Johann Hermann Schein (1586 – 1630): Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam

Thomaskirche Leipzig Ceiling Detail

Together with Schütz and Scheidt both of whom were friends of his, Schein introduced the Italian style to German music and successfully grafted it onto Lutheran church music. Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam (Christ our Lord to Jordan came) which Schein composed for the Feast of the Nativity of St. John and published in Opella Nova in  1618 is a setting of a text by Martin Luther. It’s a very Italianate and cleverly written piece of music which makes use of  colourful word painting and in which each phrase is first stated and then decorated using the phrase itself in diminuendo – a difficult trick to pull off successfully but Schein manages it very well indeed. The dialogue between the two voices is very reminiscent of Monteverdi. Enjoy :-).


Text & Translation: Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam

Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam
nach seines Vaters Willen,
von Sankt Johann die Taufe nahm,
sein Werk und Amt zu erfüllen.
Da wollt er stiften uns ein Bad,
zu waschen uns von Sünden,
ersaüfen auch den bittern Tod
durch sein selbst Blut und Wunden;
es galt ein neues Leben.  

Christ our Lord to Jordan came,
following his Father’s will.
He was baptised by St. John
to fulfil his work and duty.
To make for us a bath
that would wash us clean from sin,
bitter death was drowned
through His own Blood and wounds.
A new life for us was thus won.

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