‘IJdele waereldliederen’ omgedoopt in ‘Heilige Dicht- en Zangkunde’. Rutger Schutte en zijn eerste bundel Stichtelijke Gezangen* | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 72, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1383-7079
  • E-ISSN: 1875-6409



Rutger Schutte (1708-1784) was a universally loved minister of the Dutch Reformed Church as well as a highly respected author of theological tracts and religious poetry. Unsurprisingly, he was chosen to serve on the National Committee that convened in 1773 with the remit to create a modernized and improved Dutch verse translation of the Genevan Psalter. Schutte was also deeply convinced of the immense spiritual utility of singing hymns privately or collectively at home. In his four collections of (‘Edifying Songs’), first published, respectively, in 1762 (I), 1764 (II), 1765 (III) and posthumously in 1787 (IV), Schutte presented to the public no fewer than 173 newly written spiritual hymn texts that were intended to be sung not during church services but domestically or during private spiritual gatherings. The corresponding musical settings, scored for voice and basso continuo and described as (‘Melodies’), were made available in separately printed volumes.

In the present article only the first volume of the , comprising a total of 45 hymns, is chosen for analysis. In his extensive preface to the first volume Schutte writes that his main target group is young devout amateur singers who out of principle reject the singing of frivolous modern Italian or French love songs but are also tired of singing the all too familiar and old-fashioned traditional hymns over and over again. In order to cater to their taste, Schutte has decided to provide ‘the best Italian, and other new melodies’ (‘de beste Italiaansche, en andere nieuwe zangwijzen’) for his sacred poems. He explains this choice by pointing out that in his day and age Dutch musical taste has evolved to become identical with Italian musical taste. He views his initiative in publishing sacred hymns with ‘melodies in the taste of new music’ as something completely unknown up till then.

In the first volume of Schutte’s the music of all twenty of the secular songs making up the collection (published in London around 1733) by the London-based Dutch composer and violinist Willem de Fesch (1687-1761) is given new life in the form of sacred . De Fesch’s music is most often reused without substantial modifications, but some small, mostly felicitous adjustments become apparent in practically every song: Schutte’s anonymous musical collaborator – in all probability identifiable with the Amsterdam-based German composer and organist Leonhard Frischmuth (see below) – often seizes the opportunity to make slight alterations to De Fesch’s music, especially in rhythmic respects but sometimes also in its harmonic and contrapuntal treatment.

In the that accompany the I, we find musical settings for 38 hymns – thus seven short of the total number of hymns in the volume containing the texts. This discrepancy is explainable by the fact that several hymns can be sung to the same melody. Of the 38 settings, 20 come from De Fesch’s , as already noted. In the case of thirteen hymns the melody is described as having been newly composed (‘op een nieuwgemaakte zangwijze’) by an unnamed master. Five hymns are without any caption. From Schutte’s preface to II we learn that the new music in the second volume has been composed by Leonhard Frischmuth. Schutte is confident that these settings will please connoisseurs of good music, adding: ‘just like those from his pen in the first volume’. From his wording one might infer that all new songs in Vol. I are by Frischmuth, but that would be an over-interpretation of Schutte’s words. Some, certainly, are by Frischmuth – and possibly even all of them – but at present we cannot tell exactly how many.

Interestingly, Schutte often provides ancient Genevan psalm melodies and other traditional song melodies as ‘simpler’ alternatives to the ‘new’ music printed in the . A good example is Hymn 33, ‘Heilig stilstaan’ (‘Holy dwelling’), which can be sung in three different ways: in the new setting for voice and basso continuo printed in the ; to the melody of ‘Heureuse Tourterelle’ (probably a favourite melody from a French opera or song-book); or to the popular tune of the ‘Wilhelmus’ (the present-day national anthem of The Netherlands).

It is clear that Schutte intended to reach as large a public as possible, ranging from the young but musically trained devout capable of singing the technically sometimes quite demanding new settings to the simple believer, who could read the poems but could sing them only to the simpler traditional tunes and, more often than not, could probably hardly afford to buy the relatively expensive accompanying volume containing the .


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