A Wedding during the Thirty Years' War

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Today, September 9 (9/9), is a is popular wedding date in Germany, so we are going to look at a very special wedding—one that took place in the middle of the Thirty Years’ War. On 1 April 1627 Georg II, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt (1605-1661) married Sophie Eleonore of Saxony (1609-1671), daughter of Johann Georg I, Elector of Saxony (1585-1656).

As part of the wedding, the play Dafne by Martin Opitz (1597-1639) was performed, to which Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) contributed a few musical numbers. Even today the work makes the rounds as the “first German opera” in the literature, although this label is unjustified. The music was unfortunately lost during the war.

But we do still have a different work that was composed for this wedding: an anthology of villanelles for one to three voices by the chamber musician Johann Nauwach (ca. 1595- after 1645). Nauwach, who was a student of Heinrich Schütz, played lute in the Dresden court orchestra. The villanelles are modeled on Italian monody with continuo. The words are by Martin Opitz or translated from Italian verses. The anthology is the first collection of continuo lieder in German.

Image: Title page of the Teutschen Villanellen by Johann Nauwach. Copy from D-Dl Mus.1499.G.1.

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Category: Musical anniversaries

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