Giacomo Meyerbeer: Cantatas for Festive Occasions
Editor: Robert Ignatius Letellier
Date Of Publication: Sep 2010
The cantatas of Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791–1864), spanning his middle and late life, were written in response to royal and civic commissions to celebrate dynastic events and to praise the deeds of famous men. Their festive nature is indicated in the titles: festival song, festival greeting, festival hymn, homage.
Like a continuation of the 18th-century tradition of patronage, the more famous Meyerbeer became, the more his services were required by public authorities. Although a burden to him, and a distraction from his dramatic vocation, the composer understood the importance of these works for his life and public perception—especially in Germany, where his Jewishness was always a source of comment. His special relationship with the Prussian Royal Family was one of the most significant features of his life—as it was for Felix Mendelssohn.
Meyerbeer’s cantatas can be divided into Royal commissions and civic/national ones. There are royal birthdays (the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the Grand Duchess of Baden), weddings (Princess Louise of Prussia), marriage anniversaries (King Friedrich Wilhelm IV and Prince Karl of Prussia), coronations (King Wilhelm I) and state visits (Queen Victoria). These are parallelled by commemoration of historical events and personages—the invention of printing (1436) by Johannes Gutenberg (1397–1468), commemoration of the Prussian national hero Frederick the Great (1712–1786), the unveiling of the monumental equestrian statue of the famous king by the great sculptor Christian Daniel Rauch (1777–1857), and the commemoration of the centenary of the birth of the illustrious dramatic poet and chronicler of idealism and freedom, Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805).
In all of these works, Meyerbeer’s powers of lyric beauty, dramatic perception, orchestral colour and drama, and sense of pomp and circumstance, are amply in evidence. They reveal a side to this great operatic composer that has been completely forgotten, and now awaits discovery.
This collection, including both published vocal and full scores, contains the unpublished cantata written for Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (b.1784, ruled 1806–1844), the father of Prince Albert the Prince Consort of Queen Victoria.
Robert Ignatius Letellier has specialized in the music and literature of the Romantic Period. He has studied the work of Giacomo Meyerbeer (a four-volume English edition of his diaries, a collection of critical and biographical studies, a guide to research, two readings of the operas, as well as compiling and introducing editions of the complete libretti and non-operatic texts, and a selection of manuscripts facsimiles). He has also written on the ballets of Ludwig Minkus and compiled a series of scores on the Romantic Ballet.
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Sample pdf (including Table of Contents)