Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser
Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser (God Save Emperor Francis) is an anthem to Francis II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and later of Austria. The lyrics were by Lorenz Leopold Haschka (1749–1827), and the melody by Joseph Haydn. It is sometimes called the "Kaiserhymne" (Emperor's Hymn). Haydn's tune has since been widely employed in other contexts: in works of classical music, in Christian hymns, in alma maters, and as the tune of the Deutschlandlied, the national anthem of Germany.
- 1 Words and music
- 2 History
- 3 Composition
- 4 Haydn's own view of the song
- 5 Later uses of the tune in classical music
- 6 Use in national anthems, alma maters, and hymns
- 7 Full text
- 8 Notes
- 9 See also
- 10 Audio versions
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Words and music
The sound file given below (played on a piano) uses the harmony Haydn employed for the string quartet version of his song, which he prepared later in 1797.
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The English translation of the above verse is:
God save Francis the Emperor, our good Emperor Francis!
Long live Francis the Emperor in the brightest splendor of bliss!
May laurel branches bloom for him, wherever he goes, as a wreath of honor.
God save Francis the Emperor, our good Emperor Francis!
The song was written when Austria was seriously threatened by France and patriotic sentiments ran high. The story of the song's genesis was narrated in 1847 by Anton Schmid, who was Custodian of the Austrian National Library in Vienna:
- In England, Haydn came to know the favourite British national anthem, 'God Save the King', and he envied the British nation for a song through which it could, at festive occasions, show in full measure its respect, love, and devotion to its ruler.
- When the Father of Harmony returned to his beloved Kaiserstadt, he related these impressions to that real friend, connoisseur, supporter and encourager of many a great and good one of Art and Science, Freiherr van Swieten, Prefect of the I. R. Court Library, who at the time was at the head of the Concert Spirituel (supported by high aristocracy) and likewise Haydn's particular patron. Haydn wished that Austria, too, could have a similar national anthem, wherein it could display a similar respect and love for its Sovereign. Also, such a song could be used in the fight then taking place with those forcing the Rhine; it could be used in a noble way to inflame the heart of the Austrians to new heights of devotion to the princes and fatherland, and to incite to combat, and to increase, the mob of volunteer soldiers who had been collected by a general proclamation.
- Freiherr van Swieten hastily took counsel with His Excellency, the then President of Lower Austria Franz Count von Saurau ...; and so there came into being a song which, apart from being one of Haydn's greatest creations, has won the crown of immortality.
- It is also true that this high-principled Count used the most opportune moment to introduce a Volksgesang, and thus he called to life those beautiful thoughts which will delight connoisseurs and amateurs here and abroad.
- He immediately ordered the poet Lorenz Haschka to draft the poetry and then requested our Haydn to set it to music.
- In January 1797, this double task was resolved, and the first performance of the Song was ordered for the birthday of the Monarch.
Saurau himself later wrote:
I had a text fashioned by the worthy poet Haschka; and to have it set to music, I turned to our immortal compatriot Haydn, who, I felt, was the only man capable of creating something that could be placed at the side of ... "God Save the King".
"Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" was first performed on the Emperor's birthday, February 12, 1797. It proved popular, and came to serve unofficially as Austria's first national anthem.
As elsewhere in Haydn's music, it has been conjectured that Haydn took part of his material from folksongs he knew. This hypothesis has never achieved unanimous agreement, the alternative being that Haydn's original tune was adapted by the people in various versions as folk songs. For discussion, see Haydn and folk music.
One claimed folk source of "Gott erhalte" is a Croatian song, known in Međimurje and northern regions of Croatia under the name "Stal se jesem". The version below was collected by a field worker in the Croatian-speaking Austrian village of Schandorf.
