With the so-called Prague Defenestration on 23 May 1618, now 400 years ago, a dispute which had been smouldering for years (between the predominantly Protestant Bohemian nobility and the Catholic sovereign authority) escalated harshly. This date marks the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War, which was one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in human history: it resulted in eight million fatalities mainly from violence, famine and plagues, but also from military engagements predominantly fought on German soil since 1620, only brought to an end by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
Arno Paduch, the leader of the Johann Rosenmüller Ensemble and a specialist for German Music in the early Baroque, has compiled a program with music written for various events which took place during this war period. It is music for political occasions, like a “Te Deum” dedicated to Emperor Ferdinand II for the celebration after the Battle at the White Mountain by Johann Sixt von Lerchenfels, Heinrich Schütz’ composition “Da pacem Domine”, which was performed during the Electoral Diet in October 1627, or Andreas Düben’s funerary motet “Bonum certamen certavi” for the Swedish king Gustav Adolf, who was killed in the Battle of Lützen. But the programme also contains compositions that describe the horrors of war: two good examples are Johann Hildebrand’s simple but poignant monody “Ach Gott! Wir haben’s nicht gewusst, was Krieg für eine Plage“ (Oh Lord, we didn’t know what a real plague is war), which expressed the widespread despair at the hopelessness of the situation, or Matthias Weckmann’s sacred concerto “Wie liegt die Stadt so wüste” (How doth the city sit solitary).