very Protestant madrigal-like setting is based on the tune as found in the Geneva Psalter of 1562.
The instrumental Canzona per sonare No. 2 is from Canzoni per sonare con ogni sorte di stromenli a quattro, cinque & otto con il suo basso generate per l'organa, novamente racconte da diversi eccellentissimi musici, published in Venice in 1608 by Alessandro Raverij. It is an excellent example of the foundation upon which Schütz was to build for sixty years.
Michael Praetorius's setting of the ancient German macaronic (bilingual, i.e., alternate use of Latin and German texts) carol is from Musae Sioniae, Part II, published in 1607. The prefatory chorale harmonization is by J.S. Bach.
Aurelio Bonelli, although possibly born in Parma, is mainly known as a musician and artist in Bologna. The Toccata, fancifully subtitled Athalanta, is from Il primo libra de Ricercari et Canzoni . .. e doi Dialoghi a Otto, which was published in Venice in 1602 by Angelo Gardano. The title refers to a festal piece (usually for trumpets and timpani) popular in the early Renaissance, rather than the keyboard toccatas becoming popular in Bonelli's time. The repetition at the end of the first section is similar to the same device in the Gabrieli Canzona.
It should be noted that with the exception of Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), all the major influences of Schütz's formative years are represented on tonight's program.
The World of Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, . . . in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." (Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities).
Schütz grew up in the golden sunset of the Renaissance, spent his mature years on the periphery of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), and his extended old age in a strange new world rising from the ashes of the holocaust.
He was the inheritor of an extraordinary era of musical creativity. Lassus (Munich) and Palestrina (Rome) died in 1594 when Schütz was nine years old. His teacher, Giovanni Gabrieli, died in Venice in 1612, as did his predecessor in Dresden, Hans Leo Hassler. His older contemporaries, Michael Praetorius (Wolfenbuttel) and Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck (Amsterdam) both died in 1621. Upon his return from Venice, Schütz entered the service of Landgrave Montz of Hesse-Kassel who had subsidized Schütz's studies.
ln neighboring Saxony the Elector, Johann Georg I, was in need of musical talent. After Hassler's death Michael Praetorius was serving as Kapellmeister in absentia (visiting conductor). In 1613 Schütz accompanied Landgrave Moritz to Dresden for the christening of one of the many offspring of Johann Georg. From then until 1617 Schütz was constantly being borrowed for use at the electoral court until Moritz finally bowed to the inevitable and permanently relinquished Schütz to Dresden. The prospects for the newly married Schütz seemed ideal. In the same year his friend, J. H. Schein, wrote that "The noble art of music has risen today to such excellence and height that one must doubt whether it can advance still further." Within a few years, however, Schütz was a widower, Europe was at war, and Burckhart Grossmann of Jena had to write: "There is scarcely a state, social or professional rank, community, or circle where one can find genuine love, confidence, and unity. The disturber of the peace, the devil, turns all love to hatred . . . . Noble music and its cultivators are equally scarce and despised ... Many ... esteem it so little that they derive more pleasure, eloquence, and usefulness from the yelping of dogs, the bellowing of bulls, and the braying of asses than from the most beautiful Orphic strains, or from the well-ordered heavenly choir of our late blessed Michael Praetorius."
By 1639 the number of musicians in the Dresden Kapell had shrunk from thirty-six to ten, and Schütz was on extended leave in Copenhagen. The aging composer had returned to Dresden by 1650 and was trying to reestablish the musical splendor of thirty years earlier. But there was a constant struggle over finances. In the summer of 1651 the pay of the musicians actually ceased. For almost four years his musicians had received less than three quarterly payments. His Austrian basso, Georg Kaiser, was especially bad off: "I learn that he lives like a sow in a pigsty, has no bedding, lies on straw, has pawned his coat and his jacket. ... I find it neither praiseworthy nor Christian that in a land so highly esteemed less than twenty musicians can or will not be supported, and I live in the most submissive hope that Your Electoral Highness will have a change of mind." In a later letter Schütz returns to the problem of the bass singer who again has had to pawn his clothes and threatens to run away. "It is a pity, a dire pity, that so splendid a voice should be lost to the ensemble. What difference does it make that his disposition makes him useless for much else and that his tongue requires daily to be moistened in the wine jug? Such a wide throat requires more moisture than many a narrow one." The following year Schütz regrets "that I ever devoted so much diligence, toil, danger, and expense to the pursuit of music, so little understood and respected in Germany, and that I took upon myself the directorship of this electoral court."
