Vienna

We might expect mid-eighteenth century Vienna to be a hotbed of cantata masses, since it was the capital (population 200,000) of the very Catholic Holy Roman Empire and of Austria, whose Habsburg kings traditionally were the emperors as well—but we would be wrong.  When Maria Theresa acceded to the Habsburg throne in 1740, she inherited a totally empty treasury due to her father’s mismanagement and, as a woman, she could not be elected empress, but could rule as regent for her son Joseph, who was born a year later.  Her husband was not important enough to be named emperor, but she shared decision-making with him.  In 1745, he was finally elected emperor and she became empress as his wife.

Frederick the Great of Prussia, who had amassed a great and powerful army (wouldn’t his father have been proud?), thought he’d won the lottery—no emperor, and a girl in charge of Austria.  He took the opportunity to challenge her rule by invading Habsburg lands, starting with mineral-rich Silesia (wherever that is), initiating the first of several long and expensive wars with her (when he was not playing the flute).  He also helped install the non-Habsburg Elector of Bavaria as emperor, though that poor sod spent his entire “reign” in exile due to his territories being overrun by Maria Teresa’s army.

Maria Theresa could not actually levy taxes herself, but hit up the landed aristocracy, who could tax the peasants, collect tariffs, and sell the metals from their mines (hence the importance of Silesia, wherever that is), to fund her central army to protect them from Frederick.  She even put the arm on the non-landed nobility and the clergy with some success.  George II of England sent troops and money, since Frederick (though George’s nephew) had allied with France, England’s sworn enemy, and so forth and so forth.

By the time this War of the Austrian Succession was over (and the next war and the next war for the next twenty-three years), enough countries and territories had joined in on one side or the other (or both sides, in the case of Saxony, which may be why Frederick later burned up Hasse’s manuscripts in Dresden by mistake along with Dresden itself by intention) that it might as well have been called World War 0.  Everything was finally quiet as of 1763, and as far as I can tell, everybody lost.  Frederick did get to keep Silesia (wherever that is) but had to acknowledge the Habsburgs’ continued claim on the Empire.

Maria Theresa ran the Habsburg queendom efficiently.  She embarked on a series of Enlightenment reforms, including compulsory education of both boys and girls from age six to twelve and inoculation against smallpox, beginning with those of her own children who hadn’t yet died of it.  She spent frugally on the arts, preferring to emphasize the “rationality” of science.

Pope Benedict XIV had issued an encyclical in 1749 restricting the pomp and ceremony that had grown up around the celebration of mass, including the musical instruments to be used.  Organs, strings, and oboes were allowed; trumpets, trombones, timpani, horns, and flutes were not.  The sung text was to be easily understood, with no overlapping of words.  Maria Theresa reiterated these rules in a reform of 1754.  There is considerable evidence that these rules were relaxed or even ignored “in the countryside” as evidenced by the masses noted above by Hasse, Stamitz, Leopold Mozart, and Joseph Haydn—but not in Vienna.

When Maria Theresa’s son Joseph became undisputed Holy Roman emperor in 1765 upon his father’s death, he accelerated his own plans to better the populace, with big spending on education, emancipation of the peasants, appropriation of church lands, closing of 700 monasteries and convents, simplification of the liturgy, and encouragement of the German language in church services, including having hymns sung in German.

This is all a very long way around to say that the Catholic Habsburg rulers in Vienna from 1740-1790 were not big patrons of the Latin mass and that their reforms hampered the financial ability of the Church itself to issue commissions.  This left large numbers of musicians and composers to seek patronage from whomever they could—the lesser nobility and even the more successful merchants—or to freelance by giving subscription concerts.

Georg Reutter (1708-1772) was kapellmeister at St. Stephen’s Cathedral from 1738 until his death, writing for his archbishop some eighty masses.  Most were probably short, owing to Maria Theresa’s taxing of the church coffers, and none is recorded.  Leopold Hofmann (1738-1793) had been a musician and composer in several Viennese churches since 1758 and became kapellmeister in 1766 at St. Peter’s, a large parish church which had to be even more strapped than the cathedral for its own music fund.  He wrote over forty masses, none of which has been recorded.  Johann Baptist Vaňhal wrote over fifty-eight masses without any church connection at all, though he had close ties to several surviving Vienna-area monasteries which maintained small orchestras and may have offered commissions.  Two are recorded, a cantata “Missa Solemnis” in C major from about 1778 and a long “Missa Pastoralis” in G major from about 1782 (both scored only for organ, strings, and oboes, by the way) and both too late to have influenced the young Mozart.

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