music of the week – Dies irae from Missa pro Defuncto Archiepiscopo Sigismondo, MH 155 of Michael Haydn

by ada

After a big, big break caused by computer troubles and serious time deficit due to my horrible work schedule, I’m back with my Salzburg Early Music Composers Series. This time it’s all about Michael Haydn, the younger brother of Joseph Haydn, who, according to his contemporaries, was an even more talented boy soprano than Joseph and who loved Salzburg enough to turn down Prince Esterházy’s offer about a job as vice-Kapellmeister at the Eisenstadt court.

This Requiem is the perfect funeral music, so that its function was recognised even by my musically totally untalented mother.* Michael Haydn wrote it for the death of his employer, Archbishop Sigismund von Schrattenbach, but it has also a more personal note: his only child, Aloisia Josefa died at the same year, short before her first birthday. Wether Haydn, nor his wife, Magdalena Lipp, a famous soprano of the time, have recovered again from the sorrow. Actually, poor Magdalena went quite mad, wearing strange robes and beating herself in public as self-punishment, and Haydn started drinking.

It’s a well-known fact that this Requiem was a source of inspiration for Mozart when writing his own, famous one. He, at the age of fifteen, played the third violin at the funeral of Schrattenbach. The Mozart family was on good terms with Haydn and both Leopold and Wolfgang respected his talent and works, despite of the fact that, in his letters to his son, Leopold (“Daddy”) Mozart heavily criticised Haydn’s love of good wines.

I chose the video from pure patriotism. We could argue about nationality and could remember all the numerous injustice the Habsburg dynasty did to us, Hungarians in the past, but nothing will annul the almost 500 years in which we shared history. Even if the present life and politics of Austria is completely different than that of Hungary, their past remains also our past forever and their culture became ours (well, actually was forced on us, if we want to be precise). That’s why my patriotic soul was hurt so deeply when I came to know that, from the whole European nobility, only the Habsburg people weren’t invited to the Royal Wedding a year ago. Such a shame. Well, William and Kate, you can be famous,  rich and pretty but you have no manners. That’s quite clear.

* I know that criticising your parents isn’t that polite, but well, truth is truth, and it was not my mother I inherited my musical talent from. I guess it has something to do with the mathematician genes of my father. Or it’s just simply the blood of my Ukrainian great-grandfather, who was reported to sing (and, ehm, also to drink) on every day of his life.

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