Praetorius, Michael

views updated May 23 2018

Praetorius, Michael

Praetorius, Michael , great German composer, organist, and music theorist, nephew of Christoph Praetorius; b. Creuzburg an der Werra, Thuringia, Feb. 15, 1571; d. Wolfenbüttel, Feb. 15, 1621. The surname of the family was Schultheiss (sometimes rendered as Schultze), which he Latinized as Praetorius. He was the son of a Lutheran pastor. He studied with Michael Voigt, the cantor of the Torgau Lateinschule. In 1582 he entered the Univ. of Frankfurt an der Oder, and in 1584 continued his studies at the Lateinschule in Zerbst, Anhalt. From 1587 to 1590 he was organist of St. Marien in Frankfurt. In 1595 he entered the service of Duke Heinrich Julius of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel as an organist. In 1604 he also assumed the duties of court Kapellmeister. Upon the death of his patron in 1613, the Elector Johann Georg of Saxony obtained his services as deputy Kapellmeister at the Dresden court. He retained his Dresden post until 1616, and then resumed his duties in Wolfenbüttel. Praetorius devoted only a part of his time to Wolfenbuttel, for he had been named Kapellmeister to the administrator of the Magdeburg bishopric and prior of the monastery at Ringelheim in 1614. He also traveled a great deal, visiting various German cities. These factors, coupled with a general decline in his health, led to the decision not to reappoint him to his Wolfenbuttel post in 1620. He died the following year a wealthy man. Deeply religious, he directed that the greater portion of his fortune go to organizing a foundation for the poor. Praetorius was one of the most important and prolific German composers of his era. His Musae Sioniae, a significant collection of over 1, 200 settings of Lutheran chorales, is a particularly valuable source for hymnology. A complete ed. of his works was prepared by F. Blume (21 vols., Wolfenbüttel, 1928–40).


(all publ. in Wolfenbüttel unless otherwise given): Musae Sionae…geistliche Concert Gesänge über die fürnembste deutsche Psalmen und Lieder…erster Theil for 8 Voices (Regensburg, 1605); Sacrarum motectarum primitiae for 4 to 16 Voices (Magdeburg, 1606; not extant); Musarum Sioniarum motestae et psalmi latini for 4 to 16 Voices (Nuremberg, 1607; this may be the 2nd ed. of the preceding); Musaie Sioniae…geistliche Concert Gesänge über die fürnembste deutsche Psalmen und Lieder…ander Theil for 8 ed . ofthe preceding); Musaie Sioniae…geistliche Concert Gesänge…dritter Theil for 8, 9, and 12 Voices (Helmstedt, 1607); Musaie Sionae…geistliche Concert Gesänge…vierdter Theil for 8 Voices (Helmstedt, 1607); Musae Sioniae…geistlicher deutscher…üblicher Lieder und Psalmen…fünfter Theil for 2 to 8 Voices (1607); Musae Sioniae…deutscher geistlicher…üblicher Psalmen und Lieder…sechster Theil for 4 Voices (1609); Musae Sioniae…deutscher geistlicher…üblicher Psalmen und Lieder…siebender Theil for 4 Voices (1609); Musae Sioniae…deutscher geistlicher…Lieder und Psalmen…in Contrapuncto simplici…gesetzet…achter Theil for 4 Voices (1610; 2nd ed., 1612, as Ferner Continuierung der geistlichen Lieder und Psalmen); Musaie Sioniae…deutscher geistlicher…Psalmen und Lieder…auf Muteten, Madrigalische und sonsten eine andere…Art…gesetzet…neundter Theil for 2 and 3 Voices (1610; 2nded., 1611, as Bicinia und Tricinia); Eulogodia Sionia for 2 to 8 Voices (1611); Hymnodia Sionia for 3 to 8 Voices (1611; with 4 works for Organ); Megalynodia Sionia for 5 to 8 Voices (1611); Missodia Sionia for 2 to 8 Voices (1611); Kleine und Grosse Litaney for 5 to 8 Voices (1613); Urania, oder Urano-Chorodia for 2 to 4 Choirs (1613); Epithalamium: dem…Fursten…Friedrich Ulrichen, Herzogen zu Braunschweig for 17 Voices and Basso Continuo (1stperf., Sept. 4, 1614); Concertgesang…dem…Fursten…Mauritio, Landgrafen zu Hessen for 2 to 16 Voices and Basso Continuo (1st perf., June 26, 1617); Polyhymnia caduceatrix et panegyrica for 1 to 21 Voices and Basso Continuo (1619); Polyhymnia exercitatrix seu tyrocinium for 2 to 8 Voices and Basso Continuo (Frankfurt am Main, 1619); Puernicinium…darinne 14 teutsche Kirchenlieder und anderere Concert-Gesänge for 3 to 14 Voices (Frankfurt am Main, 1621). He also publ. a collection of French instrumental dances under the title Terpsichore, musarum aoniarum quinta a 4 to 6 1621).


