Cantiones sacrae (Schütz)

Cantiones sacrae (Vocal sacred music, literally: Sacred chants), Op. 4, is a collection of forty different pieces of vocal sacred music on Latin texts, composed by Heinrich Schütz and first published in 1625. The pieces have individual numbers 53 to 93 in the Schütz-Werke-Verzeichnis (SWV), the catalogue of his works. The general title Cantiones sacrae was common at the time and was used by many composers, including Palestrina, Byrd and Tallis (1589 and 1591) and Hans Leo Hassler (1591).

Cantiones sacrae
by Heinrich Schütz
Heinrich Schütz 2 cropped.png
The composer of the collection in 1627
CatalogueSWV 53 to 93
GenreSacred vocal music
Based onPrecationes by Andreas Musculus
DedicationHans Ulrich von Eggenberg
Published1625 (1625) in Freiberg

Schütz composed the motets and madrigals, based on texts from a 1553 prayerbook Precationes by Andreas Musculus, for four voices (SATB) and basso continuo. Some of the settings form groups of up to five pieces, including the expressive Passion motets, Quid commisisti, SWV 56 to 60. Cantate Domino, SWV 81, is a joyful setting of Psalm 149. The Protestant composer dedicated his work to the Catholic politician Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg. He published it as his Opus quartem. The counterpoint of the Cantiones has been regarded as unmatched in the sacred vocal works of the 17th century.


Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, to whom the composer dedicated the work, by Giovanni Pietro de Pomis, after 1625

Schütz composed the pieces during the first years of the Thirty Years' War,[1] when he was in the service of the Protestant Elector of Saxony Johann Georg I, who tried to stay neutral.[2][3] The texts are mostly taken from a prayerbook by Andreas Musculus, Precationes ex veteribus orthodoxis doctoribus, first published in 1553[4] and often reprinted.[5] Subtitled "Ex Ecclesia Hymnis Et Canticis: Ex Psalmis Deniq[ue] Davidis Collectae" (Church hymns and chants from the collection of David's psalms),[5] it is based on psalms, the Song of Songs, the Gospels, and passages by Bernard of Clairvaux,[2] "significantly designed for intimate and private devotion".[6] Some texts, then believed to be by Augustine such as meditations on the Passion, are now known to be by later writers such as Bernard and Anselm of Canterbury.[6] Schütz set the texts for four voices (SATB) and basso continuo.[2] He conceived the pieces for voices a cappella, but the publisher requested a basso part.[3][7] The basso seguente, following the lowest voice, may have been added by a pupil.[8]

Schütz published the collection as his Opus quartem (Fourth work)[3] in Freiberg in 1625: forty pieces at age forty.[6] In his foreword, he notes that the publisher "wrested" (extorsit) the accompaniment from him, while he regarded a bassus ad organum as "vain and clumsy" (vanum atq[ue] inconcinnum).[4]

Schütz dedicated the work to the Catholic Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, an influential politician, whom he first met in 1617,[2][3] when Eggenberg accompanied Emperor Ferdinand of Habsburg on a visit to Saxony.[6] The composer has been described as "universal" (katholikos), and Cantiones sacrae as his "opus ecclesiasticum primum" (first sacred work), also his first publication on Latin texts. Musicologist Matteo Messori notes:

Schütz employed the international language that united European Christendom (as well as often being the language of communication between Lutherans of different nationalities) and hence potentially addressed Christians of every faith.[6]


The collection contains forty different individual motets and madrigals with numbers 53 to 93 in the SWV. Some works form groups of a similar topic of up to five pieces, marked pars (part). One movement, the Lord's Prayer, is repeated, being part of two groups. Musicologist Volckmar-Wasch identifies the 13th piece, Heu mihi Domine, as especially sad (tristis) and the 29th, Cantate Domino (Sing to the Lord), as happy (laetus).[8]

The following table shows a sequence number, a number of groups, the SWV number, for groups the Latin term of the single part from the print, the first line of the Latin text replacing a title, a translation, an abbreviation of the text source within the prayer book and notes. The translations follow Emmanuel Music for SWV 53 to 81,[9] otherwise the recording of the Heinrich Schütz Edition by Matteo Messori.[6] For biblical quotation, the King James version is additionally supplied in the details about single pieces.

