Historia der Auferstehung Jesu Christi (The Resurrection History) from 1623 is Schütz’s first attempt in Germanizing the Oratorio genre. This work also sets the stage for the subsequent influx of passion-oratorio compositions from German composers, most famously J.S. Bach. On two separate occasions Schüz traveled to Italy to study with the renowned composer Giovanni Gabrielli. It was here that he learned many of the Italian techniques and genres, such as opera, that he would eventually merge into a style that would come to define the German Baroque period. While The Resurrection History is a very early example of this style, it does begin to embody an Italian dramatic tone combined with an intense Lutheran piety that would come to define German music for the next century.
The Resurrection History is based on a conflation of Gospel accounts of the events following Jesus’ resurrection. This multi-sectional work features primarily a duet based texture, but is also interspersed with choral interludes, trios, and secco recitative from the Evangelist. The opening chorus of the work is in 6 parts, a ode to the late Italian Renaissance composers such as Palestrina, with mostly homophonic texture. The closing chorus of the work features a double chorus in antiphonal “cori spezzati” style. A technique that was developed at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, mainly by Giovanni Gabrielli, Shütz’s primary teacher.
While the work is much less dramatic in nature than the secular or even sacred music in Italy at this time, Schütz left a variety of performance directions that allow the performers some measure of dramatic freedom. Some examples include allowing for the a voice of the duet sections to be played on an instrument rather than sung, or even left out all together. Also, Schütz preferred that the Evangelist’s narrative be accompanied by four viols. This comes from the Italian style of Falsobordone (of the same time, but dissimilar to the Burgundian Fauxbourdon style). This allowed for some improvisatory gestures from the players.
This work can easily be compared with Schütz’s later historia, Weihnachtshistorie (The Christmas History). By the end of his life Schütz had clearly developed the German historia-oratorio style into the solidified genre found in the Christmas History. While the work would come influence many of the later German oratorios, it is very rooted in the Italian intermedi style. The Resurrection History’s recitative features a recitation tone which changes to mensural notation at cadence points. The Christmas History features a more codified notation system in the recitative sections as well as a more florid and intricate melodic line. Instrumentation methods also developed over the years separating the two works. In the later work Schütz sets specific instruments to highlight and accompany specific characters in the work, a technique that Bach would later employ in his Passions.
I chose this work for it’s greater impact on the future of German oratorio and passion composition. Both The Resurrection and the Christmas Histories compare significantly with the Passion settings of J.S. Bach, works that stand at the forefront of the most significant musical creations of all time. The Resurrection History also highlights emerging Baroque techniques while still employing many Italian Renaissance approaches to imitation and choral writing.
Joshua Rifkin, et al. "Schütz, Heinrich." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed March 25, 2014, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/45997pg10 .
Radice, Mark. "Heinrich Schütz and the Foundations of the "Stile Recitativo" in Germany." Bach. no. 4 (1985): 9-23. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41640250 (accessed March 23, 2014).
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