Writing the programme notes for our Sounds Imperial concert proved to be a somewhat confusing job for our research king Martin Bull. The concert begins with Haydn’s Te Deum in C major: But which Te Deum in C? There are two works with that title!
The first dates from around 1764, shortly after Haydn had begun working for Prince Nikolaus I Esterházy. And over 30 years later, Haydn wrote the setting which LCS will sing at the concert. By then Nikolaus I’s grandson was in charge – another Nikolaus!
The first Te Deum was commissioned for a Maria Theresa. But which Maria Theresa? Wikipedia lists seventeen of them and the spelling often varies. Two had featured in Haydn’s life: the first and most well-known was the Empress Maria Theresa who ruled alone over the vast Habsburg Empire for 40 years.
She first encountered Haydn when – with a band of fellow cathedral choristers – he was caught by her while clambering over the scaffolding of her newly-built palace at Schönbrunn. To teach him a lesson he wouldn’t forget – she had him thrashed! Many years later, the two met again and the Empress remarked that the punishment had had its results, as the composer was now famous – and she promptly gave him a diamond-encrusted snuffbox as a sort of belated compensation.
It was however the Empress’s granddaughter, Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily, who, having herself become Holy Roman Empress through marriage, commissioned Haydn to write his second Te Deum. She had family links with royal dynasties throughout Europe but was Italian by birth, and married her cousin Francis.
Francis became Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, and later also Emperor Francis I of Austria – the only “double emperor” in history! Theresa also had many ties to the French monarchy: Marie Antoinette was her aunt, one of her sisters became queen to King Louis Philippe and one of her daughters became second wife to Napoleon I.
Oh – and just to add to the confusing story of the music we will sing – it seems that Mozart’s Coronation Mass wasn’t actually written for a coronation! Nevertheless, despite all this confusion of names and titles, the music which resulted remains sublime.
Do come and listen a week today on Saturday the 18th of November!