'A lovely and perfect music': Maria Anna von Raschenau and music at the Viennese convent of St Jakob auf der Hülben


Music reached a brilliant high point at the Augustinian convent of St Jakob auf der Hülben in Vienna in the second half of the 17th and the early 18th centuries. The nuns, who received professional training, sang and played a large variety of instruments and won the praise of listeners. Resident in the convent at this time was the composer Maria Anna von Raschenau (1644 or c.1650-1714), who served as Chormeisterin. This article describes musical life at the convent, outlines Raschenau's biography and surveys her recently uncovered musical compositions. Raschenau received her musical training at the imperial court, where her father was employed, entering the convent of St Jakob around 1672. During the last decade of the 17th century and the first decade of the 18th, she composed a series of oratorios and feste teatrali for performance before the imperial family, who visited the convent annually on the feast of St James the Greater, July 25. Her six known works set texts by the imperial court physician Marco Antonio Signorini. Raschenau's musical style, which at first resembled that of the court composers of her youth, developed towards the modern Italianate style then becoming popular, while continuing the Viennese predilection for counterpoint. A chorus from her festa teatrale Il consiglio di Pallade (1697) provides an example of her effective contrapuntal style. Pallade also demonstrates a singular feature of Viennese convent music of this time - that such works were often political and propagandistic, praising the emperor and supporting the aims of the Habsburg dynasty. © The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Early Music