Date of Degree
DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts)
The Historia der Passion und Leidens unsers einigen Erlösers und Seligmachers Jesu Christi (1593) by Leonhard Lechner (c. 1553-1606) is frequently cited as an important work in the development of the Passion idiom. Given the work's notoriety, it is therefore odd that little substantive analysis of the piece exists. Aside from some scholars' cursory comments about the piece, only James Morgan Sides's dissertation has discussed the work at length. Sides's findings give a somewhat limited picture of Lechner's Passion because he primarily focuses on technical aspects of Lechner's musical language. This essay instead seeks to provide a more comprehensive examination of Lechner's composition by taking into account social factors that influenced the history, reception, and stylistic influence of the work. The essay seeks to understand Lechner's Passion according to its cultural context, place it within the Passion genre and Lechner's biography, reception history, as well as explore its influence on later Passion settings. It then uses these factors as a means to explore Lechner's musical language to a greater extent than previous scholarship.
The first chapter explores how social trends in sixteenth-century Württemberg, where Lechner was a chorister when he composed his Passion in 1593, affected his musical language. When Lechner wrote his Passion, the duchy was at a crossroads, balancing religious tradition and a more secular, modern future. On the one hand, over the 1500s, secularization occurred within the duchy's political, religious, and musical institutions. On the other hand, Württemberg's acceptance of Lutheranism in 1534 also shaped the duchy's culture. Additionally, despite its vehement anti-Catholic rhetoric and actions, Württemberg retained some of its long-standing Catholic religious and musical practices after its conversion to Lutheranism. Württemberg's dichotomous culture-a blend of secular, as well as Catholic and Lutheran influences-affected both the duchy's musical culture and Lechner's composition.
The second chapter explores how Württemberg's societal changes, the history of the Passion genre, and Lechner's biography influenced specific musical devices in Lechner's Passion setting. Throughout the work, Lechner seems to use incongruous compositional language-the work not only boasts forward-looking expressive devices, such as text painting, but also incorporates compositional devices typically associated with older Catholic Passion settings. Lechner's setting of Biblical texts in the German vernacular, however, reflects the principles of the Reformation, as well as Württemberg's acceptance of Lutheranism. As the essay traces Lechner's use of text and text setting, expressive devices, and Passiontons throughout each of the piece's five movements, Lechner's musical language is understood to be a product of the Passion idiom, his personal faith, and sixteenth-century culture.
While the first two chapters primarily focus on the relationship between Württemberg's culture and Lechner's musical language, the final chapter deals with the influence of Lechner's Passion, which has a bipartite legacy. In part, Lechner's Passion was summative because it is one of the last motet Passion settings, a subgenre that quickly disappeared due to the rise in popularity of instrumental music. Few motet Passions were composed after Lechner's; however, his work did influence later compositions, including pieces by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), Hugo Distler (1908-1942), and Kurt Thomas (1904-1973). It is significant that Lechner's Passion not only influenced Schütz, perhaps the greatest seventeenth-century Lutheran composer, but was also admired centuries later by twentieth-century composers.
The approach of this essay recognizes that no work of art is created in a vacuum and therefore seeks to explore how cultural factors influenced the composition of Lechner's Passion. Lechner's dichotomous compositional language is an outgrowth of sixteenth-century Württemberg's culture, the history of the Passion idiom, and his own biography. As the essay progresses from the piece's social framework to its historical implications, Lechner's Passion is framed as both a product of its time and a model for future compositions. This essay therefore provides a more comprehensive perspective of Lechner's Passion than what previous musical analyses have offered.
Leonhard Lechner’s musical setting of Christ’s Passion, Historia der Passion und Leidens unsers einigen Erlösers und Seligmachers Jesu Christi (1593), is often cited as an important work in the development of the Passion genre; however, these claims are largely unsupported. This essay seeks to provide the in-depth musical analysis of Lechner’s Passion missing from existing scholarship. Rather than offering a strictly technical analysis, this essay seeks to understand the musical language found in Lechner’s Passion as it corresponds to the time and place of its composition. Accounting for the political, religious, and musical changes at the end of the sixteenth century, when Lechner composed this work, gives meaningful insight into Lechner’s compositional language. The essay concludes with a discussion of the influence of Lechner’s work on later Passion settings. By examining the cultural context, providing a musical analysis, and exploring the historical implications of the work, this essay seeks to contribute a comprehensive discussion of Lechner’s Passion to musical scholarship.
publicabstract, Lechner, Passion, Württemberg
xiii, 168 pages
Includes bibliographical references (pages 162-168).
Copyright 2014 John Charles Hughes