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Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630)

Johann Hermann Schein worked as a composer and poet. He studied in Leipzig and was the Cantor at St. Thomas from 1616 to 1630.

  1. Biography
  2. Private Life
  3. Connection to Leipzig
  4. Reception
  5. Works
  6. Sources and Links

1. Biography

Johann Hermann Schein was born on January 20th, 1586 in Grünhain near Annaberg (Saxony) to the Lutheran pastor and magistrate Hieronymus Schein and his wife Judith. After the death of Schein’s father, in 1593, the widow and her children moved to Dresden. There, in 1599, Johann Hermann Schein became a choir boy in the Dresden Hofkapelle (Court Chapel) and learned the theory and practice of music.

In 1603 he matriculated at Leipzig University as the scholarship recipient from Christian II, Elector of Saxony. In the same year he transferred to Electoral Landesschule Pforta, where he went until April 26th 1607. After a short stay in Dresden, from 1607 to 1608, he came back to Leipzig as a student.

Starting in 1613 he worked as private tutor and private musical director for Gottfried von Wolffersdorff in Weißenfels.  As of 1615 he worked in Weimar as Hofkapellmeister (Court Kapellmeister). In 1616 he took over the Cantor of St. Thomas position which he held until his death on the 19th November 1630.

2. Private Life

Johann Hermann Schein suffered terrible strokes of fate during his life. He buried his first wife Sidonia Hösel in 1624. She died after the birth of their fifth child. Three of the five children from this marriage died in infancy. Only two sons, Johann Samuel and Johann Hermann, outlived their father. In 1625 Schein married his second wife Elisabeth von der Perre. She bore him five more children, four of which did not live past their first year.

The fifth child was baptized after the death of its father. Early in his service as Cantor of St. Thomas he was plagued by serious illness. During the last few years of his life he frequently traveled to Karlsbad where he hoped to be healed of his gout, kidney stones, and consumption. He succumbed to consumption on November 19th 1630 in Leipzig, just before his 45th birthday. His close friend and companion Heinrich Schulz dedicated the six voice motet of mourning (Trauer-Motette) “Das ist je gewißlich wahr“ to the composer. Tobias Michael was his successor as Cantor of St. Thomas.


3. Connection to Leipzig

Student Days

In 1608 Johann Hermann Schein began studying in Leipzig- supported by a scholarship from the Elector. First, he studied liberal arts and then law until 1612. Early in 1609 the young composer published his first musical work: Venus Kräntzlein. In addition he participated musically and compositionally in the 200th anniversary of Leipzig University in December 1609 and made a name for himself in the Leipzig music world.

Cantor of Thomas

On April 19th 1616 Johann Hermann Schein was called to Leipzig to succeed the late Sethus Calvisius as the Cantor of St. Thomas. Initially Schein described himself as only Musicus and Cantor; however, starting in 1622 he was able to call himself the “director musices”. His responsibilities, as such, included giving ten weekly humanities classes and four music classes as well as the musical direction of both Leipzig churches: St. Thomas and St. Nicholas. Additionally, he was responsible for the music at funerals, weddings, and the musical performances at public events such as council elections.

Johann Hermann Schein was extremely respected and popular in Leipzig. He cultivated friendships with the upper class, normal citizens, and persons of rank. Starting in 1617 he self-published a compilation of his musical works every year. His work as Cantor of St. Thomas was, however, also marked by a conflict between Schein, the principle of the school and the city council. This conflict was not necessarily because of Schein or his work as Cantor, but is to be attributed to difficult external circumstances. As of 1618 the Thirty Years’ War reigned. The number of students sank and teaching became more difficult. Nevertheless Johann Hermann held on to his position as Cantor of St. Thomas until his death.

4. Reception

Schein’s musical and compositional activities had their highpoint while he was Cantor of St. Thomas in Leipzig. In fact most of his 100 worldly and 350 spiritual compositions are from this period. Along with Saxon contemporaries, Heinrich Schütz and Samuel Scheidt, Schein counts as one of the important German composers of the 17th century.

Schein was also a poet and penned all the lyrics to his worldly songs.


5. Works

Spiritual Works

Motet Collections
1615: Cymbalum Sionium (Published in Leipzig)
1623: Fontana d’Israel/Israels Brünnlein (Published in Leipzig)

Spiritual Concerts
1618 und 1626: Opella Nova (Part 1 published in Leipzig, 2. Part published in Freiberg)

Worldly Works: Collected Songs

1609: Das Venus Kräntzlein (Published in Wittenberg)
1621, 1626, 1628: Musica boscareccia/Waldliederlein (Part 3, all published in Leipzig)
1624: Diletti pastorali/ Hirtenlieder (Published in Leipzig)
1626: Studentenschmauß (Published in Leipzig)

Instrumental Work

1617: Banchetto musicale (Published in Leipzig)

The complete works of the composer were self-published.

6. Sources and Links

Werbeck, Walter und Claudia Theis: Schein, Johann Hermann. In: Fischer, Ludwig (Hrsg.): „Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart.“ Personenteil Bd. 14, 2. neubearb. Auflage, Kassel u.a. 1995: Bärenreiter
Seedorf, Thomas: Schein, Johan(n) Herman(n). In: Weber, Horst (Hrsg.): „Komponisten- Lexikon.“ 2. Auflage, Stuttgart, Weimar und Kassel 2003: Metzler und Bärenreiter
Prüfer, Arthur: Johann Hermann Schein. Habilitationsschrift. Reprint der Originalausgabe von 1895, Kassel 1989: Bärenreiter


Schein. Eine historische Betrachtung - Stationen seines Lebens und sein Wirken. In: www.kirche-gruenhain.de/menu/foerderkreis/schein/index.htm
Schein, Johann Hermann. In: de.wikisource.org/wiki/ADB:Schein,_Johann_Hermann
Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630) – Liebesgedichte. In: www.deutsche-liebeslyrik.de/schein_johann.htm


Source: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Hermann_Schein