After last week’s post concerning Felix Mendelssohn’s musical depiction of the conversion of the apostle Paul, a reader sent a note to remind me of another work based on the account of the confrontation on the road to Damascus.
Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) wrote a short piece using the words of the ascended Jesus to the young Church’s chief adversary: Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich? (SWV 415). In translation, the text reads:
Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
It will be hard for you to kick against the thorns.
Scored for 14 voices plus instruments, it is a dramatic work displaying the influence of the Italian polychoral style on Schütz (read “Schütz: Baroque before Bach” for more on this aspect of his music).
Here is a recording of the work from a live performance by the Bach-Kantorei Appenzeller Mittelland, directed by Wilfried Schnetzler.