No. Group SWV Part Title English Source (and notes)
1 1 SWV 53 (Prima pars) O bone, o dulcis, o benigne Jesu O good, o sweet, o kind Jesus, Bernard[2]
2 SWV 54 (Secunda pars) Et ne despicias humiliter te petentem
3 2 SWV 55 Deus misereatur nostri, et benedicat nobis God have mercy on us and bless us
4 3 SWV 56 (Prima pars) Quid commisisti, o dulcissime puer? What have You done, o sweetest boy? Augustine[2]
5 SWV 57 (Secunda pars) Ego sum tui plaga doloris
6 SWV 58 (Tertia pars) Ego enim inique egi
7 SWV 59 (Quarta pars) Quo, nate Dei, quo tua descendit humilitas
8 SWV 60 (Quinta et ultima pars) Calicem salutaris accipiam
9 4 SWV 61 (Prima pars) Verba mea auribus percipe, Domine Give ear to my words, Lord
10 SWV 62 (Secunda pars) Quoniam ad te clamabo, Domine
11 5 SWV 63 (Prima pars) Ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat I sleep, but my heart waketh Song of Songs
12 SWV 64 (Secunda pars) Vulnerasti cor meum, filia charissima
13 6 SWV 65 Heu mihi, Domine, quia peccavi nimis Woe is me, O Lord, for I have sinned so greatly
14 7 SWV 66 In te, Domine, speravi In You, Lord, I have trusted
15 8 SWV 67 Dulcissime et benignissime Christe Sweetest and kindest Christ
16 9 SWV 68 Sicut Moses serpentem in deserto exaltavit Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert I John 3:14-15
17 10 SWV 69 Spes mea, Christe Deus, hominum tu dulcis amator Christ God, my hope, you sweet lover of humanity,
18 11 SWV 70 Turbabor, sed non perturbabor I will tremble, but not be afraid
19 12 SWV 71 (Prima pars) Ad Dominum cum tribularer clamavi In my distress I cried unto the Lord Psalm 120,1–3
20 SWV 72 (Secunda pars) Quid detur tibi aut quid apponatur tibi
21 13 SWV 73 (Prima pars) Aspice pater piissimum filium Consider, Father, your most pious son Augustine[2]
22 SWV 74 (Secunda pars) Nonne hic est, mi Domine, innocens ille
23 SWV 75 (Tertia et ultima pars) Reduc, Domine Deus meus, oculos majestatis
24 14 SWV 76 (Prima pars) Supereminet omnem scientiam, o bone Jesu Far above all the knowledge of all humanity, o gentle Jesus
25 SWV 77 (Secunda pars) Pro hoc magno mysterio pietatis
26 15 SWV 78 (Prima pars) Domine, non est exaltatum cor meum Lord, my heart is not haughty Psalm 131
27 SWV 79 (Secunda pars) Si non humiliter sentiebam
28 SWV 80 (Tertia et ultima pars) Speret Israel in Domino
29 16 SWV 81 Cantate Domino canticum novum Sing a new song to the Lord Psalm 149,1–3
30 17 SWV 82 Inter brachia Salvatoris mei In the arms of my Saviour Augustine[10]
31 18 SWV 83 Veni, rogo in cor meum Come, I ask you, in my heart
32 19 SWV 84 Ecce advocatus meus apud te, Deum patrem
33 20 SWV 85 (Prima pars:) Domine, ne in furore tuo arguas me O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger Psalm 6[2]
34 SWV 86 (Secunda pars) Quoniam non est in morte qui memor sit tui
35 SWV 87 (Tertia et ultima pars) Discedite a me omnes qui operamini
36 21 SWV 88 (Prima pars) Oculi omnium in te sperant, Domine The eyes of all look toward thee, O Lord Psalm 145:15–16
37 SWV 89 (Secunda pars) Pater noster, qui es in coelis Our father ... Lord's Prayer
38 SWV 90 (Tertia et ultima pars) Domine Deus, pater coelestis, benedic nobis God, father in heaven, bless us
39 22 SWV 91 (Prima pars) Confitemini Domino, quoniam ipse bonus O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good Psalms 105:1
37 SWV 92 (Secunda pars) Pater noster: Repetatur ut supra Our father ... Lord's Prayer (same as SWV 89)
40 SWV 93 (Tertia et ultima pars) Gratias agimus tibi, Domine Deus Pater We thank you, Lord God Father


