Sacred Concertos and Songs by Schütz

Christoph Spätner, Heinrich Schütz, c. 1660

Preliminary Acknowledgment

These fourteen pieces by the confessional Lutheran composer Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) were recently performed by Ensemble VIII. I was graciously given the opportunity to work with these lyrics in connection with this concert, for which I hereby express my deepest gratitude to the ensemble’s board of directors. I also wish to acknowledge the lovely performances by the ensemble’s singers and instrumentalist. The texts and translations below follow the order in which they were presented in the concert, under the headings Love, Lament, Deception, and Desire.

As usually happens with work like this, not only was my love for my Savior Jesus strengthened, but I grew in my ability to express it with greater breadth, profundity, and consonance with my Christian forebears. My prayer is that readers of this post will experience the same benefit.

SWV 308 – O Jesu, nomen dulce


This text of unknown authorship was adapted from Bernard of Clairvaux’s sermon series on Solomon’s Song of Songs, especially Sermon 15 (c. 1137 AD) on the name of Jesus: “But the name of Jesus is not just light; it is also food. Or are you not fortified precisely as often as you recall it? What equivalent can so enrich the mind of the one who contemplates it? … Whatever you write will not taste good to me unless I find Jesus there. Whatever you discuss or bring up will not taste good to me unless I hear the sound of Jesus there. Jesus is honey in my mouth, in my ears a song, in my heart a cry of joy” (J.-P. Migne, ed., Patrologia Latina 183:846,847; translation mine).

Published: Kleine Geistliche Konzerte II (Leipzig, 1639)

O Jesu, nomen dulce,
nomen admirabile,
nomen confortans.
Quid enim canitur suavius
quid auditur jucundius
quid cogitatur dulcius
quam Jesus, Dei filius?
O nomen Jesu,
verus animae cibus,
in ore mel,
in aure melos,
in corde laetitia mea.
Tuum itaque nomen, dulcissime Jesu,
in aeternum in ore meo portabo.

O Jesus, sweet name,
wonderful name,
fortifying name!
For what is more pleasant to sing about,
what is more agreeable to listen to,
what is sweeter to contemplate
than Jesus, God’s Son?
O name of Jesus,
true food for the soul,
honey in my mouth,
a song in my ears,
my happiness in my heart!
And thus your name, sweetest Jesus,
I will carry in my mouth into eternity.

SWV 284 – Ich danke dem Herrn von ganzem Herzen


Even though this text closely follows Martin Luther’s translation of Psalm 111, what sets Schütz’s corpus of biblical settings apart is his familiarity with the original Hebrew and Greek of the Scriptures. It infuses his compositions with a fresh spirit of originality and personal intimacy. Schütz once advised his student Matthias Weckmann “to get acquainted with the Hebrew language, not as though it were necessary, but because it would come in handy when setting an Old Testament text to music” (Johann Mattheson, Grundlage einer Ehren-Pforte [Hamburg, 1740], pp. 395-396; translation mine).

Published: Erster Theil kleiner geistlichen Concerten (Leipzig, 1636)

Ich danke dem Herrn von ganzem Herzen
im Rath der Frommen und in der Gemeine.
Groß sind die Werke des Herren;
wer ihr achtet,
der hat eitel Lust dran.
Was er ordnet, das ist löblich und herrlich,
und seine Gerechtigkeit währet ewiglich.
Er hat ein Gedächtnis gestiftet seiner Wunder,
der gnädige und barmherzige Herr.
Er gibt Speise denen, so ihn fürchten;
er gedenket ewiglich an seinen Bund.
Er läßt verkündigen seine gewaltige Thaten
seinem Volk,
daß er ihnen gebe das Erbe der Heiden.
Die Werk seiner Hände sind Wahrheit und Recht;
alle seine Gebot sind rechtschaffen,
sie werden erhalten immer und ewiglich
und geschehen treulich und redlich.
Er sendet ein Erlösung seinem Volk;
er verheißt, daß sein Bund ewiglich bleiben soll.
Heilig und hehr ist sein Name.
Die Furcht des Herren ist der Weisheit Anfang,
das ist eine feine Klugheit;
wer darnach thut, des Lob bleibet ewiglich.

