August 2015

Favorite Work of August 2015



Every month one member of the Carus team introduces his/her favorite work, whether it be a choral piece, a CD, a songbook or an organ edition. The recommendation in August 2015 was contributed by Nikolai Ott.


Heinrich Schütz: Musikalische Exequien

The Musikalische Exequien were one of my first encounters with the music of Heinrich Schütz. With the exception of two or three "hits" the sacred choral music of this Dresden Music Director was new territory for me.

The Exequien were composed in 1635 as funeral music for Heinrich Posthumus Reuß, who secretly, in the previous year had had a coffin made which was inscribed with a compilation of biblical verses and texts from chorales which Schütz took as the textual basis for the Exequien . At this point in time Schütz was already an established and respected composer: two trips to Italy, the (probable) experience of encountering Monteverdi and the concomitant exposure to that composer's "Seconda Prattica," the Thirty Years War and the early death of his wife all strongly influenced his compositions. As music for a state funeral for his friend and patron, the Exequien represent Schütz's own attempt to establish a Middle German style: in the first part the composer combined the "modern" monodic traits derived from Italy together with interwoven choral settings in of the Franco-Flemish madrigal and in the two motets he employed the polychoral style of Gabrieli, his first teacher. The attempt in the funeral mass to create a total structure is thoroughly succesful: it is symmetrical in its design and experiencing the work the listener encircles the coffin twice. In terms of content and musically, the confidence which the course of this passage bespeaks, is one of the most impressive confrontations with death. The two subsequent motets, comprising parts two and three of the Musikalische Exequien , treat the text of funeral sermon and the Canticum Simeonis.

Several years have passed since I heard the piece for the first time, yet I often encounter the work: in the meantime I have often sung and once even conducted it. It is surely not an insignificant factor that it played a role in my decision to study choral music. During my work on carus music, the choir app, I had the score of the Exequien in front of me in order to prepare the choral parts for the app. And more than once I have noticed repeatedly that there are new word-tone combinations, imitation hidden in the choral parts, and harmonic turns to be discovered. Only one thing I have yet to find within this music: idleness.



Nikolai Ott studies at the "Hochschule für Kirchenmusik" in Tübingen and since November 2014 he also works in the Carus New Media Department.



Schütz: Musikalische Exequien I-III

Heinrich Schuetz composed the Musikalische Exequien SWV 279-281 for the funeral of his patron Prince Heinrich Posthumus Reuß 1635/1636. Of the three parts, which were to be performed during three...

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