The major influence for the compositions was the polyphony of madrigals by Palestrina. Matteo Messori, who has been conducting recordings of the complete works by Schütz, regards the counterpoint of Cantiones as "superlative and unmatched in the sacred vocal works of that century",[6] comparable only to the madrigals alla maniera italiana (in the Italian manner) from Fontana d'Israel, Israelis Brünnlein, published in 1623 by the composer's friend and Thomaskantor Johann Hermann Schein.[6] Musicologist Stephen Rose terms the Cantiones "the composer's "most impassioned pieces" and notes: "They set first-person devotional texts to avant-garde madrigalism", evoking the crucifixion by extreme harmonies and "joy in Christ by dance rhythms".[11]

SWV 53–54Edit

The collection opens with two movements addressing Jesus, based on an invocation of his name by Bernhard of Clairvoux, O bone, o dulcis, o benigne Jesu[2] (O good, o sweet, o benign Jesus), followed by Et ne despicias humiliter te petentem (And do not despise the one asking in humility).

SWV 56–60Edit

SWV 56–60 form a group of five Passion motets, set the text of Psalm 115 augmented by Augustine and later authors. The first movement is Quid commisisti, o dulcissime puer? (What have You done, o sweetest boy?) Craig Smith notes: "In richness of harmony, intensity of expression, and most importantly, the exploration of the vague, the ambiguous, and the contradictory, they are without equal," and compares them to the drama, light and shade in paintings by Caravaggio.[12]

SWV 63–64Edit

Ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat (I sleep, but my heart waketh, Song of Solomon 5:2) and Vulnerasti cor meum, filia charissima (Thou hast ravished my heart ..., Song of Solomon 4:9) are based on verses from the Song of Songs. The biblical text was slightly changed, replacing "soror mea sponsa" (my sister, my spouse) by "filia charissima" (most beloved daughter), which may reflect the composer's loss of his daughter.[6]

SWV 73–75Edit

A sequence of three more Passion motets is positioned in the middele of the collection, beginning with Aspice pater piissimum filium (Consider, Father, your most pious son).[2]

SWV 78–80Edit

Schütz composed the three verses of Psalm 131, Domine, non est exaltatum cor meum (Lord, my heart is not haughty, Psalms 131) in a group of three movements.

SWV 81Edit

Cantate Domino canticum novum (Sing to the Lord a new song, (Psalms 149:1-3) is a madrigal setting of the three verses bidding everybody who hears them to sing and play for the Lord.[13] Musicologist Volckmar-Wasch describes the mood as happy (laetus).[8]

SWV 85Edit

The penitential Psalm 6, Domine, ne in furore tuo arguas me (O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, Psalms 6) is set in one movement.[2]


After the composer's death, the collection was not as popular as his Geistliche Chormusik (Sacred choral music) for which he became known in the 20th century. Musicologists began earlier than the public to be interested in the works and their advanced composition. Carl von Winterfeldt analysed them in his monography of Giovanni Gabrieli, illustrated by musical examples. A thesis by Anna Amalie Abert was published in 1935, another by Heide Volckmar-Waschk in 2001, dedicated to the work's history, texts and analysis.[8]