Irrespective of the original source, Haydn's own compositional efforts went through multiple drafts, discussed by Rosemary Hughes in her biography of the composer. Hughes reproduces the draft fragment given below (i.e., the fifth through eighth lines of the song) and writes, "His sketches, preserved in the Vienna National Library, show the self-denial and economy with which he struggled to achieve [the song's] seemingly inevitable climax, pruning the earlier and more obviously interesting version of the fifth and sixth lines, which would have anticipated, and so lessened, its overwhelming effect."
The original version of the song (see autograph score, above) included a single line for voice with a rather crude piano accompaniment, with no dynamic indications and what Jones calls "an unevenness of keyboard sonority." This version was printed in many copies (two different printers were assigned to the work) and sent to theaters and opera houses across the Austrian territories with instructions for performance. The Vienna premiere took place in the Burgtheater on 12 February 1797, the day the song was officially released. The Emperor was present, attending a performance of Dittersdorf's opera Doktor und Apotheker and Joseph Weigl's ballet Alonzo und Cora. The occasion celebrated his 29th birthday.
Not long after, Haydn later wrote three additional versions of his song,
- He first wrote a version for orchestra, called "much more refined" by Jones.
- During 1797, Haydn was working on a commission for six string quartets from Count Joseph Erdödy. He conceived the idea of composing a slow movement for one of the quartets consisting of the Emperor's hymn as theme, followed by four variations, each involving the melody played by one member of the quartet. The finished quartet, now often called the "Emperor" quartet, was published as the third of the Opus 76 quartets, dedicated to Count Erdödy. It is perhaps Haydn's most famous work in this genre.
- The last version Haydn wrote was a piano reduction of the quartet movement, published by Artaria in 1799. The publisher printed it with the original cruder piano version of the theme, though a modern edition corrects this error.
Haydn's own view of the song
Joseph Haydn seems to have been particularly fond of his creation. During his frail and sickly old age (1802–1809), the composer often would struggle to the piano to play his song, often with great feeling, as a form of consolation; and as his servant Johann Elssler narrated, it was the last music Haydn ever played:
- The Kayser Lied was still played three times a day, though, but on May 26th  at half-past midday the Song was played for the last time and that 3 times over, with such expression and taste, well! that our good Papa was astonished about it himself and said he hadn't played the Song like that for a long time and was very pleased about it and felt well altogether till evening at 5 o'clock then our good Papa began to lament that he didn't feel well...
Elssler goes on to narrate the composer's final decline and death, which occurred on May 31.
Later uses of the tune in classical music
- Franz Schubert used the tune in his Stabat Mater (1816), although he revised this in future editions.
- Carl Czerny wrote Variations on "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" for piano and orchestra or piano and string quartet, his Op. 73 (1824)
- Gioachino Rossini used the tune in his opera Il viaggio a Reims (1825).
- Niccolò Paganini wrote a set of variations on this tune for violin and orchestra in 1828, under the title Maestosa Sonata Sentimentale
- Gaetano Donizetti used the tune in his opera Maria Stuarda (1835), at Act 3, Scene VIII, "Deh! Tu di un'umile preghiera ..."
- Clara Schumann used the tune as the basis for her Souvenir de Vienne, op. 9 (1838) for solo piano.
- Donizetti also used the tune in his opera Linda di Chamounix (1842) at the end of first act
- Bedřich Smetana used the tune in his Festive Symphony (1853), which the composer intended to dedicate to the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.
- Henryk Wieniawski wrote a set of variations on the tune for unaccompanied violin (Variations on the Austrian National Anthem, from L'école Moderne, Op. 10; 1853).
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky arranged the work for orchestra in 1876.
- Anton Bruckner's Improvisationskizze Ischl 1890 for organ
Use in national anthems, alma maters, and hymns
After the death of Francis in 1835, the tune was given new lyrics that praised his successor, Ferdinand: "Segen Öst'reichs hohem Sohne / Unserm Kaiser Ferdinand!" ("Blessings to Austria's high son / Our Emperor Ferdinand!"). After Ferdinand's abdication in 1848, the original lyrics were used again because his successor (Francis Joseph) was also named Francis. However, in 1854, yet again new lyrics were selected: "Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze / Unsern Kaiser, unser Land!" ("God preserve, God protect / Our Emperor, our country!").
