I first came across Es ist ein Schnitter
as a folk song whilst browsing through Lieder, Songs und Gospels 2
sometime in 1984. Here the text is taken from a 30-Year War broad sheet (1638) and the melody is credited to a certain Jacob Balde (also 1638). It was not until 2002 however that I had the greatest of pleasures in singing it as a member of the Studiooper der Universität Bremen
at the Schönbergiade 02
and Ceilidh 2002
in June of that year. This version is a beautiful song quartet for soprano, treble tenor and bass written by Johannes Brahms
I have also enjoyed accompanying Nina Kreft
on my concertina whereby Nina had quite a different version. As to this folk song itself, the melody is hauntingly beautiful and the lyrics pure poetry. It deals philosophically with the inevitability of death (the "Schnitter" being the reaper) and, in the last verse, even welcomes death without fear as the grim reaper is himself the door-keeper to those heavenly gardens of paradise.