Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Heinrich Schutz (1585-1672)

In 1590 Schutz moved with his family to Weissenfels. In 1598 Landgrave Moritz, impressed by his musical accomplishments, took him to Kassel, where he served as a choirboy and studied music with the court Kapellmeister, Georg Otto. In 1609 Schutz proceeded to the University of Marburg to study law, but Landgrave Moritz advised him to abandon his university studies and to go to Venice as a pupil of G. Gabrieli; moreover, the landgrave provided the financial means to do this. Schutz remained in Venice for over three years, returning to Moritz's court at Kassel in 1613. The following year he was seconded to serve for two months at the electoral court in Dresden, and in 1615 the Elector Johann Georg I requested his services for a further two years. Moritz reluctantly agreed, and was obliged, for political reasons, to comply when the elector insisted on retaining Schutz in his permanent employ. As Kapellmeister at Dresden, Schutz was responsible for providing music for major court ceremonies, whether religious or political. He also had to keep the Kapelle adequately staffed and supervise the musical education of the choirboys. In 1619 Schutz published his first collection of sacred music, the Psalmen Davids, dedicated to the elector, and later that year he married Magdalena Wildeck. She died in 1625, leaving Schutz with two daughters whom he placed in the care of their maternal grandmother: he never remarried. Schutz was often absent from Dresden on his own or the elector's business, and in 1627 he was at Torgau, where his Dafne (the first German opera) was performed for the wedding of the elector's daughter Sophia Eleonora. Visits to Muhlhausen and possibly Gera were undertaken later in the year. Towards the end of the 1620s economic pressures of the Thirty Years War began to affect the electoral court. Musicians' wages fell into arrears, and in 1628 Schutz decided on a second visit to Venice, where he was able to study developments in dramatic music under Monteverdi's guidance. He returned to Dresden in 1629, but two years later Saxony entered the war and musical activities at court soon came to a virtual halt. Schutz then accepted an invitation to direct the music at the wedding of Crown Prince Christian of Denmark. He arrived in Copenhagen in December 1633 and was paid a salary as Kapellmeister by King Christian IV until his return to Dresden in May 1635. From Michaelmas 1639 Schutz was again absent from Dresden, this time for about 15 months in the service of Georg of Calenberg. On his retum he found the Kapelle further depleted and its members living in penury, and for most of 1642-44 he was again employed at the Danish court. After a year in and around Brunswick he went into semi-retirement, spending much of his time in Weissenfels, though he retained the title and responsibilities of Kapellmeister at Dresden. The end of the Thirty Years War had little immediate effect on musical conditions and in 1651 Schutz renewed an earlier plea for release from his duties and the granting of a pension. This and later petitions were ignored and Schutz obtained his release only on the elector's death in 1656. He was far from inactive during his remaining 15 years. - Malaspina Biography

Sheet music: Heinrich Schutz

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