I give thanks to the Lord with all my heart
in the council of the pious and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
whoever considers them
finds nothing but pleasure in them.
What he ordains is laudable and glorious,
and his righteousness endures eternally.
He has erected a monument with his wonders,
the gracious and merciful Lord.
He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant eternally.
He causes his mighty deeds to be proclaimed
to his people,
that he may give them the inheritance of the heathens.
The works of his hands are truth and justice.
All his decrees are just;
they are upheld for ever and ever
and are carried out faithfully and fairly.
He is sending a redemption to his people;
he promises that his covenant shall endure forever.
Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom—
this is an excellent insight;
whoever follows it, his fame will endure forever.

SWV 330 – Wer will uns scheiden von der Liebe Gottes


This text follows Martin Luther’s translation of Romans 8:35,38-39.

Wer will uns scheiden von der Liebe Gottes,
Trübsal oder Angst, oder Verfolgung,
oder Hunger, oder Blöße,
oder Gefährlichkeit, oder Schwerdt?
Denn ich bin gewiss, daß weder Tod noch Leben,
weder Engel noch Fürstenthum noch Gewalt,
weder Gegenwärtiges noch Zukünftiges,
weder Hohes noch Tiefes noch kein andre Creatur
mag uns scheiden von der Liebe Gottes,
die in Christo Jesu ist, unserm Herren. Amen.

Who will separate us from the love of God—
tribulation or anxiety, or persecution,
or hunger, or nakedness,
or danger, or sword?
For I am certain that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor principalities nor powers,
neither things present nor things to come,
neither things high nor deep nor any other creature
may separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

SWV 56 (Prima pars) – Quid commisisti, O dulcissime puer
SWV 57 (Secunda pars) – Ego sum tui plaga doloris
SWV 58 (Tertia pars) – Ego enim inique egi


Schütz gleaned these three texts from a devotional work edited by the staunch Lutheran doctor of theology Andreas Musculus (1514-1581). Titled Precationes (Prayers), Musculus compiled the work “from the ancient orthodox teachers, from the hymns and songs of the Church, and finally from the Psalms of David,” and organized it topically. The prayer on which these motets are based is found in the sixth section. Musculus culled several of the prayers in this section from meditations on the suffering of Christ that are reminiscent of Isaiah 53:4-6 and were alleged to have been written by Augustine (354-430; cf. Migne, ed., Patrologia Latina 40:905-906). Subsequent scholarship, however, has demonstrated that this attribution is false and more likely belongs to Jean de Fécamp (d. 1078). These meditations were very popular at the time; just five years after Schütz published his Cantiones Sacrae, Johann Heermann published his still-beloved hymn, “Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen” (“O Dearest Jesus, what law have you broken”), based on the exact same text as these motets.

Schütz did some minor editing in this three-part motet. For example, in reference to the eighth line in the third part, de Fécamp and Musculus originally had equuleum or eculeum, a wooden torture-rack for criminals in the shape of a horse, as a metaphor for Christ’s cross. But at least one subsequent edition, including the one in Schütz’s possession, printed aculeum, “sting.” (Compare, e.g., col. 906 in the Patrologia Latina link in the previous paragraph and fol. 48 verso in this 1561 edition with p. 88 in the 1573 edition also linked in the previous paragraph.) So Schütz filled out the expression – mortis aculeum, “sting of death” – with an allusion to 1 Corinthians 15:55,56.

The references to Jesus as a boy or young man are used a) as synonyms for “Son” (in relation to God the Father), b) to underscore his relative youth (he was crucified in his 30s), and c) to underscore his innocence.

Published: Cantiones sacrae (Freiberg, 1625)
Sample Performance

Quid commisisti, O dulcissime puer,
ut sic judicareris?
quid commisisti, O amantissime juvenis,
ut adeo tractareris?
Quod scelus tuum,
quae noxa tua,
quae causa mortis,
quae occasio tuae damnationis?

What wrong did you commit, O sweetest Boy,
that you would be sentenced thus?
What did you commit, O kindest Young Man,
that you would be so badly treated?
What is your crime,
what is your offense,
what is the cause of your death,
what is the basis for your condemnation?

Ego sum tui plaga doloris,
tuae culpa occisionis.
Ego tuae mortis meritum,
tuae vindictae flagitium.
Ego tuae passionis livor,
cruciatus tui labor.

I am the blow of your pain,
the fault of your murder.
I am the merit of your death,
the shame of your punishment.
I am the injury of your suffering,
the agony of your torment.

