Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630)

When Bach was appointed Thomas Cantor in Leipzig in 1723, he was continuing a tradition of two centuries. Schein was in the post of Thomas Cantor from 1615 to 1630, the year he died at the age of 44. Together with Samuel Scheidt and Heinrich Schütz, he was a member of the renowned triumvirate of German composers of the first half of the 17th century. Schein was the most versatile of the three: he wrote not only religious works, but also secular songs and instrumental music. Together with Schütz, he was one of the first to introduce the innovations of the Italian baroque into Germany: the basso continuo as an instrumental basis, the monodic style and the rhetorical approach to highly emotionally- charged texts.

Schein's Israelsbrünnlein (Fountains of Israel), published in the year 1623 and dedicated to the Leipzig city government, is designated as a set of sacred madrigals for five voices. From this set of 27 short settings of psalms and other lyrical passages from the Bible, comes today’s motet Herr, laß meine Klage. In a typical 5 voice setting by Schein, the alto voice is cleverly used in a dual role – both as the lowest female voice, but also the highest male voice. Schein divides the text, Psalm 119: 169-170, into short sections, each of which has its own sound related to the text. The genius, evocative text painting of Schein is in full force in this brief motet.  Listen for the high sopranos “crying” on "klage," the impassioned plea for rescue - "erette mich," the sound of the believers lips praising – "meine Lippen sollen loben," and finally, the canon (literally meaning law) on the text "wenn du mich deine Rechte lehren" – “as you teach me your laws.”

©Ryan Turner

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