Michael Praetorius (1571–1621) ranks among the most prolific German musical figures of the seventeenth century. Despite his stature, many of his works, especially his earlier collections, remain largely understudied and underperformed. This paper examines one such early collection, the Megalynodia Sionia, composed in 1602, focussing on the relationship between formal structure of its first three Magnificat settings and the Lutheran theological ideal of uniting the Word of God with music. Structurally, these three Magnificats are distinguished by their interpolation of German chorales within the Latin text. In order to understand his motivations and influences behind the use of this technique unique at the time of composition, the paper explores Praetorius’s religious surroundings in both the personal and civic realms, revealing a strong tradition of orthodox Lutheran theology. To understand the music in light of this religious context, certain orthodox Lutheran liturgical practices are examined, in particular the Vespers service and alternatim, a compositional technique using alternating performing forces which Praetorius used to unite the Latin and German texts. Referencing Praetorius’s own theoretical writings, this paper proposes a relation between alternatim and the concerto principle. Analysis of Praetorius’s use of this technique as the large-scale form of the Magnificats in the context of his writings and beliefs ultimately suggests a union between Praetorius’s structural compositional decisions and Lutheran beliefs.


Praetorius, Magnificat, Concerto, Lutheranism, alternatim