Early in his career as the Cantor at Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Johann Hermann Schein would publish a collection of chorale settings for several voices and continuo. Not only were these settings predictive of Bach's profound interest in chorales exactly one hundred years later as Cantor at Thomaskirche, they constitute one of the earliest amalgamations of the Italian style with the German chorale. This collection, entitled "Opella Nova," is the first of two collections to explore the great German chorales. Our setting of "Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot" is characteristic of the imagination and flexibility with which Schein went about his task. The tune is itself by Martin Luther and is based upon a bit of Gregorian chant. It at first does not seem promising as a melody, but Schein makes a marvelous an ethereal piece filled with the spirit of the profound words.
© Craig Smith