Sunday, April 24, 2011

Music for the Festival of Christ's Resurrection – excerpt from Auferstehungshistorie, by Heinrich Schütz

Resurrection of Christ, by Albrecht DürerThroughout Holy Week, we shared recordings of liturgical music composed by masters of the Late Renaissance and Baroque periods – Heinrich Schütz and Johann Sebastian Bach. As composers for the Lutheran church in Germany, their output of liturgical music was not only prolific, but highly influential both within and outside the church. Bach, still considered to be the greatest composer in Western history, was a fiercely orthodox Lutheran who endeavored to embody his confession within his art, and to do so with fidelity, often consulting his substantive theological library for this purpose. Schütz, considered the most important German composer second to Bach, wrote almost exclusively for the Lutheran church. He masterfully wedded his musical compositions with the German language, the purest manifestation of which, for him, was Martin Luther's translation of the the Bible. Even though his compositions may seem "stark" in comparison to Bach's, he maintained fairly strict fidelity to the very words of the text, rarely straying from it for the sake of explanation or poetic expression. Unlike musical compositions of today, the sacred works of these composers were not intended for the entertainment of the masses, but as liturgical devices for use within the church – as liturgical proclamations of the Gospel, the words of the liturgy, including the lessons, being set to music so that they could be sung, or chanted. A very fitting practice for "The Singing Church."

It had been the historic practice of the Lutheran church to hold services every day during Holy Week, and thus through the week to present the Passion account from the perspective of each of the Evangelists. Since it was also the practice to chant these Gospel lessons, these Passion accounts needed to be set to music. Both Heinrich Schütz and Johann Sebastian Bach composed liturgical music for each of the Passion accounts, some of which we shared last week. On Monday of Holy Week, in Part 1 of our "Music for Holy Week" series, we provided a brief biography of these composers, including some details indicating their importance to Lutheran liturgical music and its resulting impact, and we invite the reader to visit that post for further information in this regard. Also on Monday, we presented excerpts from performances of compositions by Bach and Schütz which set the Passion account of St. Matthew to music, for sake of recitation by the congregation's appointed liturgists. On Tuesday of Holy Week, we shared excerpts from Bach's composition of St. Mark's Passion account. On Wednesday of Holy Week, we posted a complete recording of Schütz's Johannes Passion. On Maundy Thursday, we again posted excerpts from both Bach and Schütz – their compositions of the Passion account according to St. Luke. Finally, on Good Friday, we featured excerpts from Bach's Johannes Passion, along with the entirety of Heinrich Schütz's Die Sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz.

The Divine Service falling on the Festival of Christ's Resurrection would also have a Gospel lesson, which would also be chanted and which would therefore also require a musical setting. This morning we offer to you, dear reader, an excerpt of one such setting composed by Heinrich Schütz: Auferstehungshistorie – the Biblical account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Excerpt from Schütz’s Auferstehungshistorie
I personally enjoy this Martin Flämig recording of Schütz’s Auferstehungshistorie.


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