Publication and recordingsEdit

After the first publication, the Cantiones appeared as part of a complete edition of the composer's works by Breitkopf & Härtel, begun by Philipp Spitta, who published a first volume in 1885, and completed by Arnold Schering and Heinrich Spitta in 1927. This edition was faithful to keys and clefs, a problem for modern performers. In 1960, Gottfried Grote published the collection in the Neue Ausgabe, transposing and with modern meter signs. A critical edition was published in 2004 by Bärenreiter, edited by Heide Volckmar-Waschk, who uses modern clefs, but shows the original clefs and retains the keys and note values.[4]

The Cantiones sacrae are part of the complete edition of the composer's works by Carus-Verlag, begun in 1992 in continuation of the Stuttgart Schütz Edition and planned to be completed by 2017. The edition uses the Heinrich-Schütz-Archiv of the Hochschule für Musik Dresden.[14] They were recorded, as part of the complete recordings of works by Schütz, by the Dresdner Kammerchor and organist Ludger Rémy, conducted by Hans-Christoph Rademann.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Heinrich Schütz: Cantiones Sacrae. Complete recordings, Vol. 5". Carus-Verlag. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Dickey, Timothy. "Heinrich Schütz / Cantiones Sacrae, motets (41) for 4 voices & continuo, SWV 53-93 (Op. 4)". Allmusic. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d "Entstehung Cantiones sacrae SWV 53 - 93" (in German). Heinrich-Schütz-Haus. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Fisher, Alexander J. (2007). "Cantiones Sacrae 1625: Lateinische Motetten für vier Stimmen und Basso continuo by Heinrich Schütz; Heide Volckmar-Waschk; Symphoniae sacrae III (1650): Die Konzerte zu sieben Stimmen (Nr. 15-21) by Heinrich Schütz; Werner Breig". Notes. Music Library Association. 63 (3): 688–690. doi:10.1353/not.2007.0014. JSTOR 4487866. S2CID 161771652.
  5. ^ a b Musculus, Andreas (1573). Precationes Ex Veteribus Orthodoxis Doctoribus: Ex Ecclesiae Hymnis Et Canticis: Ex Psalmis Deniq[ue] Davidis Collectae. Schneider Typis Voegelianis. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Messori, Matteo. "Schütz: musicus perfectissimus et universalis" (PDF). Brilliant Classics. pp. 13–14. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  7. ^ "Heinrich Schütz – Stuttgart Schütz Edition". Carus-Verlag. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d Breig, Werner (2005). "Die "Cantiones sacrae" von Heinrich Schütz by Heide Volckmar-Waschk". Die Musikforschung (in German). Bärenreiter on behalf of the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung. 58 (1): 88–90. JSTOR 41125649.
  9. ^ "Motet & Liturgical Works Notes & Translations / Heinrich Schütz". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  10. ^ Van, Isabella (2009). Mystical Love in the German Baroque: Theology, Poetry, Music. Scarecrow Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-8108-6136-7. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  11. ^ Rose, Stephen Rose (2002). "Schütz Studies Die 'Cantiones sacrae' von Heinrich Schütz: Entstehung-Texte-Analysen by Heide Volckmar-Waschk; Annäherung durch Distanz: Texte zur älteren mitteldeutschen Musik und Musikgeschichte by Wolfram Steude". Early Music. Oxford University Press. 30 (2): 286–287. doi:10.1093/em/XXX.2.286. JSTOR 3519256.
  12. ^ Smith, Craig. "Heinrich Schütz: "Passion motets," SWV 56-60 - Cantiones Sacrae". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  13. ^ "Heinrich Schütz: "Cantate Domino," SWV 81- Cantiones Sacrae". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  14. ^ "Heinrich Schütz – Stuttgart Schütz Edition". Carus-Verlag. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2014.

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