In 1648 Andreas Rauch, an Austrian composer living in the Hungarian town of Sopron, published the Currus triumphalis musicus, a collection of thirteen Latin motets, each dedicated to a different Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor. With its sumptuous paratexts and impressive musical scope, this “triumphal musical chariot” was not a typical commercial commodity. Instead the volume functioned as an assertion of Habsburg power at the end of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48).
A straightforward reading of the book is complicated, however, by the exile of Rauch, a Lutheran, from Austria in the 1620s. This musical panegyric, produced by a composer with a troubled relationship to the honoree, opens the door to a reading of the print as an act of diplomacy, in which the composer not only seeks reconciliation by acknowledging the Emperor’s power but also subtly admonishes the Habsburgs in the wake of a peace settlement that was decidedly more favorable to his side. Through close readings of the paratexts and the texts of the musical works against a political and theological backdrop, it is possible to uncover the diplomatic functions of the print for Ferdinand III, the town of Sopron, and Rauch himself. In shedding light on a fascinating cultural artifact, this article offers a fresh perspective on the diplomatic potential of printed music in early modern Europe.