At the end of the First World War in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was abolished and divided into multiple states, one of them being the residual state of Austria, which was a republic and had no emperor. The tune ceased to be used for official purposes. When the last Emperor, Charles I, died in 1922, monarchists created an original stanza for his son Otto von Habsburg. Since the emperor was in fact never restored, this version never attained official standing.
The hymn was revived in 1929 with completely new lyrics, known as Sei gesegnet ohne Ende, which remained the national anthem of Austria until the Anschluss. The first stanza of the hymn's 1854 version was sung in 1989 during the funeral of Empress Zita of Austria and again in 2011 during the funeral of her son Otto von Habsburg as a tribute to the family.
Long after Haydn's death, his melody was used as the tune of Hoffmann von Fallersleben's Das Lied der Deutschen (1841). The third stanza of the poem ("Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit"), sung to the melody, is currently the national anthem of Germany.
In the ordinary nomenclature of hymn tunes, the melody of "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" is classified as 87.87D trochaic metre. When employed in a hymn it is sometimes known as Austria. It has been paired with various lyrics.
- Lyrics by John Newton which begin "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken/Zion, city of our God." See Olney Hymns, and 1, 2
- Praise the Lord! O Heav'ns adore Him. The name of this tune in English-language hymnals is "Austria". Hymns with this setting were omitted from hymnals in England following the wars.
- The text of the Catholic hymn, Tantum Ergo used at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament has been set to the tune.
Various American schools, colleges, and universities use Haydn's music as the tune for their university or school hymns. Here is a partial list.
- Adrian College
- College of Charleston
- Columbia University, "Stand Columbia"
- Illinois State University
- University of Pittsburgh
- The University of the South (Sewanee, Tennessee), "God of light, whose face beholding ..."
- Fishburne Military School (Waynesboro, Virginia), "Fishburne Hymn."
Original version (1797)
Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,
God keep Francis the emperor,
God preserve the Emp'ror Francis
Sov'reign ever good and great;
Save, o save him from mischances
In Prosperity and State!
May his Laurels ever blooming
Be by Patriot Virtue fed;
May his worth the world illumine
And bring back the Sheep misled!
God preserve our Emp'ror Francis!
Sov'reign ever good and great.
Burney's penultimate couplet about sheep has no counterpart in the original German and appears to be Burney's own contribution.
For translations into several of the languages that were spoken in the Austrian Empire, see Translations of Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser.
Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,
God Save Emperor Francis,
Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze
God save, God protect
After the last Emperor, Charles I, died in 1922, monarchists created an original stanza for his son Otto von Habsburg. Since Austria had deposed its emperor in 1918 and become a republic, this version never had official standing.
In Verbannung, fern den Landen
In exile, far from the land,
- Quotation from Robbins Landon and Jones, 1988, p. 301.
- German: 'city of the emperor'.
- "Concert Spirituel" normally denotes an important orchestra of Paris in Haydn's time; see Concert Spirituel. Here, however, it is more likely that Schmid was using the term to refer to the Gesellschaft der Associierten, a concert-sponsoring society of noblemen that Swieten had organized in Vienna. Swieten was not active in Paris.
- German: "people's song"
- Hughes 1970, p. 124.
- To view an image of the sketch version, visit .
- Jones (2009:120)
- Gerlach 1996, iv)
- Gerlach 1996, v. Gerlach's edition of the work includes a facsimile of the original piano version.)
- Robbins Landon and Jones 1999, p. 314.
RCA Recording of Haydn's Emperor Quartet by Felicia Blumenthal/Helmut Klothauer & Vienna Sym Orch.
- Gerlach, Sonja (1996) Haydn: Variationen über die Hymne 'Gott erhalte'; authentische Fassung für Klavier". Munich: G. Henle.
- