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The year 2017 was full of important anniversaries, and with two of these--both crucial for the history of music--it was precisely 500 years. The first date is tied to the death of one of the most important and inventive composers of the high renaissance, Heinrich Isaac (* around 1480, [dagger] 25th of March, 1517). The second had a much greater impact on European culture over the course of the next five centuries. The 31st of October 1517 is the day on which--according to tradition--the Augustinian priest and doctor of theology Martin Luther presented his 95 Theses at the university in Wittenberg. This critique of the injustices taking place within the Roman Catholic Church were the impulse for a renewal of the church generally referred to as the Lutheran or Protestant Reformation. This strong impulse made its mark not only on questions theological, pastoral, and societal, but also in art--including music.

The Reformer Martin Luther and Music

Luther was born on the 10th of November 1483 in Eisleben as one of four children in a poor miner's family. Later, however, his father became a man of business, allowing his son to study at the university in Erfurt, where Luther studied between 1501 and 1505, becoming first a bachelor and then a master of the liberal arts. Then, following his father's wishes, he began studying law, but soon after he entered the Augustinian Order, within which he was ordained a priest in 1507. The following year, he left for the recently established university in Wittenberg, where he became a student of theology. At the turn of the years 1510 and 1511, he travelled to Rome with a mission by order. The journey to the Holy City allowed him to see the hedonistic court of the renaissance popes, leaving a deep impression on the young Luther. In 1512, he became a doctor of theology, also receiving a professorship in biblical studies; a year later, he began working as a preacher.

As soon as he had entered seminary, he considered intensely the question of salvation. Through careful study of Scripture, he reached the conclusion that any deeds--though they necessarily belong with the life of a Christian--cannot establish a real claim to salvation, as this can only be given by God's grace. Within the confines of the university, he also often encountered medieval scholasticism, with which he engaged through the use of Scripture. Soon, he became one of the leading professors of theology at Wittenberg University.

What ignited a major conflict was ultimately not scholasticism, but the increasing frequency with which indulgences were sold: with these, one could buy forgiveness for one's sins directly from the church. In 1515, Pope Leo X announced their sale with the aim of raising enough resources to build the church of Sts. Peter and Paul in the Vatican. In some of the German lands, their sale was administered by archbishop Albert of Brandenburg, who planned to use part of the proceeds to pay back his loan with the Fugger banking family. He had used this loan to bypass church regulations and attain the office of Archbishop of Mainz.

Luther had no inkling of these goings on, but he took a stance against indulgences as a theologian after some of his parishioners purchased them. In a letter to the archbishop himself from the 31st of October 1517, he claimed that these indulgences are of no consequence, as only lifelong repentance can lead to forgiveness. He appended to this letter a list of 95 theses, which have since become an iconic work. While Luther gained a number of followers within the Augustinian Order, the Roman Curia considered his critique an attack on the essence of the papal office. In 1519, Luther became acquainted with the work of Master Jan Hus (1), and espoused his teachings. After several attempts by the church to stifle these new teachings, 1521 saw a second hearing with emperor Charles V, during which Luther claimed to be a prisoner of God's word, unable to take back his teachings without confirmation from Scripture. Pope Leo X--more a warrior than a cleric --then excommunicated him from the church and issued an interdict for his followers. This authoritarian approach, however, was doomed to failure. Luther's opinions resonated across a wide section of society and gained powerful followers. In the face of this dangerous situation, his protector, Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, had him secretly kidnapped and taken to safety at Wartburg Castle, where Luther produced his legendary translation of the New Testament into German.

Excommunication, i.e. expulsion from the church, meant an end to dialogue from the papal side, opening the path towards reformation outside the Roman Catholic Church. The Imperial Assembly (or Reichstag) of the Holy Roman Empire in Augsburg proved to be a turning point: on the 25th of June 1530, the evangelicals presented a summation of the essential church teachings, called the Augsburg Confession. This had been prepared by another Wittenberg theologian, Philipp Melanchthon (*16th of February 1497, [dagger] 19th of April 1560).

The Liturgy and Music

The evangelical church, with its foundation in the Augsburg Confession, is often referred to as the singing church. The reform of the Wittenberg theologians had a considerable impact on music. Luther was an important supporter of sacred music, which he derived from Old Testament Psalms. The groundwork of the liturgy fully respected the established form of the traditional mass before the Council of Trent. In the main liturgy, Latin remained the language of the service. In keeping with requests for comprehensibility from lay believers, however, some parts were translated into the national language. Luther could fall back on a number of biblical examples and instigations to teach Scripture, and also in the apparition of the Holy Ghost as it is recorded in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, after which God's followers began speaking many languages so the people could understand.

