Pamela Dellal, mezzo soprano


uncommon intelligence, imagination and textual awareness...



Motet Notes

Heinrich Schütz: "Es ging ein Sämann aus," SWV 408 -
Symphoniae Sacrae III

It is curious that among the many difficult and inscrutable parables of Jesus, the story of the Farmer and the Seed should be so thoroughly explained by Jesus. It is as if this most obvious of all the parables were particularly obscure and opaque. This parable as related in the Gospel of Luke was for many years associated with Sexagesima Sunday. It is fascinating to see the different take on the story by two great composers separated by exactly a century.
Schütz’ setting dates from 1650 in that particularly fertile period of his career following the Peace of Westphalia that ended the dreadful Thirty-Years War. Both the Geistliche Chormusik (1648) and the 3rd book of Symphoniae Sacrae (1650) have a large number of pieces celebrating peace or, as is the case with our sacred symphony, celebrating a return to normalcy. During the war, fighting had been so intense and all-consuming that some parts of Germany suffered from starvation merely because there was no one to till the fields. Obviously this parable resonated with the people in a literal and direct fashion. Schütz’ response to this parable is subtle and nuanced. As the various stages of the story become more elaborate in their counterpoint, the litany response of the people becomes more lucid and clear. It is as if the people do not understand the message until the final stage of the story has been articulated.

©Craig Smith