Ego enim inique egi,
tu poena mulctaris.
Ego facinus admisi,
tu ultione plecteris.
Ego superbivi, tu humiliaris.
Ego tumui, tu attenuaris.
Ego praesumpsi vetitum,
tu mortis subiisti aculeum.
Ego pomi dulcedinem,
tu fellis gustasti amaritudinem.

For I acted unjustly;
you are beaten in punishment.
I am responsible for the deed;
you are struck in retribution.
I was haughty; you are humbled.
I was swollen with pride; you are deflated.
I dared to do the forbidden;
you submitted to the sting of death.
I tasted the sweetness of the fruit;
you the bitterness of the gall.

SWV 282 – Eile mich, Gott, zu erretten


This text follows Martin Luther’s translation of Psalm 70.

Published: Erster Theil kleiner geistlichen Concerten (Leipzig, 1636)

Eile mich, Gott, zu erretten,
Herr, mir zu helfen.
Es müssen sich schämen und zu Schanden werden,
die nach meiner Seelen stehen.
Sie müssen zurücke kehren und gehöhnet werden,
die mir Übels wünschen,
daß sie müssen wiederum zu Schanden werden,
die da über mich schreien: Da, da.
Freuen und fröhlich müssen sein in dir,
die nach dir fragen und dein Heil lieben,
immer sagen: Hoch gelobt sei Gott.
Ich aber bin elend und arm.
Gott, eile zu mir,
denn du bist mein Helfer und Erretter;
mein Gott, verzeuch nicht.

Hasten, God, to deliver me,
Lord, to help me!
Those must be put to shame and disgraced
who make attempts on my soul.
They must turn back and be ridiculed,
those who wish evil on me,
so that they must be disgraced as a result,
those who cry out over me, “Ha, ha!”
They must rejoice and be glad in you
who seek after you and love your salvation,
always saying, “God be highly praised!”
But I am wretched and poor.
God, hasten to me,
for you are my helper and deliverer;
my God, do not delay!

SWV 307 – Was hast du verwirket


This German text has the same basis as SWV 56 & 57 above. See the Foreword there for more information. It is noteworthy that, even though Musculus produced his own German translation of his Latin prayer book, Schütz did not make use of Musculus’ translation or of Martin Moller’s translation, but appears to have produced his own from the Latin. Here Schütz imaginatively reinterprets “the shame of your punishment” from the Latin as “the condemnable vice that could be smelled on you.” He also concludes by taking an additional rhetorical question from his source that he did not employ in the earlier pieces: “Quo nate Dei, quo tua descendit humilitas?” “Ah, how far, O Son of God…?”

Source: Kleine Geistliche Konzerte II (Leipzig, 1639)

Was hast du verwirket,
O du allerholdseligster Knab, Jesu Christe,
daß du also verurtheilt warest?
Was hast du begangen,
O du allerfreundlichster Jüngling,
daß man so übel und kläglich mit dir gehandelt?
Was ist doch dein Verbrechen und Misshandlung?
Was ist deine Schuld,
was ist die Ursach deines Todes?
Was ist doch die Verwirkung deiner Verdammniß?
O, ich bin die Ursach und Plage deines Leidens,
ich bin die Verschuldung deines Hinrichtens,
ich bin das Verdienst deines Todes,
das todwürdige Laster,
so an dir gerochen worden.
Ich bin die Öffnung der Wunden deines Leidens,
die Angst deiner Peinigung.
Ach, wohin, du Sohn Gottes,
hat sich deine Demuth geniedriget?

What did you perpetrate,
O you absolute most charming boy, Jesus Christ,
that you would be sentenced thus?
What wrong did you commit,
O you absolute kindest young man,
for them to have dealt so cruelly and deplorably with you?
Just what is your crime and misdeed?
What is your offense,
what is the cause of your death?
Just what is the basis for your condemnation?
Oh, I am the cause and misery of your suffering,
I am the fault of your execution,
I am the merit of your death,
the condemnable vice
that could be smelled on you.
I am the opening of the wounds of your suffering,
the agony of your torment.
Ah, how far, O Son of God,
has your humility lowered itself?

SWV 309 – O misericordissime Jesu


Schütz appears to have patched this text together. It contains excerpts from two different prayers (here and here) by Pseudo-Augustine in the eighth section of Musculus’ compilation of prayers (one perhaps traces back to the aforementioned de Fécamp, the other perhaps to Anselm of Canterbury, d. 1109). There are also phrases found in Melchior Franck’s three-part motet “O bone Jesu” (1604), which in turn borrows from Chapter 25 of Bonaventure’s Vitis Mystica (The Mystical Vine), among other sources. (In the Patrologia Latina, Vitis Mystica is included with works by Bernard of Clairvaux, but Migne does preface the work by saying that it is not by Bernard.) The thoughts of the text are variously expressed in the Psalms, especially in 25, 31, 37, 86, and 143. The reference to Jesus’ name alludes to Matthew 1:21.