The change, which took the early Christian church as its example, was related--among other issues--to one's religious confession. While in the Latin Mass Ordinary, the Credo took the form of a difficult polyphonic piece, which--given the extensive text--was the longest part of the Mass, the evangelical context also introduced another version (in addition to the Latin form), in which the entire congregation took part. As a sacred song, we also find this variant of the Credo in the 15th century with the Czech Utraquists, (2) who also struggled with similar liturgical questions during the Bohemian Reformation.

In 1527, Luther collaborated with composer Johann Walter on a new ordinary, titled Deutsche Messe. As the title suggests, the entire mass was in German, and this simpler form was originally intended for smaller village churches, where professional musical standards could not be maintained as they could be in cities or at aristocratic courts. Thanks to its complete comprehensibility to utter laymen, the mass became very popular, and it is used in the German evangelical church to this day. Both forms were equal, and in Leipzig, for example, where Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the cantors, the original Latin liturgy was served for the university community.

A crucial change brought about by the Lutheran Reformation was an emphasis on the comprehensibility of the text. Given the fact that the text usually came from Scripture, whether it was a paraphrase or an interpretation, it was considered obvious within the context of these attempts at a comprehensible liturgy that the text is paramount and its structure cannot be lost even in the dense matter of polyphonic voices.

This tenet was universal, regardless of whether it concerned a Latin motet, an arrangement of a German song, the Easter passions, or--later--a spiritual cantata. This feature became typical of protestant music, and we can trace it in the work of all important composers from the aforementioned Johann Walter, through Heinrich Schutz, Dietrich Buxtehude, Johann Sebastian Bach or Georg Philipp Telemann, all the way to Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and later composers.

Luther was also responsible for establishing the tradition of vespers, also aptly called sacred concerts. This was an evening service that included a gospel and sermon, generally held on Saturdays as a preparation for Sunday Mass. In addition to biblical exegesis, music was centre stage. Compositions were selected depending on the periods of the liturgical year and also respected the liturgical structure of worship. The music itself was played on the choir loft. The listeners were therefore not distracted by observing the performers, and could use the music in a sacred space to enter into divine contemplation.

As this was still a religious service, however, it had to include a sacred song for the congregation to sing. This evening vespers tradition continues in a number of evangelical churches to this day. One of the most renowned is in the Church of St. Thomas in Leipzig, which often features the Thomanerchor, with which Bach performed many of his Sunday cantatas.

Singet dem Herren ein neues Lied

The coming together of the liturgical tradition of the Lutherans, alive to this day, and the very organic inclusion of the musical arts as an ideal for both a personal and collective expression of faith gave rise to an incredible environment for the creation of musical works. Furthermore, thanks to the aforementioned liturgical continuity, these can still serve--and often do serve--their ecclesiastical function, and are not restricted to concert performances.

During the first century of the Reformation, the missa brevis was one of the most popular forms: the so-called short mass, containing only a Kyrie and Gloria. On certain special occasions or vespers, the polyphonic Credo could also be added, but it was rarely used in common services.

Other parts of the mass were replaced by songs and motets in Latin or the national languages. These generally concerned pericopes of the liturgical year. Renaissance motets, which thanks to the development of print began to be published in collections or anthologies at the beginning of the 16th century, remained an active component of the musical life in evangelical churches until the beginning of the 18th century.

Song, however, was really the iconic form of the Reformation. The song tradition continued on from medieval Latin cantio, and in many cases, these were traditional melodies whose texts had been translated from Latin. A number of new songs were also composed. These were then collected in hymnals, which became a reformation phenomenon and ultimately influenced musical culture in some regions under Roman Catholic jurisdiction. An excellent example are the Czech lands, which were mostly non-Catholic. Before the Thirty Years War, this was a very religiously tolerant part of Europe with an immensely rich hymnologic tradition, documented by dozens of printed and manuscript hymnals of Utraquist, Brethren, (3) and Lutheran origin. The popularity of this genre was accepted by the Roman church in the period of recatholisation that followed the Thirty Years War, as it was clear to the Catholic clerics that it would be better to use it as a missionary and pastoral element rather than try to eradicate it.

