The Kaiserlied “Gott erhalte”, composed in 1797, must no doubt be taken as Haydn’s best-known and most often cited melody. This is a result of both the political context of its origin and of the fact that it was used as national anthem by two states, Austria and Germany. It can therefore be taken as a musical symbol of the mutual interrelations between Austrian and German history.
Gioacchino Rossini’s dramma giocoso Il viaggio a Reims was produced in the Théâtre Italien in Paris in May 1825, on the occasion of the coronation of the last Bourbon King, Charles X. In its final scene, several delegates of European countries come together to celebrate this event. The melody of Haydn’s “Gott erhalte” is sung by the German Ambassador as a German hymn in acclamation for the French King.
This motive can be discussed at several levels: 1. in the context of the plot of Il viaggio and its “anti-napoleonic” message (i.e., to what extent is it meant ironically?); 2. in relation to the actual political conditions of Europe in 1825 (i.e., what were the political conditions of Austria and Germany during the post-Napoleonic Restoration?); 3. in relation to the cultural aspects of Germany and Austria; 4. in relation to the actual crowning ceremony and to the musical symbols of the Restoration; 5. in the context of Haydn’s reception in Europe, especially in France, at the time of the restoration.
Such discussions show that Haydn’s “Gott erhalte” can be seen as a musical symbol of legitimism during the Restoration period in France.
Joseph Haydn und Europa
Haydn Haus Eisenstadt
„Gott erhalte“ – Rossini – Paris 1825 - Hymne des europäischen Legitimismus