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Melchior Vulpius (c. 1570, Wasungen – 7 August 1615, Weimar) was a German singer, composer, schoolmaster and writer on music. He was the most important composer of Protestant hymn tunes in Germany in his day and one of the most productive and popular of lesser Lutheran composers.
Vulpius came from a poor craftsman’s family. He studied at the local school in Wasungen (in Thuringia) with Johannes Steuerlein. From 1588, he attended the school in Speyer. After marrying in 1589, he obtained a position at the Gymnasium in Schleusingen. In 1596, he was named cantor in Weimar.
He wrote and published church music, the best known being the setting of the hymn Ach, bleib mit deiner Gnade (Ah, stay with your grace) on a text by Josua Stegmann. This setting was often performed in Protestant churches on New Year’s Day and at the end of the service. Important compilations were Cantiones sacrae (1602, 1604), Kirchengesänge und geistliche Lieder Dr. Luthers (1604), Canticum beatissimae(1605) and Ein schön geistlich Gesangbuch (1609). The Cantional (a collection of songs) was published posthumously in 1646 in Gotha.
The St. Matthew Passion is another of Vulpius’ well-known works. Already in the middle of the 17th century did the music spread also to Sweden and later to Finland. Based on the several copies of music manuscripts that have been preserved in different archives in Finland, it can be concluded that the Passion became rather popular there. According to historical sources, this was the very first polyphonic passion composition ever performed in Finland. Later, the Passion fell into oblivion, but in 2007, the Finnish Vulpius Passion tradition was revived with Sonus Borealis performing it in several churches in Southeast Finland.
Although Vulpius did not receive the academic education that most 16th and 17th century Lutheran Kantors enjoyed, he was nevertheless held in the highest regard during his lifetime, and he had some success as a writer as well as a composer. His most sought-after publication was his expanded edition of Heinrich Faber’s extremely popular Compendiolum musicae (1548), which, like the original version, went through numerous editions. His Musicae compendium (1610) went through many editions.

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