Happy 410th Birthday, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III!

This Friday is the 410th birthday of Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor from 1637 to 1657. Like many members of royalty, he dabbled in composition—as did his successors Leopold I and Joseph I.

Andrew H. Weaver published an edition of all known motets by Ferdinand III in 2012. In a recent article in Early Music, Weaver writes:

“Imagine my surprise, then, when recently searching for works by the emperor in the online RISM-OPAC database of music manuscripts from before 1800 (always a wise thing to do periodically, even after finishing a project), when I found a recently added entry for a Latin sacred composition attributed to Ferdinand III in a manuscript in the Berlin Sing-Akademie.”

The motet in question is a three-voice piece with basso continuo that begins “Peccavimus” and is attributed to “Ferdinando” (D-Bsa SA 4661 (7), RISM ID no. 469466107). It is part of a large collective manuscript containing nineteen other sacred pieces. The motet was copied by Hermann Koch, a cantor in Berlin at the end of the 17th century, and whose name is found on dozens of Sing-Akademie manuscripts in RISM. On stylistic and compositional grounds, Weaver was able to authenticate this “new” motet as being by Ferdinand III. A complete transcription of the motet is given in Weaver's article.

We are delighted to hear that the RISM database helped unearth a previously unknown motet by the emperor!

Andrew H. Weaver, “A recently rediscovered motet by Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III." Early Music 43, no. 2 (2015): 281–289. Available online.

Image: Portrait of Ferdinand III, ca. 1628 - 1670, Rijksmuseum, from Europeana (public domain).




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