Advent Calendar Day 4 – Herzlich lieb hab ich dich o Herr (Schütz)

One disadvantage in putting together this advent calendar is the undoubted fact that I know nothing about liturgy and the lectionary. Other than my general Advent policy of all Mary, all the time, and a vague notion that penitential texts are called for, I don’t actually know which texts are appropriate, so I constantly have my ears pricked for hints.

Anyway, someone on my friendslist helpfully mentioned in passing that Psalm 18 is commonly read for the second Sunday in Advent. Score! Except that I don’t actually know any settings of Psalm 18 off the top of my head.  Not such a score… Fortunately, I am entirely shameless in my pursuit of Advent music, and have absolutely no hesitation in getting on Google and searching ‘Psalm 18 Bach’ ‘Psalm 18 Mendelssohn’ ‘Psalm 18 Handel’ ‘Psalm 18 Schutz’ until something comes up…

I hit the jackpot on ‘Schutz’, with more entries than I could poke a stick at. On closer inspection, this turned out to be because the word ‘schutz’ actually means refuge in German, and this particular psalm is all about the Lord being one’s help and refuge, so ‘schutz’ comes up pretty often. Still, if my name meant something interesting, I’d be composing music with that word in it all the time. On this principal, I tried ‘Psalm 18 Heinrich Schütz’ (yes, with umlaut this time), and voilà! Not just Psalm 18, but Psalm 18 as an alto solo!

I always suspected Schütz was on my side.

On the other hand… I just don’t know what to make of this piece of music. I feel as though I should like it more than I do. I mean, it’s an alto solo! And it’s Schütz – the man who perpetrated that fabulous Rorate Coeli! How can it be bad? I suspect that if I spoke German better, I’d love it – it feels as though it’s doing the awesome Gibbons thing of following vocal inflections and speech rhythms, and is reminding me of a verse anthem, only without the anthem bits (this would be awesome with some choral sections).

But there is something about it, nonetheless. I can tell, because I’ve just listened to it twice in a row, and I’m fascinated enough that I’d probably listen to it a couple more times if Andrew weren’t sitting next to me, trying to not be driven insane by my musical choices.

I think I’d like to sing this sometime. But I think I will have to improve my German first.

Edited in December 17: And can I find this recording, or indeed any other with a female alto now?  Indeed I cannot!  So here is Matteo Messori singing it, and sounding very lovely and not deserving any of my resentment that he is a male alto!  (It’s actually a very lovely interpretation, I’m just sulking.)


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