by ada

For Easter Sunday and for my last music post is something that hopefully restores our cruelly shattered national image a bit: the cantata No.29, Surrexit Christus hodie from the collection Harmonia Caelestis of Esterházy Pál, the one and only Hungarian baroque composer. During Baroque times we were too busy with singing our deprimating folk tunes, mourning about our terrible destiny and rebelling against the Turks or the Habsburgs or both at once (and, in the short but happy breaks of war, wildly dancing csárdás while being drunk) to care about art music. Our dance music was always quite fashionable among folks from other parts of Europe, and during the Romantic era composing music in stile Hongroise was a huge hype and it resulted quite a revival of our national music even in our own country, but Hungarian Baroque music, as genre, actually doesn’t exist except of this collection. Esterházy himself was more of a politician and soldier, who took part in the war against the Ottoman Empire pretty decently, than a man of culture.

The family Esterházy is a prominent example of the almost 1000 years old Hungarian nobility. They are the ones, who employed Haydn as their court composer, so their love of music (and their irresponsibility in financial matters, haha) resulted some excellent compositions of Haydn, like the Baryton trios or the Surprise Symphony. And, if you care about modern literature, you’ve sure already run into the family roman Harmonia caelestis (yes, the same title) of our internationally acknowledged contemporary writer Esterházy Péter.

This very collection was published in 1711 in Wien and contains 55 cantatas for the Catholic liturgy. They are written in a rather simple style with homophonic accompaniment, but, I think, from a man who spent his life mostly with fighting for freedom, and from an era of blood, sadness and war, it’s a nice attempt of trying to keep up with the world and culture outside of Hungary.

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