The three late Passion settings of Heinrich Schütz are amongst the composer's best-known, but least adequately studied works. The aim of this thesis is to attain an understanding of Schütz's Passions both as independent works of art and as part of a larger historical and generic context, using a two-stage approach based on historical survey and analysis.
The discussion is divided into two parts. In Part One, various backgrounds to Schütz's Passions are explored in depth. These include Schütz's oeuvre, the Catholic and Protestant traditions of Passion music, and such theoretical issues as musical rhetoric.
In Part Two, the monophony of each Passion and their choruses are analysed through a number of techniques, including several newly devised methods. The findings are evaluated as far as possible against the background discussed in Part One.
It is shown that although Schütz probably intended the Passions as no more than Gebrauchsmusik, they not only surpass all previous examples of their kind (responsorial Passion) in complexity and aesthetic value, whilst retaining many traditional elements, but also epitomize certain aspects of his style, namely his penchant for investing old-fashioned techniques with new life and extracting maximum effect from minimal means. Outwardly, the Passions are austere, archaic works; inwardly, they may be considered the consummation of Schütz's work -- his last testament.