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Praetorius, Michael (1571-1621)

Michael Praetorius

born: 15 February 1571
died: 15 February 1621
country: Germany

Michael Praetorius was born on 15 February 1571 at Creuzberg an der Werra near Eisenach, the son of a Lutheran pastor. His family moved to Torgau when he was a small child, though throughout his life he referred to himself as ‘M.P.C.’—Michael Praetorius Creuzbergensis. He was educated in Frankfurt an der Oder and Zerbst, and in 1587 became organist of St Marien in Frankfurt. In 1595 he entered the service of Duke Heinrich Julius of Brunswick in Wolfenbüttel and was made Kapellmeister in 1604. Shortly afterwards he also began to work for Landgrave Moritz of Hesse at Kassel, and after Duke Heinrich Julius’s death in 1613 spent several years working for the Elector of Saxony in Dresden. By this time he was one of the most famous musicians in Germany, and worked at various times over the next few years at Magdeburg, Halle, Sonderhausen, Kassel, Leipzig, Nuremberg and Bayreuth. However, he continued as Kapellmeister at the Wolfenbüttel court, and died there on his fiftieth birthday, 15 February 1621.

Praetorius devoted most of his life to church music. He published more than twenty collections, mostly of settings of Lutheran chorales, and a number of others are known to have existed in manuscript. He also planned a series of collections of secular music named after the various Greek muses, including Euterpe (Italian and English dances), Thalia (toccatas and canzonas) and Erato (German secular songs). Unfortunately, in the event he managed to publish only one, Terpsichore, musarum aoniarum quinta (Wolfenbüttel, 1612), consisting of 312 dances in four, five and six parts.

from notes by Peter Holman

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