Martin Luther himself took part in the creation of these songs: not just as an editor, but also as author. The most famous is doubtless Einfeste Burg is unser Gott, a setting of Psalm 46 which became the notional anthem of the Lutheran churches. Especially at the outset, he collaborated closely with Johann Walter, who not only composed some of the melodies, but most importantly arranged the entire hymnal in three- to five-voice polyphony, creating a unique monument to both the music of the early reformation, and to his own compositional skill. The Geystliche Lieder are usually considered Luther's final edition: printed by Valentin Babst in Leipzig in 1545, this songbook is often referred to as Das Babstsehe Gesangbuch.

Luther also devoted a number of texts to the musical arts, including a prologue "to all good songbooks". In the conclusion, we read the following lines:
Voran die liebe Nachtigall
Macht alles frohlich uberall
Mit ihrem lieblichen Gesang,
Des mu[beta] sie haben immer Dank,
Viel mehr der liebe HERRE Gott,
Der sie also geschaffen hat,
Zu sein die rechte Sangerin,
Der Musiken ein Meisterin.
Dem singt und springt sie Tag und Nacht,
Seines Lobs sie nichts mude macht,
Den ehrt und lobt auch mein Gesang
Und sagt ihm ein ewigen Dank.
And most the tender nightingale
Makes joyful every wood and dale,
Singing her love-song o'er and o'er,
For which we thank her evermore.
But yet more thanks are due from us
To the dear Lord who made her thus,
A singer apt to touch the heart,
Mistress of all my dearest art.
To God she sings by night and day,
Unwearied, praising Him alway;
Him I, too, laud in every song,
To whom all thanks and praise belong.

Regnum sub utraque species

The reformist teachings of the evangelical theologians at Wittenberg were not restricted to the German states of the Holy Roman Empire. They also reached other areas, particularly the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. They also contributed to the secularisation of Prussia and the demise of the age-old dominions of German and Livonian knights. The Czech lands were not spared, of course, as they directly neighboured Saxony, the "melting pot" of attempts at reforms of the church. The relationship and contact between the new reformist movement and the Czech ecclesiastical setting was truly unique, as the Bohemian Reformation had already taken place in the 15th century.

At the time, the Czech lands were the most religiously liberal in Europe. The Hussite Reformation was represented by the Utraquist Church, sometimes also referred to as the Calixtinistic church. Additionally, there were other smaller churches, most notably the Unity of the Brethren, and various sectarian societies. These, however, operated on the fringes of the law, their existence and subsistence often depending on the support of aristocrats or municipalities.

The Utraquist reformation was territorially confined to Bohemia and Moravia, but its position was entrenched in important and indisputable documents: the first of these were the Compacts of Basel, ratified in 1436, and the so-called Religious Peace of Kutna Hora, signed in 1485, with which Vladislaus II Jagiellon confirmed religious freedom in the land of the "dual populace".

For the representatives of Czech Utraquism, Martin Luther's proclamation was first and foremost an opportunity to break free from international isolation and establish a number of new contacts. Given the similarities between the Utraquist and Lutheran position, the Wittenberg Reformation was most actively received by the German-speaking population of the Czech lands. While Bohemia and Moravia were religiously mixed, where the Czechs were closer to Utraquism or the Unity of the Brethren, which gradually gathered followers, and the Germans generally kept to their Roman Catholic faith, both Lusatia and Silesia had previously been exclusively Catholic, and it was these regions that most took to the ideas of the Reformation. The new teachings, however, also served as inspiration for Utraquist and Brethren theologians, even though the Brethren finally moved closer to the more radical Calvinism.

In Bohemia, Lutheranism mostly spread to the west and the north, i.e. the regions neighbouring Lusatia and Saxony. The most suitable conditions were to be found in the Loket and Cheb regions. They both had sizeable German populations that were culturally allied to their Saxon neighbours, and furthermore, both regions had considerable autonomy within the kingdom. The rich mining town of Jachymov became the centre of the action, developing dynamically and attracting not only businessmen, but also scholars.

By the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, Lutherans had become a stable part of Czech society, and we find amongst their ranks leading noblemen such as Zdenek Brtnicky z Valdstejna, Jachym Ondrej Schlick, or Jindrich Matyas Thurn. In 1611, the foundations were laid for a new church of Holy Saviour (St. Salvator) in the Old Town of Prague, on land bought for the local Lutheran community by Schlick. Personages of local importance were present at the event, as were the couriers of the Elector of Saxony. The construction of the church was a demonstration of the dynamic development of the evangelical church. Not long after that, this development was cut short by the recatholisation which followed the Battle of White Mountain. Amongst these memories of the Czech Lutherans of the 16th and 17th centuries, we find a number of musical works whose composers are often unjustly overlooked.

