The figure of Samuel Capricornus has been unfairly neglected by modern historians of music, editors and performers. Not only was Capricornus admired by his contemporaries even beyond the frontiers; the extraordinary standard of his works and the originality and variety of his output make him quite simply one of the greatest composers of religious music of the seventeenth century.
Capricornus’s most original compositions are the Lieder von dem Leyden und Tode Jesu (Songs on the sufferings and death of Jesus) and Theatrum musicum. The former are a kind of German equivalent to the leçons de ténèbres of the French Baroque. The texts by Paul Gerhardt are handled ‘in the manner of a concert for two voices and four viols’. The collection entitled Theatrum musicum consists of twelve ‘sacred scenes’ for three voices (alto, tenor and bass), four viols and basso continuo. As their title indicates, these pieces are dramatized sacred poems.