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Melchior Schildt (Composer)

Born: 1592 or 1593 - Hannover, Germany
Died: May 22 (or May 18), 1667 - Hannover, Germany

Melchior Schildt was a German composer and organist. He came from a Hannover family, four of whom (his grandfather Gerdt, his father Antonius and his brother Ludolph, as well as himself) were employed over a period of more than 125 years as organists at the three churches in the Old Town of Hannover. After initially being taught music at Hanover by his father and Andreas Crappius, he went in December 1609 to Amsterdam to study with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, with whom he remained probably until the end of 1612. No documents have survived relating to his activities over the next ten years, but from 1623 to 1626 he was organist at the Marienkirche in Wolfenbüttel, and from 1626 to 1629 he was court organist to King Christian IV in Copenhagen. After his father's death in 1629, he succeeded him as organist of the Marktkirche, Hannover, and held this post until his death.

Of the north German organists of Heinrich Schütz's generation, the pupils of Sweelinck who founded the so-called north German organ school in the first half of the 17th century, Melchior Schildt, together with Johann Heinrich Scheidemann and Jacob Praetorius, is one of those whose extant works mark them out as composers with distinctive personalities. Except for a single vocal work, all of his surviving music is for keyboard, and as with Sweelinck's other pupils, most of it consists of chorale-based organ works. Of his pieces in this genre, the five-verse cycle Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn is stylistically still quite close to Sweelinck, but in the Magnificat 1. toni, his most distinguished and important organ work, which is also in five separate sections, the modern north German forms of chorale fantasia and ricercare are clearly visible. This work was probably one of a now lost series of Magnificat settings by Schildt comparable with the cycles of Samuel Scheidt, Michael Praetorius and Scheidemann. Of his other keyboard works, the Pavana Lachrymae is specially fine. It is one of many keyboard arrangements by English and continental composers of the first piece in Dowland's Lachrymae (1604), and is notable for its particularly expressive colouring.

Of his valuable compositions only one cantata, 4 voices, and a few organ and harpsichord pieces in manuscript are preserved (Q.-L.; Riemann). Schildt's one extant vocal work is the chorale concerto Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein. It is a masterly example of the sacred concerto for voices and instruments. As such it is indebted to Schütz's Symphoniae sacrae, but the way in which Schildt applied this style to the treatment of a chorale in order to provide a subjective interpretation of the content and emotional impact of the chorale text was without precedent. The quality and originality of this piece make the loss of a further nine vocal works by him, known only by their titles, particularly regrettable.


Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein, 1v, 2 vn, bn, bc, 21 Jan 1657, S-Uu; ed. W. Breig (Kassel, 1964)
9 further works formerly in D-Lm, now lost, see Seiffert (1907-8)

Chorale arrangements (organ): Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr; Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn; Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr; Magnificat 1. toni: ed. in Die Orgel, ii/24 (Cologne, 1968)
Variations (harpsichord): Gleichwie das Feuer; Pavana lachrymae (after J. Dowland): ed. W. Breig, Lied- und Tanzvariationen der
Sweelinck-Schule (Mainz, 1970); ed. in Music in Denmark at the Time of Christian IV, iii (Copenhagen, 1988)
2 Praeambula, ed. in Organum, iv/2 (
Leipzig, 1925)
Anon. chorale arrangements, attrib. Schildt: Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein; Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern: ed. in Exempla Musica Neerlandica, xvi (Utrecht, 1991)
Lost chorale arrangements: Christ, der du bist der helle Tag; O vater, allmächtiger Gott: in G.V Scharffe, Tabulaturbuch, 1673 (see M. Seiffert, ed.: Introduction to J.P. Sweelinck: Werken, i,
Leipzig, 1894)


Source: Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition); Grove Music Online © Oxford University Press 2006, acc. 5/21/06 (Author: Werner Breig, w/ Pieter Dirksen)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (April 2006), Thomas Braatz (May 2006)

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr, Chorale Prelude for Organ/Keyboard

Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr

Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn, Chorale Prelude for Organ (all five verses are set)

Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn

Links to other Sites



M. Seiffert: J.P. Sweelinck und seine direkten deutschen Schüler, VMw, vii (1891), 145-260
M. Seiffert: Die Chorbibliothek der St. Michaelisschule in Lüneburg zu Seb. Bach's Zeit, SIMG, ix (1907–8), 593-621, esp. 616-17
T.W. Werner: Melchior Schildt und seine Familie, AMw, ii (1920), 356-67
F. Dietrich: Geschichte des deutschen Orgelchorals im 17. Jahrhundert (
Kassel, 1932)
T.W. Werner: Archivalische Nachrichten und Dokumente zur Kenntnis der Familie Schildt, Theodor Kroyer: Festschrift, ed. H. Zenck, H. Schultz and W. Gerstenberg (Regensburg, 1933), 130-39
T.W. Werner: Melchior Schildts Testament, AMf, ii (1937), 77-91
W. Breig: Melchior Schildt, Musik und Kirche, xxxvii (1967), 152-60
C. Vestergaard-Pedersen: Melchior Schildt i Danmark, DAM, vii (1973-6), 237-46
C. Turner: ‘Melchior Schildt (1592/3-1667): toward a Reassessment’, Organ Yearbook, xvii (1986), 67-80

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