Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) was the most important German composer predating Bach. He was most well known for his selection of choral works. His work, Musikalische Exequien (1636), was much like a Requiem Mass. Although not for the Catholic church, this piece was indeed written to be performed at funerals. It was specifically commissioned for Prince Heinrich Posthumus of Reuss by his widow. 

This extensive funeral music was written into three parts (SWV 279-281). The first section can be described as a 'concerto in the form of a German burial mass.' The second part was a double-chorus motet. The final section concluded the funeral music with a 'concerto for two choruses in which each chorus had its own words.'

Heinrich Schütz34:56

Heinrich Schütz. Musikalische Exequien


A link to the full score (SWV 279) can be found here: Nakket bin ich von Mutterleibe kommen.

The most obvious characteristic of this work that placed it in the early Baroque period was the use of multiple choruses. Other characteristics that placed this work in the Baroque include the treatment of the text, simplification of rhythm and harmonies, and the use of basso continuo. The text throughout this work was clearly leading the music and was paramount to everything else occurring. When looking at the score, it becomes noticable that the voices moved relatively at the same time with similar rhythms. The harmonies contained dissonances used to reflect the meaning of the text. The treatment of dissonance in the Baroque era was treated very carefully and was well thought-out. Schütz, however, was influenced by works of the Renaissance and Martin Luther. The use of plainchant intonations, modal associations, chorale harmonizations, and motet textures were from an older style of composition. 


I decided to compare this work to another of Schütz's works. His first Symphoniae Sacrae (sacred concerto) seemed like an obvious means of comparison to this Protestant Requiem-Concerto. The most noticable difference was in the voicing. In his sacred concerto, Schütz used a solo singer with basso continuo accompaniement and instrumental interludes. This was very different from the alteration of soloist and choir or a double-chorus motet as seen in Musikalische Exequien. The different 'movements' (as we would call them today) were also extremely short compared to the three part Requiem, in which each movement lasted 10-15 minutes each.


I decided to pick this work, because I have heard nothing quite like this Protestant Requiem-Concerto. It is a very peculiar work in that it doesn't quite exactly fit into a specific genre at this time period. It is most certainly neither a Requiem Mass, nor is it a concerto, although many characteristics of each genre is present in this work. Despite not having a specific genre, this work fits well into the early Baroque period.


Rifkn, Joshua, et al. "Schütz, Heinrich." Grove Music OnlineOxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed February 24, 2014.

Schütz, Heinrich. "Heinrich Schütz. Musikalishe Exequien" (video). Accessed Feburary 24, 2014.

Schütz, Heinrich. "Heinrich Schütz - Symphoniae Sacrae I, Op. 6" (video). Accessed February 25, 2014.

Schütz, Heinrich. "Nakket bin ich von Mutterleibe kommen." Musikalische Exequien.

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