Isaac's Pupil Balthasar Resinarius

One of the leading figures in the Czech lands at the beginning of the Reformation was Balthasar Harzer, also called Resinarius (* around 1485 in Decin, [dagger] 1544 in Ceska Lipa). He was educated as a vocalist in the court ensemble of Maximilian I, led at the time by the renowned composer Heinrich Isaac. He began studying theology at the university in Leipzig in 1515, as attested by a record of Baldassar Harczer in the university register. After finishing his studies in 1523, he returned to Decin, where he was active as a Catholic priest.

There, he crossed swords with some Lutheran preachers from Saxony and even turned directly to king Ferdinand I for support. He eventually converted under the influence of the new protestant teaching, and from 1534 until his death, he was an evangelical preacher in Ceska Lipa. At this time, he was also already using the Latinate form of his surname.

Today, we only know Resinarius' sacred music. The time of its composition is unknown--the prints thanks to which we still have access to them were only published during the last two years of the composer's life by the important Wittenberg printer Georg Rhau. The two volumes included Resinarius' complete collection of eighty Responsoria and the St. John Passion. Rhau published these as a collection of works by one author, rather than the usual anthologies of different composers, which demonstrates that both the works and their author were held in high regard. In addition to the Latin motets, Resinarius also wrote songs, of which the best-known today come from the Newe deudsche geistliche Gesenge (1544) and Sacrorum hymnorum (1542) collections.

The compositions were intended for liturgical purposes of the Lutheran church, representing a concept well known from the Wittenberg theologians. Attention is focused on the text, which bears most of the meaning. Resinarius' compositional style was relatively conservative--doubtless under the influence of Heinrich Isaac, his music continued in the work of the fourth generation of Franco-Flemish composers. Most of his pieces make use of a cantus firmus--a fixed melody, often derived from Gregorian chant and generally appearing in the tenor voices, which formed the basis for the construction of the piece. They also display a clear effort to express the words as clearly as possible. That seems to have been part of the reason for how popular his music was at the time. In Econmion musicae (1551), Johann Holtheuser from Wittenberg calls him one of the greatest masters of the present. The number of copies made from Rhau's prints also attests to the music's popularity.

Kliment Ursin Bosak

Kliment Ursin Bosak is known to us mostly as a composer of remarkable sacred songs. His life story, however, is relatively unknown. We know he was a Franciscan monk in the first half of the 16th century.

He was a preacher in Jindrichuv Hradec. At the time, the Reformation resonated in a number of monastic communities. Bosak was also open to these new ideas, and he finally left the order. His Lutheran conviction is betrayed by the lyrics to his songs, of which at least fifteen have been preserved. If Kliment were his secular name, then he might also be Benedikt of Pilsen, which would make the latter his monastic name. Benedikt was also a Franciscan, a preacher in Jindrichuv Hradec and an adherent of Lutheranism--in 1524, the Franciscans from Bechyne attempted to incarcerate him in the monastery's prison, albeit unsuccessfully.

Bosak's further activities are once again unclear. Following one hypothesis, he could be Kliment the Brethren preacher ([dagger] 1561), who was ordained in Prostejov in 1537, later served in Jaromerice and died in Prerov. The connection to Kliment Bosak is a mention by Jan Blahoslav, who lists the Brethren Kliment as a composer of sacred songs.

The so-called Habrovany Hymnal or Christian Songs to the Grace and Praise of God (Pisnicky krestanske ku cti a chvale Bozi, 1530) is an interesting source in this respect: for eleven songs, it lists as their author "Kliment, sometimes preacher in Hradec". The potential link to the religious community in Habrovany, however, is also a subject for future research, hopefully yealding more information about the life of one of the first authors of Czech Lutheran songs that made their way into both the evangelical and Catholic repertoires. An interesting fact: the important Jesuit censor Antonin Konias recommended that Bosak's songs be removed from Catholic songbooks. Despite his own recommendations, he printed three of them in his own hymnal.

The Cantor of Jachymov: Nikolaus Herman

Herman ([dagger] 15th of May 1561) is among those figures whose fate is tied to the history of Jachymov in the Ore Mountains. He was probably born in 1500 in Altdorf near Nuremberg, Bavaria. From 1518 to 1557, he was the cantor and organist at St. Joachim's Church in Jachymov, and he also taught at the local Latin school.

