Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630)

Johann Hermann Schein was one of the most famous predecessors of Johann Sebastian Bach as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. Like Bach he was very much interested in and influenced by the Italian music of his time, although neither of them had ever been in Italy. And the similarity goes even further: both aimed at combining the contemporary Italian style with traditional polyphony.

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 Zion spricht: Der Herr hat mich verlassen. The text is from today’s Old Testament reading: Isaiah 49: 14-16. A typical 5 voice setting by Schein, alto voice is cleverly used in a dual role – both as the lowest female voice, but also the highest male voice. The Italian manner in which Schein sets the text is, for the most part, that of early Monteverdi, giving distinct text painting to each phrase.

©Ryan Turner

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