Born: February 15, 1571, Creuzburg an der Werra, Thuringia.
Died: February 15, 1621, Wolfenbüttel, Germany.
Buried: St. Mary’s Church (in a vault beneath the organ), Wolfenbüttel, Germany.
His real name was Michael Schultheiß (German for
mayor, which in Latin is
Beginning in 1585, Praetorius studied theology at the University of Frankfurt an der Oder, where he was also an organist. In 1595 (or earlier—some sources say 1592), he became court musician to Duke Heinrich Julius von Braunschweig. The Duke’s Residenz (royal seat) was not in Braunschweig, but in a few miles away in Wolfenbüttel.
At first Praetorius was the Duke’s organist; in 1604, he was appointed master of the Duke’s court music. The inscription around the portrait at the left reads,
Michael Praetorius, of Creutzburg [sic] in Thüringen, the Duke of Brunswick Organ’s and Choir Music’s Master, at the age of thirty-five, in the year 1606.
From 1613–16, Praetorius was in Dresden, at the court of the Kurfürst von Sachsen (Elector of Saxony). Then he returned to Wolfenbüttel, but from that time on, he traveled frequently in central Germany, and was very active as a musical adviser and Organisator (organizer).
He was not only a composer, but also a musicologist. From 1605–10, he edited Musae Sioniae, a collection of 1,244 arrangements of songs and hymns in nine volumes. From 1615–19, he edited his 3-volume Syntagma musicum, about sacred and profane musicology.