Syntagma musicum, his major achievement, was publ. in 3 vols, as follows: Syntagmatis musicitomus primus (Wittenberg and Wolfenbüttel, 1614–15; reprint, 1959), a historical and descriptive treatise in Latin on ancient and ecclesiastical music, and ancient secular instruments; Syntagmatis musici tomus secundus (Wolfenbüttel, 1618; 2nd ed., 1619; reprint, 1958, with an appendix, Theatrum instrumentorum, Wolfenbüttel, 1620; reprint, 1958), in German, a most important source of information on musical instruments of the period, describing their form, compass, tone quality, etc.; the organ is treated at great length, and the appendix contains 42 woodcuts of the principal instruments enumerated; Syntagmatis musici tomus tertius (Wolfenbüttel, 1618; 2nd ed., 1619; reprint, 1958), a valuable and interesting account of secular composition of the period, with a treatise on solmisation, notation, etc.


W. Gurlitt, M. P. (Creuzburgensis): Sein Leben und seine Werke (Leipzig, 1915); F. Blume, Das monodische Prinzip in der protestantischen Kirchenmusik (Leipzig, 1925); idem, M. P. Creuzburgensis (Wolfenbüttel, 1929); R. Unger, Die mehrchörige Aufführungspraxis bei M. P. und die Feiergestaltung der Gegenwart (Wolfenbüttel, 1941); G. Ilgner, Die lateinischen liturgischen Kompositionen von M. P. Creuzburgensis (Kiel, 1944); R. Fay, The Vocal Style of M. P. (diss., Univ. of Rochester, N.Y., 1946); A. Forcherts, Das Spätwerk des M. P. (Berlin, 1959); L. Abraham, Der Generalbass im Schaffen des M. P. (Berlin, 1961); K. Gudewill and H. Haase, M. P. Creutzbergensis 1571 (?-1612): Zwei Beiträge su seinem und seiner Kapelle Jubiläumsjahr (Wolfenbüttel, 1971); S. Vogelsänger, M. P. beim Wort genommen: Zur Entstehungsgeschichte seiner Werke (Aachen, 1987); idem, M. P., “Diener vieler Herren:” Daten und Deutungen (Aachen, 1991); D. Möller-Weiser, Untersuchungen zum I. Band des Syntagma Musicum von M. P. (Kassel, 1993).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Praetorius, Michael

views updated May 29 2018


Church composer and theorist, authority on baroque organ; b. Kreuzberg (Thuringia), Germany, Feb. 15, 1571; d. Wolfenbüttel, Feb. 15, 1621. His full name was Michael Hieronymus Schultheiss, of which surname Praetorius is the Latin form. He was the son of a Protestant minister, and was at one time prior of Ringelheim Abbey (in Protestant possession 15701643), but resigned to devote himself to music. From 1612 until his death he was Kapellmeister in Wolfenbüttel. Praetorius published many oversized collections of his church music, much of it based on German chorale tunes, developed in the new Italian concertato style. Among these collections are the Musae Sioniae (1,244 settings in 16v.; 160510); Musarum Sioniarum (1607); Eulogodia Sionia (60 motets "for the conclusion of worship";1611); Hymnodia Sionia (1611); and Kleine und Grosse Litanie (1613). His great theoretical work is the Syntagma Musicum. Of its published volumes the first is a (Latin) treatise on ancient church music (1615); the second, with its illustrated appendix, is a primary reference on baroque instruments, particularly the organ [1620; tr. from German by H. Blumenfeld (St. Louis 1949)]; the third, a treatise on contemporary secular music.