Published: Kleine Geistliche Konzerte II (Leipzig, 1639)

O misericordissime Jesu,
O dulcissime Jesu,
O gratiosissime Jesu,
O Jesu, salus in te sperantium,
O Jesu, salus in te credentium,
O Jesu, salus ad te confugientium,
O Jesu, dulcis remissio omnium peccatorum,
O Jesu, propter nomen sanctum tuum,
salva me, ne peream.
O Jesu, miserere,
dum tempus est miserendi,
neque me damnes
in tempore judicandi.
Si enim admisi,
unde me damnare potes,
tu non amisisti,
unde me salvare potes.
Sis ergo mihi Jesus,
propter hoc nomen tuum,
et miserere mei,
fac mihi secundum hoc nomen tuum.
Respice me miserum
invocantem hoc nomen amabile tuum: Jesus.

O most merciful Jesus,
O sweetest Jesus,
O most gracious Jesus,
O Jesus, salvation of those who hope in you,
O Jesus, salvation of those who trust in you,
O Jesus, salvation of those who take refuge in you,
O Jesus, sweet remission of all sins,
O Jesus, for the sake of your holy name
save me, lest I perish.
O Jesus, have mercy,
while there is still time to show mercy,
and do not condemn me
when it comes time to judge.
For if I am guilty,
which is why you are able to condemn me,
you have pardoned,
which is why you are able to save me.
May you therefore be for me a Jesus,
for the sake of this your name,
and have mercy on me;
deal with me according to this your name.
Take note of me, wretch that I am,
as I invoke this your lovely name: Jesus.

SWV 310 – Ich liege und schlafe


This text follows Martin Luther’s translation of Psalm 3:5-8.

Published: Kleine Geistliche Konzerte II (Leipzig, 1639)

Ich liege und schlafe,
und erwache,
denn der Herr hält mich.
Ich fürchte mich nicht
für viel Hunderttausenden,
die sich umher wider mich legen.
Auf, Herr, und hilf mir, mein Gott,
denn du schlägest alle meine Feinde auf den Backen,
und zerschmetterst der Gottlosen Zähne.
Bei dem Herren findet man Hülfe
und deinen Segen über dein Volk, Sela.

I lie down and sleep,
and awake,
for the Lord sustains me.
I am not afraid
of the many hundred thousands
who encamp against me all around.
Up, Lord, and help me, my God,
for you strike all my enemies on the cheek
and shatter the teeth of the godless.
With the Lord one finds help
and your blessing upon your people. Selah.

SWV 72 – Quid detur tibi


This text follows Jerome’s translation of Psalm 120:3,4 (119:3,4 in the Vulgate).

Published: Cantiones sacrae (Freiberg, 1625)

Quid detur tibi,
aut quid apponatur tibi
ad linguam dolosam?
Sagittae potentis acutae,
cum carbonibus desolatoriis.

What reward should you get,
or what more should be done to you
for a deceiful tongue?
The sharp arrows of a mighty man,
with coals that bring desolation.

SWV 294 – Eins bitte ich vom Herren


This text follows Martin Luther’s translation of Psalm 27:4.

Published: Erster Theil kleiner geistlichen Concerten (Leipzig, 1636)

Eins bitte ich vom Herren,
das hätte ich gern,
daß ich im Hause des Herrn möge bleiben
mein Lebelang,
zu schauen die schönen Gottesdienst des Herren,
und seinen Tempel zu besuchen.

One thing I ask of the Lord,
this is what I would like:
that I may remain in the house of the Lord
my entire life,
to behold the beautiful worship of the Lord
and to frequent his temple.

SWV 285 – O süßer, O freundlicher


Schütz took this text from part 2 of Martin Moller’s Meditations of the Holy Fathers (Görlitz, 1591).

