Tröstet, tröstet mein Volk

Following our second rehearsal last night, I’m personally still buzzing from what was collectively felt to be a really rewarding couple of hours. From the beginning, we focused on the Schütz motets, Hodie Christus natus est (the SWV 456 setting, not 315) and Tröstet, tröstet mein Volk. These are both familiar texts associated with Christmas. The latter – from Isaiah 40:1 – perhaps less immediately so, being better known in Handel’s setting from the opening of Messiah, Comfort ye, my people. Tröstet is a fantastic example of Schütz’s (and I’m going to put this out there) unequalled ability at setting German sacred text for ensemble performance: he’s able to take the meaning of the words and set them in a fluid mixture of polyphony and homophony and actually synthesize something more meaningful. It’s very similar in terms of declamation to his madrigals – particularly the early stuff, published as the first product of his study with Giovanni Gabrieli in Venice. Jeremy spent a lot of time emphasising how the performance had to pay real attention to the contrasts in text here and to how Schütz emphasises them. The text obviously juxtaposes images of ‘comforting’ with ‘crying’ and warfare. Schütz’s harmonic approach to these is what is striking: there is no

 

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Hodie Symphoniarum sacrarum tertia pars, published in 1650 in Dresden.

Tröstet, tröstet mein Volk. Musicalia ad chorum sacrum, das ist: Geistliche Chor-Music…erster Theil, 1648