When Johann Hermann Schein became Kantor at the church of Saint Thomas in Leipzig in 1616, he had, on the one hand, to satisfy the liturgical demands of his Lutheran parish and, on the other, compose music that was truly contemporary, sensible to the new style coming out of Italy. Schein exploited the new possibilities brought by the basso continuo, demonstrated his mastery of musical rhetoric and wrote extremely ambitious music of great expressive force. The instrumentation calls for instruments such as the cornet, trombone and dulcian, Schein drawing his musicians from the forces of the Stadtpfeiffer and Ratsmusiker, guilds of instrumentalists attached to the City of Leipzig since the 15th century. For this musical portrait of Schein, one of the greatest German composers of the 17th century and one of J. S. Bachs most talented predecessors, InAlto presents an itinerary to the sources of the German cantata and testimony to the extraordinary tradition of city musicians perpetuated over the centuries. In addition to Scheins music, this heritage is represented here by Johann Schelle, Gottfried Reiche and J. S. Bach.
Peter Cornelius was born to actor parents and destined from early life to have a career centred on words and music. He had early contact with the stage and dramatic literature, and like others of the time (such as Schumann), Cornelius immersed himself in German literature at an early age. At the same time he developed an interest in music. After early influences from Beethoven and Schubert, and studies of form and the composition of sacred music in Berlin, Cornelius's musical style matured under the tutelage of Liszt in Weimar.