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Michael Praetorius.

Michael Praetorius (probably February 15, 1571 ÔÇô February 15, 1621) was a German composer, organist, and writer about music. He was one of the most versatile composers of his age, being particularly significant in the development of musical forms based on Protestant hymns.



He was born Michael Schultze, the youngest son of a Lutheran pastor, in Creuzburg, Thuringia. After attending school in Torgau and Zerbst, he studied divinity and philosophy at the University of Frankfurt (Oder). After receiving his muisical education, from 1587 he served as organist at the Marienkirche in Frankfurt. From 1592/3 he served at the court in Wolfenb├╝ttel, under the employ of Henry Julius, Duke of Brunswick-L├╝neburg. He served in the duke's State Orchestra Brunswick first as organist and later (from 1604) as Kapellmeister.[1]

His first compositions appeared around 1602/3. Praetorius had started writing some of them when Regensburg was the parliamentary seat of the Holy Roman Empire. Their publication primarily reflects the care for music at the court of Gr├Âningen. The motets of this collection were the first in Germany to make use of the new Italian performance practices; as a result, they established him as a proficient composer.[1]

These "modern" pieces mark the end of his middle creative period. The nine parts of his Musae Sioniae (1605-10) as well as the 1611 published collections of liturgical music (masses, hymns, magnificats) follow the German Protestant chorale style. With these, at the behest of a circle of orthodox Lutherans, he followed around the Duchess Elizabeth, who ruled the duchy in the duke's absence. In place of popular music, one now expected religious music from Praetorius.[1]

When the duke died in 1613 and was succeeded by Frederick Ulrich, Praetorius retained his employment. From 1613 he also worked at the court of John George I, Elector of Saxony at Dresden, where he was responsible for festive music on a grand scale. He was exposed to the latest Italian music, including the polychoral works of the Venetian School. His subsequent development of the form of the chorale concerto, particularly the polychoral variety, resulted directly from his familiarity with the music of such Venetians as Giovanni Gabrieli. The solo-voice, polychoral, and instrumental compositions Praetorius prepared for these events mark the high period of his artistic creativity. Until his death, Praetorius stayed at the court in Dresden, where he was declared Kapellmeister von Haus aus and worked alongside Heinrich Sch├╝tz.[1]

Michael Praetorius is entombed in a vault beneath the organ of St Mary's Church in Wolfenb├╝ttel, Germany.

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His family name in German appears in various forms including Schultze, Schulte, Schultheiss, Schulz and Schulteis. Praetorius is the Latinized form of the family name.


Illustration from Syntagma Musicum

Praetorius was a tremendously prolific composer, with his music showing the influence of Italian composers as well as his younger contemporary Heinrich Sch├╝tz. His works include the nine volume Musae sioniae (1605ÔÇô10), a collection of over a thousand chorale and song arrangements; many other works for the Lutheran church; and Terpsichore (1612), a compendium of over 300 instrumental dances, which is both his most widely-known work, as well as his sole surviving secular work. His three volume treatise Syntagma Musicum, published between 1614ÔÇô20 (including de Organographia at the end of volume II), are detailed texts on contemporary musical practices and musical instruments, and are important documents in musicology, organology and the field of authentic performance.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d The German Wikipedia article. Accessed 27 December 2009.
  • Denis Arnold (editor), (1983), New Oxford Companion to Music, Oxford University Press. (Article by editor.)
  • Jeffery T. Kite-Powell (translator and editor), (2004) Syntagma Musicum III: Termini musici (Wolfenb├╝ttel, 1619) Oxford University Press.
  • Stephan Perreau (1996). Liner notes to Praetorius: Dances from Terpsichore. Naxos 8.553865.

External links

free scores


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MICHAEL PRAETORIUS (1571-1621), German musical historian, theorist and composer, was born at Kreuzberg, in Thuringia, on the 15th of February 1571. His father's name was Michael Schultheis.' While he was still quite young he visited the university of Frankfort on the Oder for three years. Here he studied philosophy, and on the death of his brother, on whose support he relied, he was given a post as organist in the town. He acted as kapellmeister at Luneburg early in life, was engaged first as organist and later as kapellmeister and secretary to the duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, and was eventually rewarded for his long services with the priory of Ringelheim, near Goslar. He died at Wolfenbuttel on the 15th of February 1621. Of his very numerous compositions copies are now very scarce. The most important are: Polyhymnia (15 vols.), Musae Sioniae (16 vols.), and Musa Aonia (9 vols.), all written partly to Latin and partly to German words. But more precious than all these is the Syntagma musicum (3 vols. and a cahier of plates, 4to, Wittenberg and Wolfenbuttel, 1615-1620). In the original prospectus of the work four volumes were promised, but it is certain that no more than three were ever published. The fourth volume mentioned in Forkel's catalogue is clearly nothing but the cahier of plates attached to vol. ii.

The chief value of this very remarkable work lies in the information it gives concerning the condition of instrumental music in the early years of the 17th century. The plates include excellent representations of all the musical instruments in use at the time they were published, together with many forms even then treated only as antique curiosities. The work thus throws a light upon the earlier forms of instrumental music which to the historian is invaluable. In fact, without the information bequeathed to us by Praetorius it would be impossible to reconstruct in theory the orchestra of the earlier half of the 17th century, during which the opera and the oratorio both sprang into existence, or even to understand the descriptions left us by other less careful writers.

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Simple English

[[File:|frame|Michael Praetorius.]]

Michael Praetorius (born Creuzburg an der Werra, near Eisenach 15 February 1571? ; died Wolfenb├╝ttel, 15 February 1621) was a German composer, organist and music theorist. He was one of the most important composers of his day and he wrote lots of different kinds of music. A lot of his music is based on hymns of the Protestant church.

We are not quite certain about the date of his birth. He was born at a time when there was a lot of argument about religion in Germany. His father was a strict Lutheran and lost his job more than once because of his beliefs. We know very little about the life of Praetorius. He seems to have gone to the Lateinschule (ÔÇťLatin SchoolÔÇŁ) in Torgau where he had music lessons from Michael Voigt. He probably never had music lessons after he left school. Then he went to the University of Frankfurt an der Oder. There Praetorius graduated in divinity. Afterwards he found a job as organist to the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenb├╝ttel. He soon earned a good salary. He married in 1603 and had two sons.

Although he had his job in Wolfenb├╝ttel for many years he also worked a lot in Dresden where he met Heinrich Sch├╝tz and in Magdeburg where he met Samuel Scheidt. His health was not good, possibly because he worked so hard. When he died he left a lot of money to the poor.

His music

Praetorius wrote a very large amount of music. Much of it has been lost. He wrote a collection of French dances called Terpsichore for a small group of instruments. These are very happy pieces and are very popular today. A lot of his music is based on Protestant hymns, written for the services in the Lutheran church. He liked to write music in which two groups of singers or instrumentalists alternate (take it in turns to sing/play). His music for choir, which includes many motets, shows him to be one of the best composers of his time. He liked to write music for two, three or four choirs (all singing different parts). The tune would be in the top part so that the congregation could join in.

His theory works

Praetorius wrote a book about music theory called Syntagma Musicum. Part One talks about religious music. It is very interesting for us today because it tells us a lot about the way that Martin Luther wanted to change music in the church services. In Part Two he described the musical instruments of his day. Part Three talks about musical forms: this included discussions about things like music notation (the way music was written), transposition (music), solmization and how to write for large choirs. He was going to write a Part Four in which he wanted to discuss the technique of musical composition, but he died before he could write it.


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