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.
Despite recent scholarly interest in Monteverdi's Selva morale et spirituale (1641), many aspects of this large, complex print remain enigmatic, and the intended context for much of the music in the collection has long been a matter of pure conjecture. Yet two of the most anomalous features of the Selva morale , the solo motets Ab aeterno ordinata sum and Pianto della Madonna , can now be placed into the context of the Habsburg court in Vienna during the reign of Ferdinand III (1637––57). Both of these works play directly into the most important aspects of Habsburg Marian devotion. Ab aeterno is a setting of Proverbs 8:23––31, a text that although very rare for seventeenth-century motets would nonetheless have been widely understood as a celebration of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. The Pianto , a Latin contrafactum of Monteverdi's celebrated Lamento d'Arianna , would have been perfectly suited for the Habsburgs' Fifteen Mysteries Celebration, a Lenten devotion in praise of the Most Holy Rosary. Various types of evidence, including liturgical and other religious writings, Habsburg sermons, and additional musical works, support these interpretations of Monteverdi's motets and reveal their importance to the imperial court. That the composer did indeed include the motets in his print with the Habsburg court in mind is further indicated by similarities between the Selva morale and an earlier publication stemming directly from Ferdinand III's court: Giovanni Felice Sances's Motetti a voce sola of 1638.