Bibliography: m. praetorius, Gesamtausgabe der musikalischen Werke, ed. f. blume et al., 21 v. in 22 (Wolfenbüttel 192860). f. blume, Michael Praetorius Creuzbergensis (Wolfenbüttel 1929). a. forchert, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949) 10:156072. m. f. bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era (New York 1947). w. blankenburg, "Michael Praetorius" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 15, ed. s. sadie (New York 1980) 188192. s. heavens and e. segerman, "Praetorius' Brass Instruments and Cammerthon, " Fellowship of Makers and Researchers of Historical Instruments Bulletins 78 (1995) 5459. g. lyndon-jones, "Praetorius' Keyless Curtals," Fellowship of Makers and Researchers of Historical Instruments Bulletins 74 (1994) 2629. e. segerman, "On Praetorius and English Viol Pitches," Chelys 17 (1988) 2427; "On Praetorius and the sizes of Renaissance bowed instruments," Fellowship of Makers and Researchers of Historical Instruments Bulletins 89 (1997) 4052; "Praetorius's Cammerthon Pitch Standard," The Galpin Society Journal 50 (1997) 81108.

[w. c. holmes]

Michael Praetorius

views updated May 09 2018

Michael Praetorius

The German composer and theorist Michael Praetorius (ca. 1571-1621) was a devout Lutheran who believed that music was the "handmaiden of theology." He composed a comprehensive musical repertory for the Evangelical Church.

Born in Creuzburg (Thuringia), Michael Praetorius was raised in Torgau, a small town famous for its Lutheran school. He studied at the University of Frankfurt an der Oder, and for part of the time he was organist of the university church. In 1595 he entered the service of Heinrich Julius, Duke of Brunswick, at the courts of Gröningen and Wolfenbüttel. At first installed as organist and subsequently advanced to music director (1604), Praetorius composed music for all court activities until the duke's death in 1613.

During the next 7 years Praetorius had no fixed post but was employed intermittently by several north German courts (Magdeburg, Kassel, Halle, Dresden) as musical consultant and director of musical festivities. In 1620 he was recalled to Wolfenbüttel; he died the following year.

Praetorius's voluminous output only partly reveals his overall plan for a complete corpus of secular and sacred music for all occasions. Of his secular works only one volume of dances, Terpsichore (volume 5 of his projected Musa Aonia), has come down to us. Thousands of sacred pieces are extant, most constructed on Lutheran hymn texts and tunes known as chorales. The contents of his 9-volume Musae Sioniae (1605-1610) range from simple bicinia, or two-part pieces, to enormous polychoral works for as many as 12 voices.

Baroque pieces with basso continuo, concertizing instruments, and separate choirs for soloists and chorus are first noted in Praetorius's late publications Polyhymnia caduceatrix (1619), Polyhymnia exercitatrix (1620), and Puericinium (1621). These mature compositions underscore his importance in transmitting Italian concerted music to Germany. Although these works are modeled on examples by Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi, Praetorius, ever bound to the German chorale, rarely employed the affective style favored by the Italian innovators.

As a pendant to his music, and in part to explain its performance, Praetorius wrote a three-volume treatise, Syntagma musicum (1615-1620), which deals with three subjects: the history of ancient sacred and secular music, the nature and construction of musical instruments, and the performance practices of his time. Especially valuable are his definitions and explanations of early-17th-century terms and practices. In the second volume, De organogrpahia, he discusses the history and construction of musical instruments. Unparalleled for its time is the appendix to this volume, the Theatrum instrumentorum, or pictorial atlas of instruments.

Further Reading

Praetorius's work is discussed in Manfred F. Bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era (1947), and in the New Oxford History of Music, vol. 4 (1968). The background of the baroque musical style is treated in Paul Henry Lang, Music in Western Civilization (1941). □

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