When I really need music to soothe my mind and take me to another place, this is the guy I turn to: Michael Praetorius, a composer who straddled both the Renaissance and Baroque eras.
When I hear music that predates the Classical era, it takes me back in time the way no other era can. The son of a Lutheran pastor, Praetorius became a versatile composer and music theorist after studies as an organist. He wrote music depending on who was in charge of the courts (be it a duke, duchess, elector of Saxony, etc.) so he was writing either lots of church music or lots of festive music.
Praetorius was famous as a music academic and took on the arduous task of compiling record of contemporary musical practices which wasn’t notated before. Most music was written without specifying which instruments were required; little flourishes and personal touches common in performance practice were not written down, either. (This effort reminds me of all the work Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle put into writing down and testing all the recipes for “Mastering The Art of French Cooking”). Praetorius also experimented with the stereo effect; his choral compositions were written for several small choirs placed throughout the church for surround sound.
A committed Christian, Praetorius expressed regrets for not taking holy orders but based on what he contributed to music, religious and otherwise, I’m sure he gained entrance when he got to the pearly gates.
Here’s the Kyrie Summum as song by Wheaton College Concert Choir.
Michael Praetorius was likely born February 15, 1571 in present-day Thuringia, Germany and died February 15, 1621 in Wolfenbüttel, Germany.