Composer and music historian Carl Schalk has written that “Schütz’s contribution to the shaping of the Lutheran musical tradition, particularly in his sensitive and often dramatic expression of the sense of the text in his music, cannot be overestimated.”
Yale musicologist Leo Schrade has observed that Schütz was pre-eminently a composer for vocal music:
To Schütz, music exists only in its connection with the text; music without words never did inspire him to any artistic achievement, since such a composition would be deprived of the very foundation of his music. Schütz therefore had no interest in instrumental composition. As a matter of fact, he did not compose any instrumental work that was separated from a vocal context.
For more about Schütz’s life and the influences on his compositional style, read “Schütz: Baroque before Bach.”
Schütz composed a short piece depicting a moment in the apostle Paul’s encounter with God on the Road to Damascus, Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich? Calvin Stapert provides an analysis of that work here.
The All Saints Choir has sung only two works by Schütz: Verba mea auribus percipe (based on Psalm 5:1-2) and So fahr ich hin zu Jesu Christ. This latter pieces is a setting of the fifth and final stanza of a hymn by Nikolaus Hermann (1500-1561). In translation, the text reads:
Thus I journey to Jesus Christ;
I stretch out my arm,
So I fall asleep and rest gently,
No one can awaken me,
For Jesus Christ, God’s Son
Will open the gate of heaven,
To lead me to eternal life.
Here is a performance of this motet sung by Collegium Vocale Gent conducted by Philippe Herreweghe.