Praetorius – the man behind the music

braccio_MichaelPraetoriusMusaeSioniae_1607_FULLOn Friday 6 June, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment present a programme of early baroque works in The Muses of Zion including pieces by Michael Praetorius. We take a look at the man behind the music and his role in shaping Protestant music in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Praetorius was a prolific composer best known for his nine-volume Musae Sioniae (a collection of more than 1200 chorale and song arrangements), Musarum Sioniarum (52 compositions from two to twelve parts), and Terpsichore (a book of 300 secular dances). A lot of his music was reworkings of Protestant hymns aimed to improve the relationship between Protestants and Catholics.

Praetorius was a keen traveller and made frequent visits to courts throughout Germany. When visiting these courts, he taught other Lutheran musicians how to use his music in their churches, maximising his effect on Protestant sacred music. Because he was a teacher, his scores were thoroughly annotated with guidance notes, so no one could be in doubt about how and when to perform his works! In the lead up to his death, you can hear Praetorius incorporate some elements of Italian music, specifically vivacious contrasts of vocal and instrumental sections, echo effects, and coloratura with lots of opportunities for improvisation.

Praetorius was also an articulate music scholar, and although a number of practical guides appeared around the time for amateur musicians and school teachers, his Syntagma Musicum was written for the church authorities and remains to be the go-to text for learning about 17th-century music. The work is vast and in three volumes Praetorius attempts to define the music of the church, musical instruments of the day, and genres of composition.

Take a listen to the playlist below for a sneak peek of the OAE’s programme and we’ll see you in June!

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment: The Muses of Zion
Friday 6 June
Christ Church Spitalfields
Book now


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