Christmas Oratorio, Heinrich Schütz

(Historia der freuden- und gnadenreichen Geburth Gottes und Marien Sohnes, Jesu Christi, SWV 435)
   The most frequently performed of the oratorios of Heinrich Schü tz, first heard on Christmas Day at the Elector of Saxony’s court chapel in Dresden in 1660. The German libretto is a compilation of the birth narratives from the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew. The narration is sung to recitative in the tenor range. Schütz composed the speaking roles of the Angel (soprano), Herod (bass), the shepherds (soprano, mezzo, alto), the Magi (three basses), and Herod’s counselors (two tenors, two basses) as seven concerted pieces, mostly in strict meter, called intermedii. All of them, along with an introductory and a concluding chorus and most of the recitative, are in F major. The instrumentation of each intermedium varies to reflect the character singing. The work calls for two violins, two "violettas," one viola, one cello or viola da gamba, two recorders, two trumpets, two trombones, bassoon, and continuo and requires about 40 minutes to perform. The most recent modern critical editions are edited by Günther Graulich for the Stuttgarter Schütz-Ausgabe (1998) and Neil Jenkins for Novello (2000).

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

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