Monday, December 7, 2015

A Year's Music: Schütz's "Historia der Geburt Jesu Christi"

Dresden's Frauenkirche.
Schütz was buried in
the previous church.
Continuing until Advent 2016, I plan to listen each week to at least one musical work with some sacred or spiritual dimension, as a kind of pleasurable spiritual discipline.

The past few days I've listened again to Heinrich Schütz's "history of the birth of Jesus Christ," or simply, The Christmas Story. Schütz (1585-1672) of Dresden was a teacher of many composers and is regarded as the greatest German composer prior to Bach. His Christmas story, which probably premiered in 1660, is a lovely little piece (about 40 minutes long) which weaves together texts about Jesus' birth from Luther's Bible translation. The composer uses the tenor Evangelist the role of narrator, as Bach did later in his own work. This essay gives a good account of the background and character of the piece, concluding that once we've ODed on traditional holiday fare, it would be good to give time to music like this!

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