Moritz, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel at 450

Monday, May 23, 2022

Moritz, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (25 May 1572–15 March 1632) received the nickname “the Learned” in the 18th century because he was not only a regent (from 1592 to 1627 he was the ruling landgrave of Hesse-Kassel) but also a composer and patron of the arts.

He founded the Collegium Mauritianum court school, which was not restricted to just aristocrats, and established the Ottoneum, the first purpose-built theater in the German-speaking lands. He was probably a good lutenist and is considered to be the one who discovered Heinrich Schütz, whom he supported. Through the Collegium Mauritianum, the Hofkapelle, and the printing press that was established in 1596 to print his own works and the disputations at the Collegium, Kassel became a center for the cultivation of music and scholarship.

In 1605 Moritz converted to Calvinism. During the Thirty Years’ War, in which Hesse was one of the most devastated regions, Moritz’s military engagement in support of the Danish King Christian IV brought the landgrave into opposition with the Holy Roman Emperor. Through his further risky actions and decisions, the provincial estates (Landständen) forced him to abdicate on 17 March 1627 in favor of his son Wilhelm. Moritz first retreated to Melsungen, then to Frankfurt, and later retired to Schloss Eschwege, where he died.

Among the over 200 entries for Moritz, Landgraf von Hessen-Kassel in the RISM catalog, 169 are four-part sacred songs from the collective manuscript “Christlich’ Gesangbuch von allerhand geistlichen Psalmen Gesängen und Liedern.” The manuscript copy dates from 1838 and is preserved today at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (D-Mbs Mus.ms. 1200, RISM ID no. 1001108096). It is based on the printed edition published by Wigand Mencke (Kassel, 1649; RISM ID no. 990042270).

Moritz also appears in the database as a dedicatee. Sessa d’Aranda (Helmstedt, 1605) and Heinrich Schütz (Venice, 1611) each dedicated their first books of madrigals to the regent, as did Hieronymus Praetorius with his Magnificat octo vocum (Hamburg, 1602).

Image: Hieronymus Praetorius, Magnificat octo vocum, Hamburg, 1602. Dedication to Moritz in the tenor partbook. Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, Bruxelles (B-Br) Fétis 1.949 A (RP). RISM ID no. 990052723. Available online.

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Category: Musical anniversaries


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