Feast of Giovanni Gabrieli, Hans Leo Hassler, Claudio Monteverdi, and Heinrich Schutz (November 6)   4 comments

Flag of the Most Serene Republic of Venice

Above:  Flag of the Most Serene Republic of Venice

Image in the Public Domain



Composer and Organist

teacher of


Composer and Organist



Composer and Musician

teacher of


Composer and Musician

Lutheran Feast Day = July 28


With this post I add four composers of church music to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  Classical music is my favorite genre of audio input.  For most of my life I have derived much spiritual benefit from classical church music, including certain works by some of these four composers.

Giovanni Gabrieli, born in Venice, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, in 1557, was a nephew of Andrea Gabrieli (circa 1520-1586), a composer and organist.  Andrea, famous for his madrigals and sacred works, served as the second organist (1566-1585) then primary composer (1585-1586) at St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice.  Giovanni, who studied music under the direction of his uncle, succeeded him as the second organist (in 1585) and as primary composer (in 1586), holding both posts for the rest of his life.  In 1584 and 1585 Giovanni and his uncle taught Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612).  The younger Gabrieli also befriended Hassler.  Giovanni, whose major works include the Sacre Symphoniae, composed the first truly orchestral sacred music, with spatially separated choirs, intended for performance at St. Mark’s Basilica.  He also edited and preserved many of his uncle’s compositions.  Giovanni, ill for the last six years of his life, died at Venice on August 12, 1612.  He was 54 or 55 years old.

Hans Leo Hassler, baptized at Nuremberg, on October 26, 1564, became the most German composer of his time.  His father and first music teacher was Isaak Hassler (died in 1591), an organist.  Hans studied music with the Gabrielis in Venice in 1584 and 1585.  Back in Germany, Hans became the organist to the Fugger family, bankers in Augsburg.  Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (reigned 1576-1612) made the composer a nobleman in 1591.  Nine years later Hassler became the director of music for the city of Augsburg.  The following year he transferred to Nuremberg, to fill a similar position.  Finally, in 1608, Hassler became the organist to Christian II (reigned 1591-1611), the Elector of Saxony.  The composer stayed on in that capacity in the service of Elector Johann Georg I (reigned 1611-1656).  Our saint, a Lutheran, composed madrigals as well as sacred music in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions.  He died of tuberculosis at Frankfurt on August 19, 1612.  He was 47 years old.

Claudio Monteverdi, baptized on May 15, 1567, at Cremona, Duchy of Milan (now Cremona, Lombardy, Italy), became an influential composer.  He studied music under Mark Antonio Ingegneri (circa 1545-1592), choirmaster at the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In 1590 Monteverdi became a string player in the service of Vincenzo I (reigned 1587-1612), Duke of Mantua.  The composer and the duke traveled to Hungary in 1595 and the Low Countries in 1599.  Also in 1599, Monteverdi married Claudia Cattaneo (died in 1607), a singer.  They had two sons and a daughter.  One son became a Carmelite friar and a chorister at St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice.  The other son, a doctor, became a target of the Inquisition in 1627.  Fortunately, the Inquisition acquitted him of charges of heresy the following year.  Duke Vincenzo I promoted Monteverdi to the post of director of music at the ducal court.  In 1612, however, Duke Francesco IV (reigned in 1612), citing the necessity of budget cuts, terminated Monteverdi’s employment.  The composer served as choir master at St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, from 1613 to 1643 (his death), becoming a priest in 1632.

Monteverdi was an influential composer during his lifetime and afterward.  He composed madrigals, motets, operas, and sacred music.  L’Orfeo (1607) has become the oldest opera still performed.  The music to some of his operas has not survived, unfortunately.  Monteverdi also wrote settings of the Mass and of vespers.  Especially notable was Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610), dedicated to Pope Paul V (reigned 1605-1621).

Monteverdi led a frequently unhappy life yet he composed much fairly light music.  That life, the last few years of which he spent in illness, ended at Venice on November 29, 1643.  He was 76 years old.

The birth date of Heinrich Schutz was October 8, 1585 on the Julian Calendar and October 18, 1585, on the Gregorian Calendar.  The site of that debut was Kostritz, Thuringia.  He became the greatest German composer prior to Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).  The son of Euphrosyne Bieger and Christoph Schutz (the manager of an inn) became a chorister at Kassel, under the patronage of Maurice the Learned (reigned 1592-1627), the Landgrave of Hesse-Kessel.  Schutz studied law at the University of Marburg in 1608 and 1609.  Then, in 1609-1612, he, financed by Maurice the Learned, studied music at Venice, where Giovanni Gabrieli was his teacher.  Schutz studied law at Leipzig, starting in 1613, but accepted Maurice’s offer to become the second organist at the court at Hesse.

Starting in 1614, Schutz began to work primarily for the Electors of Saxony, starting with Johann Georg I (reigned 1611-1656).  The composer began by supervising the music of the baptism of Johann Georg’s son.  Next Schutz went to work in the electoral chapel at Dresden.  In 1619 he married Magdalene Wildeck.  The couple had two daughters.  In 1628 Schutz visited Venice, where he studied under Claudio Monteverdi.  Then he returned to Dresden and the electoral court, but left after three years, due to the combination of plague and the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).  In 1633-1635 Schutz served as the kappelmeister at the Danish royal court when Christian IV (reigned 1588-1648) was the sovereign.  Then the composer returned to the electoral court at Dresden, where he remained for the rest of his life, despite his expressed wishes to leave.  Schutz died after a stroke, on November 6, 1672.  He was 87 years old.

Schutz left and impressive musical legacy, including madrigals, sacred works, and operas.  Daphne (1627) was the first German opera.  The score has become lost to history, unfortunately.  He also composed a German requiem mass, Musikalische Exequien (1636).  Other sacred works included a Christmas oratorio (1664) and settings of the Passion narratives from the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John.

These composers left a living legacy, one which a person can access via technology easily and legally.  Doing so will prove spiritually beneficial to he or she who really listens to those works and inwardly digests them.






Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:

You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servants

Giovanni Gabrielli, Hans Leo Hassler, Claudio Monteverdi, and Heinrich Schutz.

Teach us to drive from the world all chaos and disorder, that our eyes may behold your glory,

and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible richness of our new creation in Jesus Christ

our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 18b-20

Matthew 13:44-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61



4 responses to “Feast of Giovanni Gabrieli, Hans Leo Hassler, Claudio Monteverdi, and Heinrich Schutz (November 6)

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