Published: Erster Theil kleiner geistlichen Concerten (Leipzig, 1636)

O süßer, O freundlicher,
O gütiger Herr Jesu Christe,
wie hoch hast du uns elende Menschen geliebet,
wie theur hast du uns erlöset,
wie lieblich hast du uns getröstet,
wie herrlich hast du uns gemacht,
wie gewaltig hast du uns erhaben.
Mein Heiland, wie erfreuet sich mein Herz,
wenn ich daran gedenke,
denn je mehr ich daran gedenke,
je freundlicher du bist, je lieber ich dich habe.
Mein Erlöser, wie herrlich sind deine Wohlthaten,
die du uns erzeiget hast,
wie groß ist die Herrlichkeit,
die du uns bereitet hast.
O, wie verlanget meiner Seelen nach dir,
wie sehne ich mich mit aller Macht
aus diesem Elende
nach dem himmlischen Vaterland.
Mein Helfer, du hast mir mein Herz genommen
mit deiner Liebe,
daß ich mich ohn Unterlaß nach dir sehne.
Ach, daß ich bald zu dir kommen
und deine Herrlichkeit schauen sollte.

O sweet, O kind,
O gracious Lord Jesus Christ,
how deeply you have loved us miserable humans,
at what great cost you have redeemed us,
how sweetly you have comforted us,
how glorious you have made us to be,
how mightily you have exalted us!
My Savior, how my heart rejoices
when I reflect on this,
for the more I reflect on it,
the kinder you are, the more I love you.
My Redeemer, how glorious are the kindnesses
that you have shown us,
how great is the glory
that you have prepared for us!
O what a longing my soul has for you,
how I yearn with all my strength
to leave this exile
and go to my heavenly fatherland!
My Helper, you have captured my heart
with your love,
so that I yearn for you without ceasing.
O that I might come to you soon
and behold your glory!

SWV 336 – Quemadmodum desiderat cervus


Once again Schütz takes a text from Musculus’ compilation of prayers, this time from the sixteenth section, where Chapter 35 of Pseudo-Augustine’s Soliloquia Animae ad Deum is partially reproduced. These soliloquies – which are not to be confused with another genuine work by Augustine titled Soliloquia – comprise an anonymous work dating to around the 13th century (cf. Migne, ed., Patrologia Latina 40:894). Based on Psalm 42:1,2, this meditation also has strong allusions to Psalm 63:1; Matthew 25:21,23; Philippians 2:9-11; and Revelation 22:4,5.

Published: Kleine Geistliche Konzerte II (Leipzig, 1639)

Quemadmodum desiderat cervus
ad fontes aquarum,
ita desiderat anima mea ad te,
Deus clementissime et misericordissime.
Sitivit anima mea ad te,
Deum fontem vivum,
quando veniam
et apparebo ante faciem tuam?

O fons vitae, venum aquarum viventium,
quando veniam
ad aquas dulcedinis tuae?
Quando veniam
de terra invia et inaquosa,
ut videam virtutem tuam et gloriam tuam
et satiem ex aquis misericordiae tuae
sitim meam?

Sitio, Domine,
fons vitae, satia me,
sitio, Domine, sitio te, Deum vivum.
O quando veniam et apparebo,
Domine, ante faciem tuam?
O dies praeclara et pulchra,
nesciens vesperum,
non habens occasum,
in qua audiam vocem laudis,
vocem exultationis et confessionis,
in qua audiam:
Intra in gaudium Domini tui,
intra in gaudium sempiternum,
in domum Domini Dei tui.
O gaudium super gaudium,
gaudium vincens omne gaudium,
extra quod non est gaudium.

As the deer longs
for springs of water,
so longs my soul for you,
God most compassionate and merciful.
My soul has thirsted for you,
God, the living spring:
When shall I come
and appear before your face?

O Spring of life, Channel of living waters,
when shall I come
to the waters of your sweetness?
When shall I come
away from an impassable and waterless land
to see your virtue and your glory
and to satisfy from the waters of your mercy
my thirst?

I am thirsty, Lord;
Spring of life, satisfy me.
I thirst, Lord, I thirst for you, the living God.
O when shall I come and appear,
Lord, before your face?
O day gorgeous and beautiful,
not knowing any evening,
not having any sunset,
on which I shall hear the sound of praise,
the sound of exultation and confession,
on which I shall hear:
“Enter into the joy of your Lord,
enter into joy everlasting,
into the house of the Lord your God!”
O joy beyond joy,
O joy superior to every joy,
without which there is no joy!


About redbrickparsonage
Red Brick Parsonage is operated by a confessional Lutheran pastor serving in the South of the U.S.A.

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