Schütz Setting of the Passion Gospel for Good Friday

Anne Timpane

By Anne Timpane, Director of Music Ministries

As part of our April 14 Good Friday liturgy at noon, soloists from the St. John’s Choir will present Heinrich Schütz’s (1585-1672) setting of the passion Gospel. Although Schütz wrote in his native tongue, the swiftly moving narrative is often lost when the work is sung in German, so our account of “the passion of our Lord and Savior as it was written by John the Holy Evangelist” will be presented in English.

Schütz’s passions look back to a much earlier practice of chanting the Gospel during the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week. In his works, Schütz retained the traditional plainsong solo lines sung by the Evangelist, Christ, and Pilate, and fused them together with Italian-style polyphony for the voice of the choir.

From the simple opening chorus announcing the Gospel to the motet-like chorus of thanksgiving at the conclusion of the work, Schütz’s music, full of collective anger, impatience, and fear, captures the drama of Christ’s suffering and death in a truly masterful way.

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