Heinrich Schutz and the 400th anniversary of his birth seem lost amid the musical hoopla generated by the tricentennials of Bach and Handel. So to give the 17th-century German composer his due, the American Vocal Ensemble, under the directorship of Douglas Major, will celebrate Schu tz's music in a concert at the Washington Cathedral, Tuesday at 8 p.m. Tenor Stanley Cornett will be the guest soloist.

"Most people," says Major, "have not heard of Heinrich Schu tz, or, if they have, they can't say they've heard a concert of his music." Major points to the vocal and choral sacred music that fills Schu tz's canon: "He wrote no music for solo keyboard or orchestra. Schu tz was neither a mainstream symphonic composer nor the keyboard star that Scarlatti was." It was Schu tz, however, who "paved the way for the orchestral styles of Bach and Handel"; and with his Psalmen Davids, two of which the 16-member American Vocal Ensemble will perform, Schu tz became "the first German composer to adopt the Italian style of combining instruments and voices," Major says.

The ensemble's Schu tz sampler will include four of his Italian Madrigals -- secular exceptions to the primarily sacred rule in Schu tz's canon -- as well as his "Story of the Resurrection," a piece, which, as far as Major knows, "had never been done in Washington until this year."