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Motet Notes

Johann Hermann Schein: "Lehre uns bedenken"

(Israelsbrünnlein 1623)


Johann Hermann Schein's Israelsbrünnlein (Fountains of Israel), published in the year 1623 and dedicated to the Leipzig city government, is designated as a set of sacred madrigals for five voices and continuo. The printed music indicated further that they were composed "in a special graceful Italian madrigal manner." From this set of 27 short settings of psalms and other lyrical passages from the Bible, comes today’s motet “Lehre uns bedenken.” The text is from Psalm 90, 12-14, the appointed psalm for the day in the Revised Common Lectionary.   Scored for five voices, Schein cleverly uses the alto voice in a dual role – both as the lowest female voice, but also the highest male voice. The Italian manner in which Schein sets the text is, for the most part, that of early Monteverdi, giving distinct text painting to each phrase. Notice the rising motive on “fülle uns früh” (fill us in the morning) that necessitates the cascading motive on “mit seiner Gnade” (with your grace). The motet concludes with an extended melisma on the text “unser leben lang” (all our lives long).

© Ryan Turner