A the time Schütz
was appointed Kapellmeister at the court
in Dresden in 1617 the gospel of Easter
was performed each year in a setting
by Antonio Scandello, one of Schütz's
predecessors in Dresden. Schütz
himself performed this setting during
his first years in Dresden. It was only
in 1623 that Schütz composed his
own setting, the 'Auferstehungshistorie',
as a replacement for the Scandello.
This was was his first contribution
to the genre of the 'Historia'. The
work linked with tradition, but also
contained some significant innovations.
Schütz uses the
same text as Scandello, a compilation
of the events of Easter from the four
gospels, the so-called 'Evangelien-Harmonie'
(Harmony of the Gospels), by the Wittenberg
reformer Johannes Bugenhagen. He also
keeps the traditional recitation model,
the 'Easter tone', for the part of the
Evangelist. Scandello had set the parts
of the individual characters - Jesus,
Mary Magdalene and Cleophas - for up
to four voices. In Schütz's Historia
they are set for two, with the exception
of the part of Cleophas, which is given
to a soloist. Schütz gave the performers
the option of assigning the second part
to an instrument or omitting it altogether.
This is not the only
innovation: the basso continuo was introduced
to support the singers. And the objectivity
of the traditional Historia was eliminated
in favour of a more emotional delivery
of the events at Easter. Schütz
made use of 'Affekt' and madrigalisms
to translate the actions into music
and to express the emotions of the characters
in the story. Not only the part of the
Evangelist reflects this approach, but
also the accompaniment, for which Schütz
strongly preferred a consort of four
viole da gamba. In this way he created
a contrast between the Evangelist and
the other parts. This is underlined
by another of his suggestions regarding
the performance: he preferred his Historia
to be performed with two choirs, one
of them the Evangelist with the consort
of viols, the other the 'choir of people'.
He also wished only the Evangelist to
be seen by the audience, whereas the
other participants should be out of
In Schütz's music
the text is always central. The message
- in this case the biblical story of
Jesus' resurrection - should be communicated
as clearly as possible to the congregation.
And this is one of the strengths of
this recording: Hans-Jörg Mammel
gives an excellent delivery of the Easter
story, and the viols support him with
great sensitivity. We find here a perfect
balance between objectivity and emotion.
The parts of the soliloquents and the
tutti are performed to the same high
This disc also contains
four sacred concertos which, in one
way or another, are connected to Easter.
They start with a piece on a Latin text,
'Surrexit pastor bonus', in the Catholic
liturgy a responsory for the second
day of Easter, which refers to Christ's
passion: "The Good Shepherd is risen,
who deemed it fitting to die for his
'Weib, was weinest
du' is called a 'dialogo per la pascua'
and is a dialogue between Jesus and
Mary Magdalene after his resurrection.
'Ich bin die Auferstehung und das Leben'
was published in 1639 in the second
volume of the 'Kleine Geistliche Konzerte'.
It was probably composed for a funeral
service, and is a setting of the Gospel
of John, ch 11, vv 25-26 (I am the resurrection
and the life).
The text of the last
piece, 'Feget den alten Sauerteig aus'
(Sweep out the old leaven), is from
the 5th chapter of Paul's First Letter
to the Corinthians, which in Schütz's
time was the reading for the first day
of Easter. The apostle here refers to
the Passover: Christ is the Passover
lamb which has been sacrificed.
All these concertos are given splendid
To sum up: these are
impressive and idiomatic performances
of one of Schütz's masterpieces
and some fine sacred concertos for Easter.
Johan van Veen