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Hieronymus Praetorius

born: 10 August 1560
died: 27 January 1629
country: Germany

Hieronymus Praetorius was born in 1560 in Hamburg where his father Jacob was organist at the Jacobikirche and the associated chapel of St Gertrud. When he was in his early twenties his father died and Hieronymus became organist, holding the post for the rest of his life. Between them, Praetorius father and son worked at the Jacobikirche in Hamburg for an uninterrupted period of seventy-five years. Only one composition by Praetorius senior survives (an unremarkable four-voice setting of the Te Deum). However, in the years immediately preceding and following Hieronymus’s birth, Jacob copied and compiled two large collections of German and Dutch church music. In addition to his teenage organ studies in Hamburg and Cologne, Hieronymus learnt the art and craft of music from studying the corpus of sacred music assembled by his father. Hieronymus in turn fathered four children, three of whom (Jacob, Michael, and Johannes) became church musicians. This Michael Praetorius (third son of Hieronymus) is not to be confused with the celebrated and prolific composer Michael Praetorius who, as it happens, did meet Hieronymus Praetorius in Gröningen in 1596; but other than that there is no connection between these two exceptional near contemporaries who happen to share the same surname.

The first published collection of music by Hieronymus Praetorius was printed in Hamburg in 1599. Gaudete omnes, O bone Jesu, O vos omnes, and Videns Dominus all first appeared in this collection. Three years later Praetorius published eight settings of the Magnificat, one in each of the eight tones. More of Praetorius’s church music was published in 1607, including Beatus auctor saeculi and the Oratio Dominica. A collected edition of the sacred music of Hieronymus Praetorius was issued in five volumes between the years of 1616 and 1625; this complete (or near-complete) collection included hitherto unpublished music (such as the 1618 issues of the Benedictio mensae and Laudate Dominum) as well as reissues of already available works. The 1622 volume presents the most daring versions of many of the pieces recorded here and contains Praetorius’s second (and previously unpublished) Magnificat quinti toni (‘in the fifth tone’) to which are attached polyphonic arrangements of the popular medieval tunes Joseph, lieber Joseph mein and In dulci iubilo. This later setting of the fifth-tone Magnificat is Praetorius’s masterpiece.

from notes by Jeremy Summerly

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