Voices from the 18th Century: Johannes Schenck Dedicates ‘Le Nymphe di Reno’



Composers often dedicated their works to patrons they wished to honor in one way or another. It was a practice considered par for the course, especially if a composition was to be published.

Typically, the dedicatory page was the written equivalent of scraping and bowing, which was supposed to show the composer at his most humble (if sometimes feigned).

One of the most beautiful (and brief) dedications can be found in Johannes Schenck‘s Le Nymphe di Reno (“The Nymphs of the Rhine”), a set of pieces for viola da gamba and basso continuo, where he conveys a personal story while honoring Emperor Leopold I (a viola da gamba player himself).

Holy Royal Majesty,

Lightning and thunder, the sounding in the flames of drowning cannons and whistling bullets, have awakened my Muse: she sings of the glorious victories of the hero’s deeds of His Holy Royal Majesty. But, it’s no dream, while she intones gracious songs, the fall of another wall built on solid ground reaches her ears. Suddenly she is horrified by the terror of a fiery eagle while she sought protection in the temple of your glory. And so the humble subject, in honor of the imperial Apollo, sets aside the bow of his unworthy zither AS A DEDICATION.

His Holy Majesty’s
Humblest, Most Conscientious and
Johannes Schenck

(Translation: Susan Marie Praeder)

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