This article explores the musical patronage and practices of Duchess Elisabeth of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1564–1613), a Lutheran princess of Denmark, and demonstrates that the few extant traces of her musical world testify to her careful command of music to maintain her public identity as devout consort, mother, and widow. It examines three settings of Nun lob mein Seel den Herren by Michael Praetorius (1571–1621), all of which appeared in print during his time as Elisabeth’s Kapellmeister at the Welf court in Wolfenbüttel: an Epithalamium for four choirs, a double-choir motet, and a variation set for the organ. A chorale-paraphrase of Psalm 103, Nun lob mein Seel encapsulates the tension between private religious belief and its jubilant public manifestation through music. Listening to Praetorius’s chorale settings in counterpoint with the printed record of Elisabeth’s musical and devotional life (all written by men) reveals how music helped Elisabeth construct a public image of her piety, even in seemingly private settings. The remarkable Compenius organ, commissioned from Esaias Compenius by Duke Heinrich Julius and, as Praetorius alone records, “his dear wife” Elisabeth for her rooms at Hessen Schloss, offers a glimpse into the more private musical world of a Protestant noblewoman, indicating how even such private spaces were produced, in part, for public consumption.
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Research Article| April 01 2023
Echoes of Heaven: Listening for the Musical Worlds of Elisabeth of Denmark and Michael Praetorius
Anna Steppler is a professional organist particularly interested in performing and promoting music by other women, and her research focuses on instrumental music’s inherent theological and cultural value in early seventeenth-century Lutheran courtly circles. She received a PhD in musicology from Cornell University with a dissertation entitled “Michael Praetorius, the Organ, and the Possibilities of Instrumental Music.”
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Journal of Musicology (2023) 40 (2): 213–247.
Anna Steppler; Echoes of Heaven: Listening for the Musical Worlds of Elisabeth of Denmark and Michael Praetorius. Journal of Musicology 1 April 2023; 40 (2): 213–247. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jm.2023.40.2.213
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