Culture

Heinrich Schütz: A life of Music

This is how Dresden Elbland will celebrate the composer of the century in 2022

Heinrich Schütz
As a composer, Heinrich Schütz left behind an extensive body of work, but he kept his thoughts to himself. Foto: Wikipedia

Heinrich Schütz was an exceptional artist. The first German composer of world renown. On the occasion of the 350th anniversary of his death, Dresden Elbland is commemorating him with numerous mini festivals and individual events under the motto "Schütz22".

Who was Heinrich Schütz?

In retrospect, Heinrich Schütz was the first big German music export long before George Friedrich Handel or Ludwig van Beethoven made their international careers. The talent of the early Baroque composer was discovered early on when he was just 23 years old when Landgrave Moritz of Hesse-Kassel, known as “the scholar”, sent him to Venice on a scholarship. Under the aegis of Giovanni Gabrieli, the most renowned musical personality of the time at the transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque, Schütz learned the qualities of church music.

Gabrieli bequeathed a ring to his protégé on his deathbed, which meant that he would have liked to see him as his successor. But Schütz returned to his then adopted home of Kassel and Claudio Monteverdi became Gabrieli’s successor instead – now regarded as a pioneer of modern music theatre.

Heinrich Schütz
As a composer, Heinrich Schütz left behind an extensive body of work, but he kept his thoughts to himself. Photo: Wikipedia

Heinrich Schütz: stations in his life

In Leipzig, Schütz continued his law studies in 1613, mostly to reassure his family. They could not imagine that he would be able to gain a professional foothold in an artistic career. Landgrave Moritz saw things quite differently, though. For shortly afterwards he brought Schütz back to the Kassel court as an organist. A short time later they travelled together to Dresden, where Elector Johann Georg I also recognised the young man’s talent and asked that Schütz be allowed to stay in Saxony for a while.

The metropolis on the Elbe and Heinrich Schütz could no longer be kept apart. In 1617, at the age of 32, he was appointed official court conductor. “He held this demanding office until 1656, i.e. for 39 years. During this time, he not only left his mark on music in the Dresden court, he broadened his network and could ultimately be counted among ‘the foremost musicians in Europe’,” says Christina Siegfried, artistic director of the annual Heinrich Schütz Music Festival.

His life was dedicated to music

His work as court conductor and music teacher was completely fulfilling for him. In a letter, his sovereign lord worried that Schütz would need “a push to get married”. In 1619, the composer published a collection of sacred compositions under the title “Psalms of David”, most of which make use of multiple choirs. Now he had the right amount of headspace to look after his personal life.

Schütz married 18-year-old Magdalena Wildeck. The happy marriage lasted six years and pro-duced two children, but Magdalena died in 1625. As a widower, he concentrated on his music. The flat opposite the Frauenkirche remained the centre of his life, but Schütz travelled a great deal – even after the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War – to places including Italy and Denmark. He was present at the most important events on behalf of his Elector, for example at the Princ-es’ Days in Leipzig or the homage of the Estates in Breslau.

Thanks to Heinrich Schütz, the German language gained importance in music

The Ensemble Musica Sacra Dresden under the direction of Karl Hänsel interprets “All Eyes & Our Father” by Heinrich Schütz.

As a composer, Schütz largely dealt with biblical prose and had choirs and soloists sing alter-nately, arranging the artists in different positions in the church. It is thanks to him that the German language gained an importance in music. Because he relied little on his poetic abili-ties, he collaborated with the masters of the art. Together with Martin Opitz, he wrote the pas-toral comedy “Dafne”, whose libretto and score, have sadly disappeared.

Even during his lifetime, the composer was honoured as “parens nostrae musicae modernae”, as the father of “our” – that is, German – “modern music”. Always in search of a new formal language, Schütz died in Dresden on 16 November 1672.

It is fair to say that Schütz is to Dresden what Bach is to Leipzig, Handel to Halle and Telemann to Magdeburg.

Christina Siegfried, artistic director of the annual Heinrich Schütz Music Festival.

SCHÜTZ22 – “BECAUSE I LIVE”: Event highlights in 2022

As part of the “Schütz22” festival year, the composer will be commemorated at places where he worked under the motto “because I live”.

BAROCK.MUSIK.FEST

Barock.Musik.Festival week runs from 2-8 May around the castle chapel in the Residenzschloss Dresden with concerts, readings, exhibitions, sound installations, symposia and much more. Advance sales start on April 1, 2022.

Heinrich Schütz Musikfest 2022

The Heinrich Schütz Musikfest 2022 as a special celebratory edition – also under the motto “because I live” – will be presented from October 7th to 16th, 2022 as another central German highlight. The ensemble Vox Luminis als artist in residence will set special accents. Cooperation with the Kasseler Musiktage and the International Heinrich Schütz Festival, among others Internationalen Heinrich-Schütz-Gesellschaft ensure a creative exchange beyond city and state borders. In addition to the state capital, Torgau, the Saxon Schütz town, will also be the venue.

TORGAUER FESTWOCHENENDE

The Torgauer festival weekend takes place from October 14th to 16th with concerts at Hartenfels Castle and in the town church of St. Marien.

Five themed festivals “From Life – About Life”

The annual program also includes a total of five themed festivals “From Life – About Life” in November 2022 in the central Schütz cities of Central Germany: Bad Köstritz, Gera, Weißenfels, Zeitz and Dresden. Concerts, lectures, workshops, guided tours and sound installations are combined here to create a diverse range of offerings. Crowning glory is the Concert of the Cappella Sagittariana Dresden on November 6th in the Frauenkirche Dresden.

You can get an overview of all events on the website for the Sagittarius Year 2022.