Friday, July 16, 2010

The Anthem of Austria-Hungary

Austria-Hungary was one of the first nations to adopt a national anthem (in use 1797-1918), using a piece by Josef Haydn appearing in his "Emporer Quartet" that later also because used as the national anthem of Germany (long before the words that became the German anthem were written). Uniquely, the words of the anthem were re-written with each new emporer.

The imperial anthem "Die Kaiserhymne" or "Kaiserlied" was born in 1795 during the Napoleonic Wars. The text was the work of the poet Lorenz Haschka. Borrowing heavily from the British anthem, Haschka's verse is deeply felt. He was commissioned to write the poem by Vienna Governor Franz Joseph Count Saurau, who saw it as a means of bolstering Austria's underdeveloped sense of national pride in the face of the prevailing threat from the French army.

The anthem was first performed on February 12, 1797 on the birthday of Emperor Franz II. The anthem achieved widespread popularity and was translated into each of the fourteen officially recognized languages within the monarchy. With minor textual modifications by Joseph Christian von Zedlitz (1835-1848 version), Johann Gabriel Seidl (1854-1918 version) for each incumbent of the throne, it remained in use in Austria until 1918.

The stamp features Joseph Haydn, the composer, issued in Austria in 2009.