music for the 1. Sunday of Advent – Heinrich Schütz: Rorate coeli desuper from Kleine Geistliche Konzerte II, SWV 322

by ada

Advent arrived unexpectedly quickly this year and it makes me feel somewhat betrayed. I was so busy with seriously time-consuming life events like taking – and passing – exams, changing jobs and moving between countries, that I had no time for autumn-related delights. I’m also in denial about it being winter already, so I have yet to find my usual enthusiasm for Christmas music.

Considering that I’m no fan of the music of Heinrich Schütz, his motet Rorate coeli desuper from the second book of his collection Kleine geistliche Concerte may not be the best place to start, but we all have to start somewhere. And there is nothing wrong with Schütz. He, besides being one of the most important composers in the history of Early German Baroque music and an important milestone on its – in no way linear – development, was also the composer of the first German opera, Dafne. He was excellent in so many ways I can’t count but all his merits and praiseworthy compositional accomplishments are not enough to make me not hear the modal tunes of Renaissance polyphony in his music. And I just don’t like Renaissance polyphony. I really dislike it. All those madrigals based on modal counterpoint, and such. Definitely not my thing.

And while Schütz certainly did his best to get away from prima prattica and earned his fame as parens nostrae musicae modernae totally justly exactly for doing that, he is not quite there yet. But it’s no long journey to go; only a few decades to wait until Dietrich Buxtehude nails it completely and musica poetica becomes a tool for channelling human emotions instead of being an intellectual dictionary for the practitioners of musical rhetorics.

And now, after my exhaustive attempts to make it really clear why I don’t like this piece, let’s finally listen to it. It is quite sweet, actually.

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