Heinrich Schütz, Da pacem domine (Peace is what we need, o Lord), SWV 465

The official music for the Mühlhausen Kurfürstentag of 1627

 

As a 'Chapel master' of the Court of the Elector of Saxony, Heinrich Schütz was responsible for all 'official' music: both for the Church and the Court. BTW: Very often Church and Court 'merged'. During the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) the Elector of Saxony tried to mediate, although he was Protestant. One of the last possibilities to avoid a 'total war' in Germany, was the Mühlhausen Kurfürstentag of october/november 1627. There the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Ferdinand of Austria (Habsburg), met with his most powerful German Princes, the Prince-electors. On the image below you see the seven Electors around 'their Lord and Master', the Emperor.

 

the Emperor and the Electors

 

 

The event took place in Mühlhausen, a Freie Reichsstadt (republican self-ruled membercity of the Holy Roman Empire). As the court composer of Johann Georg I (the Prince-elector of Saxony) Schütz had to provide the music for the event. Lots of performances of 'table-music', ballets etc. No single note of this music is transmitted to us. What we have though, is the official music played at the arrival of the Emperor and the Princes, or at least: at a Church Service where they were present, most likely at the beginning of this 'Political Summit', which was going to decide about war and peace in Germany. Many practical arrangements of 'living together while religiously separated' were at the agenda, one of the most tricky issues: the roman-catholic convents and cloisters in protestant areas. If one could reach an agreement, peace, or at least a cease-fire might be possible. Marienkirche Muhlhausen

 

The music performed at the Opening-Ceremony of this Kurfürstentag is still extant, although the original autograph was destroyed in the Second World War (Library at Kaliningrad (Is this correct?). In 1893 Philippe Spitta had published it in his Schütz Edition. Also extant is the 'Register of those persons from the [company of ] musicians who could be taken along to Mühlhausen both for attendance on days with church services and at table'. This list contains the names of 18 musicians. Also extant is Schütz' dedication of the piece (in Latin) and an instruction about the way the motet should be performed. [I copie these below]. Taken all this info together we can imagine the scene. The church will have been the 'Marienkirche' (St. Mary's). At the beginning of the Service Schütz's motet is performed. There are two choirs, of which choir I should consist of five viola's ((da gamba) and as Schütz suggests: one part or maximum two should also be performed vocaliter (sung), but 'quietly' [submisse]. This choir sings,  the Old Latin prayer for peace:

 

Da pacem, Domine, in diebus nostris

Quia non est alius

Qui pugnet pro nobis
Nisi tu Deus noster.

 

Schütz suggests that the second choir could be placed elsewhere in the church, quite a normal practice in those days. Remember Schütz is a student of Gabrieli (poly-choral music in the San Marco). Schütz-biographer, Martin Gregor-Dellin, even suggest: in the Hall of the Church, hailing the 'arrival' of the 'men in power', the Princes (or their Representatives) and the Emperor. [The Elector of the Pfalz (Palatine) is not mentioned, he was disgraced and lived in exile in The Hague]. They should sing with full voice but gracefully:

 

Vivat Moguntinus, - Mainz
Vivat Coloniensis, -
Cologne
Vivat Trevirensis,  -
Trier
Vivant tria fundamina pacis. 
(= the three Founders of Peace)
Vivat Ferdinandus, Caesar invictissimus. -
Emperor
Vivat Saxo,
- Saxony
Vivat Bavarus, -
Bavaria
Vivat Brandenburgicus
- Brandenburg
Vivant tria tutamina pacis.
(= the three Peace keepers)
Vivat Ferdinandus, Caesar invictissimus.

 

The effect will have been quite impressive: One hears the continuous prayer for peace, embedded in the sound of the consort of violas-da-gamba, a 'humane' sonority which has no equal in the modern instrumentarium, but coming from 'far', from the Choir of the Church, where the Altar is, while the festive 'vivats' fill the Church, perhaps enforced by the sound of trumpets or trombones. In the end however only the prayer remains, because in the final part Choir I and II join forces in one: Da pacem domine, in diebus nostris. 

In this video I tried to evoke this using a 'text-overlay' while Cantus Cölln and Musica Fiata perform this motet. In my humble opinion Heinrich Schütz also tried to deliver a message to the 'men in power'. Just listen and you will feel it.

 

 

summer 2017, Dick Wursten  (https://dick.wursten.be | https://bach.wursten.be) 

 

NOTE:

DEDICATION (in Latin) This text closely mirrors the text of the motet.

Grant peace, Lord. And long live Ferdinand, the most unconquerable emperor: the most holy men of Mainz, Trier, Cologne: the most glorious men of Bavaria, Saxony, Brandenburg: the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire—seven most august men, gods of our Germany, blessed tutelary deities, bringers of peace! Heinrich Schütz, Kapellmeister of the Most Serene Elector of Saxony, wishes, and expresses his wish with nine voices, that these men may, with the protection and help of God most high and everlasting, with the Temple of Janus firmly closed (i.e. there is no war, DW), establish and secure altars of peace and liberty in imperial Mühlhausen.

[in German]
Ordinance of this piece: Primus Chorus for five voices [5. Vocum], performed by five viols, to which one or two voices can sing quietly [submissè]:
Secundus Chorus is for four singers which articulate the text with elegant grace [gratiâ], and otherwise sing fully. It is also possible to have this choir set up separately from the first.

[original: "welche die Wort mit feiner gratiâ aussprechen und sonst stark singen, und kan dieser Chor Von dem ersten absonderlich gestellet werden".