In 1656 Johann Georg II allowed Schütz to retire to Weissenfels to live with his sister. He traveled to Dresden three or four times a year to supervise music for special occasions, and in 1662 returned permanently to Dresden. By 1666 the wheel of fortune had again turned, and there were now fifty musicians in the electoral chapel.
Even at 81 Schütz had not lost his energy or his capacity for indignation, as he proved when he thundered in Latin: "I confess by God that I can neither perform nor wish to perform a miracle here, confronted by the credulity of the modern new world, which admires nothing but what is foreign, effeminate, childish, and foolish."
Schütz's final illness, caused by a stroke, lasted only seven hours. "He had been electoral Saxon Kapellmeister for fifty-seven years and had reached the age of eighty-seven years and twenty-nine days.
"The place and date of death, then, were Dresden, November 6, 1672." (Funeral sermon of Martin Geier)
Hans Joachim Moser, in his monumental book, Heinrich Schütz, His Life and Work, which has been the source of most of the above information, devotes his final chapter to the state of German music in 1672.
The imaginary traveler completes his diary by mentioning the German musicians of 1672: "The old giant remained to the very end the most modern of them all: but it would appear as though his renown ... had somewhat outlived itself during this period."
Moser continues as himself: "Those conflicting elements of style which were welded together in Schütz into the richest unity through the power of his personality fell apart among his successors .... And yet a secret Schützian tradition throbs on in a few - in Joh. Christoph Bach, in Buxtehude, and in Mathias Weckmann. They will transmit this ... to their pupils." (pp. 707-8) And so the stage is set for the birth of Bach and Handel, a mere thirteen years hence.
Historia of the joyful and merciful Nativity of our only Mediator, Redeemer, and Saviour JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God and of the Virgin Mary, set to music by Heinrich Schütz.
Since Schütz had only had the Evangelist's parts (voice, keyboard, and violone) printed in 1664 "to save much copying," these were thought to be the only surviving parts of the work at the time that Spitta published the works of Schütz in 1885. Through a combination of luck and perseverance, Arnold Schering found a set of parts at the University Library of Uppsala in 1908. In 1933 Max Schneider reported the discovery of sketches probably dating from 1671. Unfortunately, none of these sources contain the parts for the Introduction, which have had to be reconstructed from the surviving continuo part (a task somewhat analogous to reconstructing Pithecanthropus from a fossil jawbone). Also, the second trombone part of Intermedium V has had to be reconstructed from the sixteenth measure on.
Schütz was justly proud of his accomplishments m the Evangelist's part: "After all, the author will gladly let understanding musicians judge how far he succeeded or failed in this new ... stylo recitativo for the Evangelist, new both as regards melody and time." However, the most notable sections to the modern listener are the ten concerted numbers of the work, every one of which is in the key of F major.
"Thus we have an absolutely uniform tonality in the tonus lascivus used as Christmas tone at least since the fourteenth century. [Not by accident, five of the seven carols in the Schroeder group are al so in F. Moser refers to Joseph, Iieber Joseph mein, heard tonight as Sing with joy, glad voices lift.] Between its pillars only the festoons of the solo recitatives are allowed to sprout forth a little more freely. But even such deviations are kept within the narrowest limits. The artistic center of gravity of the work lies in the eight intermedia and the two similarly scored corner pillars, the introduction and the conclusion. During his first Venetian sojourn [1609-1612] Schütz had surely run across the concept intermedium as a class designation for the festal music pageantry of half-dramatic nature used especially in connection with wedding festivities at the Renaissance courts of upper Italy ....
"That Schütz (without, of course, aiming at stage presentation) constructed these intermedia in a thoroughly dramatic spirit, even approaching the religious folk play, is clearly indicated by the scoring, which is conceived not merely in a musically playful manner but, so to speak, in that of the folk play. This applies to both the vocal and the instrumental scoring: trombones for the high priests (four basses!), recorders for the shepherds (three altosl), trumpets for the king (bass!), strings for the angels (soprano!) and [with bassoon obbligato] for the Magi (three tenors!). The scoring was just as much in keeping with the respective stations and vocations of the characters as mantles, sheepskins, crown, swan plumage, and golden vessels would have been in connection with dramatic presentations ....
"Besides the uniformity of tonality Schütz used still another spiritual unifying element as contrasted with the wide differences of scoring and the thematic dissimilarities [which] spring from them. It indicated in the notice which occurs in connection with intermedia one, seven, and eight in the specification for the ten concerti with the organ, arranged by the author for this action .. . "Under which the Christ Child's cradle is occasionally introduced low FEFEFE in the bass]" (Moser, pp. 652-3).