Heinrich Schutz

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Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), German composer, bridges the gap between the polyphonic schools in various regions that found their greatest expression in the unaccompanied choral music of Palestrina, Lassus, Byrd and their contemporaries, and the later accompanied contrapuntal excellence of Bach and Handel. He is considered to be the first German composer of international renown.

He was a choirboy in his local church choir, began to study law, before being persuaded to become a pupil of Giovanni Gabrieli in Venice. By 1615 he was Kapellmeister at the Elector’s court at Dresden, a post that he would hold intermittently between periods in Italy as study and the turmoil of the Thirty Years War dictated.

He wrote all forms of music of the day, mostly sacred; however there are some secular compositions, including the first German opera, “Dafne” in 1627; now lost. His three Passion settings are particularly fine, as are his psalms.

He was at home in developing the vernacular liturgical idiom of his Protestant homeland and in the evolving musical forms in Italy as expressed by Claudio Monteverdi under whom he studied.