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G 12.035 CoverSamuel Scheidt (1587–1654)
10 Symphonies

for 2 melodic instruments (soprano or tenor recorders/violins), obbligato bass instrument (violoncello/bassoon) and basso continuo
Edited by Ulrich Thieme
Realization of the thorough bass by Eckhart Kuper

Girolamo G 12.035, score and 3 playing scores, € 24,00
ISMN 979-0-50084-059-6

sample page

G 12.034 G 12.036




Samuel Scheidt was born in 1587 in Halle on Saale, and died there in 1654. Along with Michael Praetorius, Heinrich Schütz and Johann Hermann Schein, he ranks among the major composers of the early baroque period in Germany. What all these composers have in common is that they were deeply rooted in a tradition of polyphonic vocal music originating from the Franco-Flemish school, whilst at the same time integrating into their works the then modern concertante style, supported by a thorough bass. The close proximity of their places of work in Central Germany promoted both close professional contact and personal friendship, and their respective employments required all of these musicians to compose both courtly, secular as well as sacred music.

In 1603, at the young age of sixteen, Scheidt became organist at the Moritzkirche. He subsequently went to Amsterdam from 1607 to 1609 to become a pupil of J. P. Sweelinck, but soon returned to his home town, which remained the centre of his life throughout the Thirty Years' War, and even when an outbreak of the plague hit his family.

During Scheidt's lifetime – as it had been for centuries before – Halle was the capital and residential town of the Archdiocese of Magdeburg. In 1541, the Reformation was introduced in Halle and the town was ruled from then on by a (Lutheran) Archiepiscopal Administrator. Scheidt's LXX Symphonien, of which the present publication contains a selection, are dedicated to one of these dignitaries. Scheidt's employer, the Margrave of Brandenburg and Archbishop of Magdeburg, fled from Wallenstein's advancing catholic troops in 1625, leaving Scheidt behind with the title of Hofkapellmeister, but entirely without funds, having appointed him to the office of Kapellmeister only six years previously, in 1619. In this office, Scheidt succeeded William Brade, whose consort music exerted a strong influence on him and certainly inspired him to compose his Ludi musici (1621ff.), a collection of musical pieces for viol ensemble composed for the entertainment of the court. The court did not return to Halle until 1638. An attempt at re-introducing Catholicism in Halle during the Thirty Years' War thus remained ultimately unsuccessful. However, many court chapels and town music bands throughout the Central German area had been disbanded, and many musical manuscripts had been burnt or otherwise destroyed during the wars.

These events are reflected in Scheidt's life by dismissals, re-employment, and periods of abject poverty. They are also reflected in the rather modest instrumentation and the form of publication of his works in the period after 1630. He was forced to scale down his Geistliche Konzerte (Sacred Concertos) (1631ff.) against what he had originally intended, and publish them with a reduced number of parts; likewise, the Symphonien – instrumental preludes and interludes – contained in them fell victim to the shortage of funds caused by the war.

Against this backdrop, the assumption appears plausible that Scheidt's LXX Symphonien, which were published in Leipzig in 1644 (after several unsuccessful attempts at finding a publisher), contain a number of instrumental pieces already composed several years previously. Scheidt turned necessity into a virtue by combining the harmonies in the original multi-part arrangements into a precise and densely figured thorough bass. This enabled the musicians of his time to add two or three parts to the original three-part setting depending on the situation in which the music was performed.

With his LXX Symphonien, Scheidt offers a remarkable collection of instrumental compositions, which may be selected by the player at will according to requirements, for example as a prelude or ritornello. Scheidt included ten movements in each of the common keys of the day ("durch die gewöhnliche Tonos …", see title sheet; these are C, d, e, F, G, g, a). The movements, the title sheet further states, are composed in a variety of different styles ("auff Allerley Arten Componiret"), and indeed, although all LXX Symphonien are in even meter, they could not be more diverse in compositional technique. Scheidt impressively combines conservative and modern features, counterpoint and concerto-style elements.

For the present edition, ten symphonies were selected, which represent all seven keys and a great diversity of styles. Roman numerals in brackets above the individual movements refer to the count in the 1644 print. In a short foreword, Scheidt points to a special feature of his composition, the 'double' echo, provided for in the very first composition 1 [X]: Musicians should pay special attention to the word Submissius / which I have used […] to denote the ultimate and shortest Eccho / as pian, soft / submissius, even softer, or more mysterious. ("Es wollen die Herren Musicanten das Wörtlein Submissius in acht nehmen / welches ich gebrauchet […], welches das letzte und kürtzeste stilleste Eccho ist / als pian, Stille / submissius, noch stiller oder heimlicher.")

Although Scheidt specified on the title page that the symphonies were meant primarily to be played on violins ("Vornehmlich auff Violinen zu gebrauchen"), given their 'neutral' melodic composition style, there can be no objection to them being played on wind instruments. As for the continuo instrument, Scheidt was probably thinking in terms of an organ rather than a harpsichord.

The present edition is based on the sole surviving part-books for Cantus I, Bassus and Bassus Generalis (Leipzig 1644) available in the former Danzig City Library (now Biblioteka Gdańska Polskiej Akademii Nauk), and my sincerest thanks go to this library for making the microfilm available.

This means that the Cantus II part-book is missing. Christhard Mahrenholz and Hermann Keller were confronted with the same situation as editors of the LXX Symphonien and decided to reconstruct the missing part (Samuel Scheidts Werke, Volume XIII, edited by C. Mahrenholz and H. Keller, Leipzig 1962; joint edition of "VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik Leipzig" [DVfM] and "Ugrino Verlag Hamburg"). Their profound knowledge of Scheidt's composition style and the precise figuring of the original bass line enabled them to find convincing solutions, on which the present edition relies. Mahrenholz wrote the Cantus II part in Nos. 1 and 8 in our numbering system, Keller supplemented the respective part in the remaining movements.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Vivian Rehmann of the Breitkopf & Härtel publishing company (as legal successor to DVfM) for kindly granting permission to use these versions.

Hanover, August 2014, Ulrich Thieme

Translation: Christa Lange-Rudd