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An Appeal From the Destitute


War had depleted treasury of Saxony and the finest musicians in the land were living from hand to mouth. On August 14th, 1651, Heinrich Schutz wrote a letter to Prince Christian on behalf of his suffering ensemble:

Most gracious lord, even though I am reluctant to bother a celebrated Prince with my repeated letters and reminders, I am forced to by constant restlessness hour after hour, by loud cries of despair, by the misery and complaints of the entire company of poor, neglected musicians of the Chapel, who are living in misery such as would make a stone in the ground burst into tears.

As God is my witness, their misery and pitiable complaints are like a stab in my heart since I don’t know what comfort or hope of relief that I can give them.

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In happier times I would hardly have thought this possible, but most members of the company have made up their minds that rather than discrediting their gracious Lord by begging for bread, they will, from sheer necessity, depart. It’s impossible for them to stay on and continue to suffer any longer. [They will leave their debts to be paid by anyone willing to do it. They’ve had their fill of insults. Nobody will extend them credit, not for a single penny.

It’s my duty to call this matter to the attention of Your Princely Highness and to point out that it would be sad if a company assembled with such care and effort should be broken up and scattered this way.

Therefore I ask most humbly that Your Princely Highness request His Serene Highness, as your dearly beloved Father, to permit a single quarter’s salary to be paid to the company so that they might be kept together.

If Your Princely Highness should be unable to make some helpful arrangement, it would be impossible for me to hold the musicians longer. But at least I will have done my best.