His close friend and collaborator was the important scholar and theologian Johannes Mathesius (1504-1565), a rector at this school from 1532 to 1540. From 1542 to 1565, he was preacher and pastor in the Jachymov church. They were both fervent adherents of Luther's reformed teachings. They helped defend and disseminate these through their various activities, and they were also in friendly personal contact with Luther himself. Under Mathesius' and Herman's direction, the school attained a very high standard and became well known across the land and at the court in Prague.

The weight of Herman's oeuvre lies in spiritual songs, to which he applied himself as both composer and poet. He often used the same melody for several songs (a common practice at the time), writing new lyrics for the same tune. His texts are written in simple German with an irregular metre so as to be comprehensible to a wider community of worshippers. Thematically, they are very close to Luther's works. Some of these became a stable part of the evangelical repertoire. An important collection is Herman's Die Sonntags Evangelia uber das gantze Jahr in Gesange verfasset. They were printed in 1560 by Georg Rhau in Wittenberg, and they were the inspiration for a similar repertoire that became the standard in the 17th century. In some of Herman's melodies, we find elements that are typical of folk music in the Ore Mountain region (located on the borders of Czech Republic and Germany today). This is particularly true of his Bergreihen--mining songs--and Abendreihen, evening songs sung in a circle.

From Rudolf II into the Uproar of the Thirty Years War

The turn of the 16th and 17th centuries was a prosperous time for evangelical confession in the Czech lands, now also among the Czech population. Some church communities became emancipated, breaking their ties--in some cases, purely formal--with the Utraquist consistory in Prague. Religious life in a confessionally pluralistic kingdom was certainly not without its conflicts and tensions, but it was generally peaceful, as attested by how commonplace mixed marriages among the local aristocracy were.

These conditions also allowed for the development of scholarship and culture. The fate of a number of remarkable figures is tied to the Lands of the Bohemian Crown. Their works and activities made their mark on the history of evangelical music. After the defeat of the Bohemian Revolt--a failed attempt by the Czech aristocracy to stop the accession of King Ferdinand II, which started the Thirty Years War--and the ensuing anti-protestant campaign, many were forced to emigrate.

Hymnal prints provide some proof for the increasing need for spiritual music. The first Lutheran songbook in Czech was Songs for the Praise of God (Pisne chval bozskych) by Tobias Zavorka Lipensky (1553-1612), a Moravian preacher and writer. They were published in 1602 and 1606. They were followed by the Hymnal (Kancional), printed in 1620 by Daniel Karel (Carolides) of Karlsperk, active in Prague from 1612 to 1622. Apart from these publications, which served the everyday needs of the church, we cannot forget the work of professional composers and musicians. Some of the figures connected to our lands belong to this day among the most important in pre-Bach musical life.

The Silesian Evangelist at St. Henry

The fate of Johann Knofel (* around 1530, [dagger] after 1617) provides an example of the lively contacts between Prague and the other lands of the Bohemian Crown, but we do not know much more about his life. He was married in 1569, and also became Capellmeister at the court of prince Henry XI of Legnica from the house of Piast family. It was to this aristocrat that Knofel dedicated his collection Dulcissimae cantiones, printed in 1571. In the preface, he mentions his devotion to the Augsburg Confession, which took hold in Silesian Wroclaw during the first years of the Reformation. His next collection, Cantus choralis (1575), was dedicated directly to the Wroclaw municipal council. This work represents the chants of the proper mass for the needs of worship of the liturgical year.

The dedications to his ensuing works suggest that he was Capellmeister at the Heidelberg court of Prince Elector Ludwig VI from 1579. In this year, the composer dedicated a mass based on a motet In me transierunt by Orlande de Lassus to the Elector as well as the collection Cantiones piae (1580). In 1583, however, the Prince Elector died, and his successor John II Kazimir Vasa enforced Calvinism. As a Lutheran, Knofel lost his position, and after a brief stay in Silesia, he moved to Prague.

There is a mention of him in 1592 as organist and cantor at the Church of St Henry, which had a renowned choir at the time. The preface to a new collection Novae melodiae was written that same year and published by Jiri Nigrin. Knofel mentions that he had been living in Prague for some time. His trace then disappears again, and appears only briefly in the administrative records of Klagenfurt on the 21st of April 1617, when the Carinthian authorities paid him 30 Florins for the dedication of unspecified compositions.

