Sacred Music at the Court of Emperor Leopold I (r. 1658-1705)

Date

2022-03-03

Authors

Hieb, Kimberly

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Abstract

Leopold's tenure as Holy Roman Emperor, while unexpected, lasted almost half a century, from 1658-1700. As the second oldest child in the family Leopold was trained in religious and intellectual pursuits, which left him rather ill-suited for the prestigious post that was to be filled by his older brother Ferdinand, who died unexpectedly in 1654, leaving Leopold as heir apparent. Considering his education, it is utterly unsurprising that Leopold was a deeply religious ruler, a tenacious Roman Catholic who also happened to be a prolific patron of the arts. Occupying the throne a decade after the financial drain of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) abated, Leopold was able to dedicate substantial resources to architectural, theatrical, and musical pursuits. Historian Maria Goloubeva (2000) has studied Leopold's glorious representation in architecture, literature and on the opera stage. Musicologists have examined the secular Italian cantatas composed at Leopold's court (Bennett 1980), the keyboard music penned by Leopold's imperial composers (Harris 1967), and instrumental ensemble music of the period (Vaillencourt 1991). The sacred music performed at the court of this profoundly pious emperor, however, has yet to be systematically studied. This lacuna in the musicological research is likely the result of many musical sources that have been unfortunately lost and the scattered nature of the surviving sources. There is, however, a catalog of the sacred music library of Leopold I, the Distinta specificazione. While many of these compositions listed in this source do not survive, this catalog provides relevant information about many of the pieces listed including the genre of the work, the feast celebrated by the composition, and the instrumentation or voicing of the composition. A textual incipit is sometimes provided as well. Also extant is a detailed list of the sacred ceremonies that were granted musical accompaniment at Leopold's court, Kilian Reinhard's Rubriche generalie per la funzioni ecclesiastiche musicali di tutto Anno. Finally, there are a substantial number of compositions that were penned by composers who were employed by Leopold that do survive today. While many of these works are not published in modern edition and are found mainly in partbooks or manuscripts scattered throughout various archives in central Europe, cataloguing the titles and instrumentations of these works as well as the feasts for which they were composed provides another piece of the puzzle that is the sacred music repertoire performed for Leopold I. These sources facilitate the reconstruction of Emperor Leopold's individual approach to Catholic piety according to the feasts or objects of devotion that were celebrated with particularly extraordinary musical accompaniment. Once we reconstruct Leopold's distinct Catholic piety, we can attempt to track how his approach to Catholic devotion resonated throughout his diverse and scattered empire.

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Keywords

2022 Faculty Research Poster Session and Research Fair, West Texas A&M University, School of Music, Poster, Emperor Leopold I, Sacred music

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