A little gem of a piece

In concerts of 17th-century German Christmas music with the Toronto Consort last month, I had the chance to revisit a great little instrumental piece by Johann Hermann Schein. It was a four-part Intrada with the original scoring for ‘Zinck, Viglin, Flödt, Basso.’ To translate, that would be cornetto, violin, flute and bass, though the last word refers to the bass part rather than to any specific bass instrument. A curious and wonderful grouping. Speaking of curious, here’s an image of the composer:


Born in 1586, Schein moved to Dresden with his family at the age of seven after the death of his father. He received his musical training in Dresden, Pforta and Leipzig, and worked in Weimar before landing the job of cantor at Leipzig’s Thomasschule in 1615. Schein worked there until his death in 1630, performing the same job to which J.S. Bach would be appointed one hundred and eight years later. Schein’s compositions are almost all vocal works, both sacred and secular; his one collection of instrumental music is the Banchetto Musicale (1617), where this little Intrada can be found (item 21).

It’s a really great little piece. Out on the web there are several performances of it on more homogeneous-sounding string or wind consort, but it’s at its best with the wonderful mix of colours specifically requested by the composer. In December my colleagues were cornetto player Kiri Tollaksen, violinist Christopher Verrette, and Dominic Teresi played the bass line on the dulcian.* Just under three minutes of genuine delight.

You can find the score and parts here:


* a forerunner to the bassoon