Knofel's surviving works are in the traditional protestant style. His compositional language, however, was also influenced by the works of Orlande de Lassus. He mostly worked with Latin texts, which could be a sign of his humanist education, as Latin conversation was an everyday affair at the school in Goldberg. He worked with German only in the Newe teutsche Liedlein collection and a few hymns. Even though he was quite a conservative composer, he did not avoid experiments with certain modern techniques, such as cori spezzati (several separate choirs placed in different locations around the church), canzonetta forms, or the use of chromatic movement. His work with Gregorian melodies and sacred songs achieved a high level of elegance, building up polyphony from these simple foundations.

Christoph Demantius, musicus freybergensis

Demantius was born on the 15th of December 1567 in Liberec (Reichenberg) in northern Bohemia, and probably got his education at the local Latin school. At the beginning of the 1590s, he might have been teaching at the school of St. Lawrence in Budysin (Bautzen) in Lusatia, where his pedagogical music theory text Forma musices was published in 1592. Later, on the 17th of February 1593, he enrolled at the university in Wittenberg, but no more is known about his studies there.

Between 1594 and 1595 he moved to Leipzig, where his first musical collection was published in print: Epithalamium honori nuptiarum. In 1597, he obtained the position of cantor in Zittau (Zitava) in Lusatia, which he left after seven years to Freiberg in Saxony, which we know from a municipal record from the 27th of April 1604. His responsibilities included the music in the main municipal church and teaching at the Latin school. Demantius held this position until his death on the 20th of April 1643.

He bought a house in Freiberg in 1610, and received town privileges the following year, making him a full citizen, proof of Demantius' financial security in his new home. He had much less luck in family life. He was married four times and many of his children did not survive infancy. Compared to the extensive list of publications from the beginning of the 1620s, the last twenty years of Demantius' life was comparatively poor for printed works. This could have been caused by the intensity of his commitments at the church and the school, or perhaps the difficult times of the Thirty Years War, which affected Saxony greatly.

Christoph Demantius' oeuvre is fairly balanced in respect to sacred and secular music. He continued in the direction set by previous protestant composers, as well as taking inspiration from Orlande de Lassus. His Lutheran motets on Latin and German texts are perhaps the most notable. In the cycle of mass proper and ordinary pieces Corona harmonica (1610), he elaborated the main excerpts of Sunday biblical pericopes. Demantius' sacred works display an extraordinary feeling for expressive linguistic onomatopoeia. In this he differed from his contemporaries, despite the value which their protestant musical tradition placed on the meaning of the text.

As far as secular music is concerned, Demantius composed mostly German songs. Another important aspect of his work are music theory writings. These represent the tradition position at the time, as outlined in Michael Praetorius' famous Syntagma musicum. Demantius' texts were very popular, as attested to by their repeated editions. Isagoge artis musicae, for example, was published eight times between 1607 and 1632.

Georgius Tranoscius

The evangelic preacher and writer Jiri Tranovsky was certainly one of the key figures of the protestant reformation in the Czech lands. He came from Tesin, where he was born in the spring of 1592. His father Valentin worked in the brewery, but the family came from Tranovice, from which the surname is derived. Between 1607 and 1611, Jiri studied theology and philosophy at the university in Wittenberg.

After he returned from his studies, he decided to leave to Prague, as the prince Adam Vaclav of Tesin converted from the evangelical faith to Catholicism and expelled all the Lutheran preachers from the city. For some time, he was a teacher at the gymnasium of St. Nicholas, later a tutor at the Trebon court of the important Czech nobleman Jan Jiri of Svamberk. In 1613, he acquired a teaching position in Holesov in Moravia, but in 1615, he left for Valasske Mezirici, where he became parish priest the following year. He also married Anna, the daughter of an ex-notary and priest Jiri Polany of Polansdorf, who came from Banska Stiavnica (now in Slovakia).

Given the restless situation after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, he took his family back to Tesin. His worries about his parish in Mezirici, however, brought him back. He was active in secret, but he was captured and imprisoned for several months. When he was released, the plague had gripped the city, taking the lives of more than two thousand locals, including his children. In 1624, an imperial mandate expelled all evangelical clerics from the land. Tranovsky took his wife and their son Samuel, only a few months old, back to his home town.

