Magazine article The American Organist

Nineteenth-Century Repertoire of the Vienna Court Musical Ensemble

Magazine article The American Organist

Nineteenth-Century Repertoire of the Vienna Court Musical Ensemble

Article excerpt

NINETEENTH-CENTURY REPERTOIRE OF THE VIENNA COURT MUSICAL ENSEMBLE Richard Steurer, Das Repertoire der Wiener Hofmusikkapelle im neunzehnten Jahrhundert. Publikationen des Instituts für Österreichische Musikdokumentation, 22, herausgegeben von Günter Brosche. Tutzing: Hans Schneider, 1998, 674 pp.

IN THE preface to this study, Richard Steurer states that this book (which originated as his dissertation at the University of Vienna) is an attempt to document and interpret the musical culture of the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle [court chapel musical ensemble) in the 19th century. This institution, which the author describes as "probably the pre-eminent church music establishment," indeed boasts a long and distinguished history. Founded in 1498 by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle provided music for the imperial household and noble guests continuously until the end of the monarchy in 1918, after which it endured as a musical organization that includes the Vienna Choir Boys. Having celebrated its 500th anniversary in 1998, the former imperial chapel presents a full orchestral Mass most Sundays according to the liturgical year, attracting a large attendance of visitors from all over the world as well as local residents. As with many musical performances in Vienna, students and frugal fans avail themselves of inexpensive standing-room tickets.

Das Repertoire der Wiener Hofmusikkapelle im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (The Repertoire of the Vienna Court Musical Ensemble in the 19th Century) assembles a number of original sources that give detailed information about liturgical and musical practice in the Hofkapelle during the 19th century. The most extensive of these (occupying over 450 pages of the book) is the historical record of music performed in the Hofkapelle. reproduced from archival records of musical performance kept by court scribes. These records, which survive in manuscript books from 1820 through the end of the 19th century (and beyond), document the musical contents of every service held in the Hofkapelle and also of services held in the several other churches (e.g., St. Augustine's, St. Michael's, St. Stephen's, and the Invalidenhaus), where the imperial family also worshiped on certain occasions. Organized in columns like a ledger, these records give the following data: date, liturgical day or event, composer, work, and remarks.

The information contained in these records testifies to the rich musical and religious life of the Hapsburg court in this period, although the quality of the music programmed varied with the individual Kapellmeister. The "liturgical day or event" includes regular Sundays, major feasts, Vigils, and Vespers, as well as numerous saint's days, Requiems and anniversary Requiems for deceased members of the imperial family, masses for fraternal service Orders (e.g., Golden Fleece), and memorial rites for military battles. The heading "works" lists the compositions performed on the date in question. For most services, the music consists of the standard musical components of the Mass, that is, a Mass Ordinary, Gradual, and Offertory. Typically, the three pieces were by two or sometimes three different composers, although the Kapellmeister sometimes scheduled an entire service of music by a single composer, a practice that became more common in the later decades. Under the column "remarks," the scribe entered additional comments, some of which pertain to the music (e.g., a first performance, a guest director, an insertion of a movement by another composer into the listed work, etc.) and occasionally to non-musical matters (e.g., different location of service, illness or death of important pursonagu, etc.). As tho century progressed, commentary tended to diminish.

Steurer supplements these 80 years of records with related documents and historical background and analysis. Constituting Part I of the book, four sections, each subdivided into chapters, deal with the topics of Aufführungspraxis (performance practice), Die Einflussnahme des Hofes auf den Spielplan (the influence of the court on the performance schedule), die liturgischen Aufführungen der Hofkapelle im Spiegel der Wiener Musikzeitungen (liturgical performances in the court chapel as reflected in the Viennese musical press), and Stilistischen Grundzüge (stylistic foundations). …

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