Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)

This very brief motet in Schütz’s collection Geistliche Chormusik was composed for the Fifth Sunday of Epiphany.  In Matthew 13 Jesus offers a series of agricultural parables dealing with the competition between seed, good and bad, the preparation of the ground, the field as a metaphor for the struggle of forces on earth and in heaven.  In his first telling of the story of the planting of the wheat field, undermined by the “enemy’s” seeding it with tares (poisonous weeds), Jesus seems to be saying: don’t destroy the whole field because of this threat, burn the trees separately, save the wheat.  The final sentence of the parable is set here by Schütz.  (Later, asked to interpret the parable further, Jesus extends the metaphor of the burning of the tares to make it stand for the Last Judgment.) It is interesting to hear, in the delivery of this positive message, how artfully Schütz delays resolution until the final sonority.

©John Harbison

Back to Other Notes & Translations