Baron Jan Sunegh of Jasienice offered a helping hand: also a protestant, he offered Tranovsky the position of chaplain at his court in Bielsko. When the sorrows of the Thirty Years War spread to Silesia, the entire court relocated to Sunegh's castle in Budatin in Upper Hungary, now Slovakia. Here, Sunegh introduced Tranovsky to the influential Hungarian magnate Gaspar Illeshazy, who employed him as chaplain at Orava Castle. Jiri stayed with him until 1631, when he moved to Liptovsky Mikulas. Here, he was accepted among the clerics of the local evangelical seniorate, but this work was once again not to last long. Imprisonment and the repeated escapes had such a great impact on his health that he died prematurely on the 29th of May 1637.

He left behind a remarkable and very valuable theological oeuvre, for which he is sometimes referred to as the "Slavic Luther". He published a translation of the Augsburg Confession (1620), three books of 150 settings of Latin odes, Odarum sacrarum sive hymnorum (1529), or a book of Czech prayers, Phiala odoramentorum (1635). Perhaps the most important, however, is the hymnal Cithara sanctorum, whose first edition from 1636 included the lyrics and melodies for 416 songs. There were many later editions, often including extensions: 140 up to the 20th century.

A number of Tranovsky's songs remain justly popular components of the contemporary evangelical repertoire, including his anthem for all evangelical Lutheran churches, Our Lord God is a Stable Castle (Hrad prepevny jest Pan Buh nas--Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott). Tranovsky's work in Czech also contributed considerably to sustaining a sense of national identity among Slovak evangelicals, some of whom later participated in the Czech national renaissance.

"The Orpheus of Zittau"

Andreas Hammerschmidt might belong among the composers of the Baroque period, but he entered our selection as he was born in pre-White-Mountain Bohemia; in Most in the north of Bohemia, to be precise, probably around 1611 or 1612. The exact date of his birth is unknown today because parish books from the Protestant church in North Bohemian Most from 1609 to 1622 have not been preserved. His father Hans Hammerschmidt (1581-1636) came from Carthause near the river

Zittau in Lusatia, but he worked as a saddler in Bohemia, first in Zatec, and from 1610 onwards in Most.

With the Battle of White Mountain and the ensuing recatholisation, the family left for Saxony sometime between March and August 1626. In 1629, Hans became a free citizen of the city of Freiberg. Nothing is known about Andreas during this time--we do not even know who he studied music with, as there is no mention of him in the Freiberg gymnasium archives.

There were excellent musicians active at the time in Freiberg, such as Christoph Demantius--mentioned above--or the organists Balthasar Springer, Christoph Schreiber, and Stephan Otto. We only know of a connection with the latter, as they maintained a friendly relationship with Hammerschmidt, as attested by Otto's laudatory poem Kronen Kronlein from 1648. As for Hammerschmidt's teacher, Schreiber is a possibility, as Andreas twice replaced Schreiber in his position.

In 1633, Hammerschmidt became organist at the court of count Rudolf von Bunau at the Saxon castle of Weesenstein, where Stephan Otto was cantor. The following year, the position in the Petrikirche in Freiberg became available, as Christoph Schreiber left for Zittau. Hammerschmidt's request from the 9th of October 1634 was answered positively on the 8th of December, but he only began his work in July of 1635, as he had to fulfil his duties at his previous place of employment. With this organist's position, he became the main organist of the city, but his wages were still very low. At this time, he published his first collection in print, Erster Fleiss (1636), dedicated to the local mayor and his councillors. He probably also composed the first part of his Musikalische Andachten (1639) here, for liturgical use in the Petrikirche. The church also saw his wedding with Ursula Teuffel on the 22nd of August 1637: she was the daughter of Martin Teuffel, a man of business in Prague. They had six children together.

When Schreiber died in 1639, Hammerschmidt became his successor as organist at the Johanniskirche in Zittau. He gave his farewell to the Freiberg city council in a letter of thanks from the 18th of September 1639. The remaining 36 years of his life were spent in Zittau. It was here that Hammerschmidt reached the peak of his artistic abilities. Tragically, these works were all lost in a city fire in 1757. His colleagues at the time were Simon Crusius, cantor and teacher at the Johanneum gymnasium, and Christian Keimann, the rector of the school.

The organist's responsibilities included composing and directing music for the liturgy, working with the soloists of the school choir (led by the cantor), as well as instrumentalists. As the only musician in the town who could provide an education in keyboard instruments, he also had a number of students.

