Heinrich Schütz (October 9, 1585 - November 6, 1672) was a German composer and organist, generally regarded as the most important German composer before Johann Sebastian Bach and is believed to be the most important composer of the 17th century along with Claudio Monteverdi. He wrote what is thought to be the first German opera, Dafne (although the music has since been lost).
Schütz was born in Köstritz and was discovered by Moritz von Hessen-Kassel in 1599. After being a choir-boy he went on to study law at Marburg, before going to Venice from 1609-1613 to study music with Giovanni Gabrieli. He subsequently had a short stint as organist at Kassel before moving to Dresden in 1615 to work as court composer to the Elector of Saxony.
He held his Dresden post until the end of his life (sowing the seeds of what is now the Dresden Staatskapelle while there), but left Dresden itself on several occasions; in 1628 he went to Venice again, encountering Claudio Monteverdi probably personally, and in 1633, after the Thirty Years' War had disrupted life at the court, he took a post at Copenhagen. He returned full time to Dresden in 1641, and did not leave again until his death there from a stroke as an 87 year old man.
Schütz' compositions show the influence of his teacher, Gabrieli, and of Monteverdi, whom he had studied, though his fundament is always the Dutch school of the 16th century. His best known works are probably in the field of sacred choral music, which he wrote quite a lot of, especially his Symphoniae sacrae, the Psalms of David and his three Passion settings.
Schütz was of great importance in bringing new musical ideas to Germany from Italy, and as such had a large influence on the German music which was to follow.