Heinrich Schütz

Heinrich Schütz

Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), German composer, considered the greatest religious composer of the 17th century. Born in Köstritz, he studied in Venice with the Italian composer Giovanni Gabrieli from 1609 to 1612. From 1617 until his death he was music director to the court of the elector of Saxony, in Dresden. He traveled to Italy in 1628 to study the innovations of the Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi, and during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) he took extended leaves from his Dresden post, working mostly at the royal Danish court.

Schütz combined the influences of Italian music—the multiple choirs of Venice, the use of contrasting groups of instruments and voices, the solo vocal style of the newly invented opera—with his own North German heritages of vernacular Protestant church music and 16th-century counterpoint. His powerful, expressive fusion of these elements laid the ground for all German religious music of the baroque era. Among his major works are the Symphoniae Sacrae (3 vols., 1629, 1647, 1650), the Kleine geistliche Konzerte (Small Sacred Concertos; 2 vols., 1636, 1639), motets, and oratorios, all for voices and instruments; and the three late, austere Passions (1665-1666), for choir and solo voices.

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