Born in Kostritz into a family of well-to-do inkeepers, Schütz was taken to Weissenfels in 1590, where his father became burgomaster. He received his first musical instruction from the town organist, Heinrich Colander, and in 1599 became a choirboy in the the court chapel of Landgrave Moritz of Hessen-Kassel. He so impressed his employer that he was offered the chance to travel to Venice and study with Giovanni Gabrielli. This meant leaving the University of Marsburg, where he had been studying law, but in 1609 he took up the offer, receiving a thorough grounding in composition and organ. By way of thanks to his patron, his first book of madrigals was dedicated to Moritz; it was published in 1611.
Gabrielli's death led Schütz to return to Kassel in 1612, and in 1615 he moved to Dresden, where the Elector had offered him the post of Saxon Kapellmeister. It is possible that he met Praetorius, who was occasionally employed there at the same time. Schütz published his first collection of religious music in 1619, the Psalmen Davids sampt etlichen Moteten und Concerten.
Schütz wrote the first German opera, Dafne, while visiting the court at Torgau. It was put on in 1627 at Hartenfels, and his interest in the field was consolidated when he visited Italy in 1628. There he became acquainted with the music of Monteverdi, whose influence is shown in Schütz's work Symphoniae Sacrae (1629), a collection of sacred works for voices and intsrumental ensemble. He was to write a second collections with the same title in 1647 and a third in 1650.
The Thirty Years' War meant that Schütz's return to Dresden was brief; he accepted an appointment as Kapellmeister to King Christian IV of Denmark in 1633, but only stayed in Copenhagen for a year. Back in Dresden, he continued to compose religious works and operas. After further years of travel, including a return to Copenhagen, Schütz requested that he be given a pension. This was not to happen until 1657, when Johann Georg II became elector. He wrote three passions and a Christmas Oratorio in his later years, and died peacefully at the age of 87.
- MIDI FILE - "Cantate Domino canticum novum" (3'41'')