Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Musical Duchess Maria Antonia of Bavaria

Maria Antonia, Princess of Bavaria (Munich, Bavaria, 18th July 1724 – Dresden, Bavaria, 23rd April 1780)


Portrait of Maria Antonia, Princess of Bavaria by Anton Raphael Mengs
Duchess Maria Antonia of Bavaria by Anton Raphael Mengs 

The Gilflurts have always been a musical bunch; many's the evening when we gather round the piano and lead the gents in a bawdy singsong. Indeed, great grandmother Gilflurt continues to be a devil with a harmonica, as many a minor peer could attest. Still, despite our efforts with aria, none of us is quite as accomplished as Maria Antonia Walpurgis Symphorosa, the Electress of Saxony who enjoyed a highly respected operatic career as both composer and singer, and that's before we even think about the way she could tickle a harpsichord.

The Electress of Saxony was the fourth child of Maria Amalia of Austria and Elector Karl Albert of Bavaria (later Emperor Karl VII). Passionate about the arts, she became a member of the Accademia dell’Arcadia of Rome, an institution devoted to the preservation of opera. Upon her marriage to Friedrich Christian at the age of 23 she moved to Dresden to join her husband's court. Here she was able to give full rein to her love of music, writing the libretti for two operas and a number of compositions of her own. Not content with this, she performed as a singer and musician at court and studied under Johann Adolph Hasse.


Painting of Maria Antonia and family by Johann Eleazar Zeissig
Maria Antonia sits at the centre of this family painting, Johann Eleazar Zeissig,1772

Her best known compositions remain Il Trionfo Della Fedeltà (1754) and Talestri, Regina Delle Amazoni (1760), published under the pseudonym Ermelinda Talea Pastorella Arcadia (ETPA). The notices for Maria Antonia's works were favourable and she continued to write and perform throughout her exile from Dresden during the Seven Years War. In 1763 she was widowed and served as a formidable joint Regent with her brother-in-law, Franz Xaver, until her son, Frederick Augustus, was crowned king in 1768.

A woman of prodigious artistic and political talents, it is an honour to take a moment from our piano recital here on Gin Lane and say happy birthday, Maria Antonia!


Portrait of Maria Antonia by Pietro Rotari
Duchess Maria Antonia of Bavaria by Pietro Rotari, 1755

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