He was also prized as an organ connoisseur, and like Johann Sebastian Bach some years later, he was often invited to test new organs: Bautzen in 1642 and Freiberg in 1659 and 1672. Although he remained in Zittau, his travels to Saxon and Lusatian towns are well documented (Bautzen, Dresden, Freiberg, Leipzig, Gorlitz).

The high regard he enjoyed is suggested by the fact that the municipal council named him the town and forest superintendent in Waltersdorf an der Lauscha. Thanks to all these circumstances, he was financially secure. In 1656, he bought a house in the Webergasse, across the street from the church. He added a garden, and in 1659, he bought some land outside Zittau, where he built a summer house. When he died on the 29th of October 1675, his funeral was well attended. The inscription on his tombstone read: "The Orpheus of Zittau".

Hammerschmidt's compositions have become very popular, as evidenced by a number of prints, and he is still considered one of the foremost composers of Protestant spiritual music. In 1655, Johann Rist called him "the world-famous Mr. Hammerschmidt". His correspondence, as well as the prefaces with which he introduced his collections, show clearly that Hammerschmidt was a very learned man. In his rich work, he focused mostly on sacred music, publishing over four hundred pieces in fourteen collections. These include masses, madrigals, cantatas, motets, chorales, and concerts. His musical language was based on the modern Baroque concertante style, which he enriched with a distinctive instrumentation and remarkable melodic invention.

Hammerschmidt most enjoyed composing motets, sacred concerts, and arias. A unique compositional form he employed were the dialogues, in which he set biblical texts. Examples of these are collections such as Musikalische Andachten (1639-52/53) and Gesprache uber die Evangelia (1655, 1656). That is not to say he avoided secular genres, particularly songs and dances, which were published in several collections.


The musical culture of the Wittenberg Reformation might not have been one of the dominant religious movements, but it is still an important--and often neglected--part of our culture. During the course of the first century after Luther's critique, the Czech lands saw the creation of a number of polyphonic figural compositions and songs. A number of these became more stable parts of the repertoire of evangelical houses of worship. The songs of Nikolaus Herman, Tobias Zavorka, or Jiri Tranovsky can be found in hymnals to this day.

The religiously and ethnically plural land saw inspiring meetings and permeations of various cultural and spiritual movements, which created a suitable atmosphere for the development of culture, crowned by the presence of the imperial court. From the Lutheran point of view, the proximity of Saxony and other similarly oriented states was important, given the transfer of culture. There were personal connections too, however. The Saxon Capellmeister Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) had an interest in the construction of musical automatons which captured the attention of Rudolf II, who then offered him a place at his court in Prague. Czech musicians were also active abroad, Johann Knofel, for example, who later put his experience into practice upon his return to Prague.

After one hundred years, the comfortable development of evangelical culture came to an end given the defeat of the Bohemian Revolt which followed the Battle of White Mountain, and especially the ensuing campaign against the Reformation. Evangelicals managed to secure their religious rights only in the As region and in Silesia. In Bohemia and Moravia, there was only a partial loosening at the end of the 18th century, thanks to Joseph II's Patent of Toleration.

Even during the course of a single century, much of the repertoire put down roots abroad. Furthermore, the composers and cantors Christoph Demantius and Andreas Hammerschmidt were also active abroad, both important representatives of sacred music in Saxony and beyond. The Czech linguistic legacy is preserved today thanks to the admirable oeuvre of Jiri Tranovsky, which remained vibrant both among Czech exiles in the German lands and among Slovaks in what was then Hungarian territory. At the end of the 18th century, Slovak clerics were instrumental in renewing the development of evangelical Christianity in the Czech lands once the Patent of Toleration was published.

by Lukas M. Vytlacil

(1) Hus was a theologian and preacher who--inspired by John Wycliffe--led the Hussite or Bohemian Reformation in the Czech lands in the early 15th century.

(2) The Utraquist church was the largest of the churches in Bohemia after the Hussite wars. Its name is derived from the Latin sub utraque specie, meaning 'in both kinds': the Hussites maintained communion under both kinds (both bread and wine), as opposed to the development in the Roman Catholic church, which reserved the blood of Christ for the clerics alone.

(3) The Unity of the Brethren, also known as the Czech or Bohemian Brethren, is another church whose foundations lie in the Hussite movement, with an emphasis on the non-violent teachings of Petr Chelcicky.
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Title Annotation:czech music / history
Author:Vytlacil, Lukas M.
Publication:Czech Music
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EXCZ
Date:Apr 1, 2018
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