The stunning appearance in 1624 of the Cantiones Sacrae cemented Schütz’ career as the composer who melded the German and Italian traditions. Schütz had published a massive collection of Psalm settings, written in 1619 in the style of his teacher Giovanni Gabrieli, which showed him to be the master of the Italian polychoral style. In this new collection, he adapted the Italian secular madrigal tradition to sacred Latin texts. The mastery of Italian chromatic harmony is there in these motets, but also a Germanic structural rigor that is mostly absent in the Italian models. Our motet, “O bone Jesu” is the first motet in that collection and a virtual calling card of the new manner of German motet composition. Later in his career Schütz would retreat from the mannerist language and extreme emotionalism of this collection, but he never wrote more impressive and touching motets than these marvelous pieces.

©Craig Smith

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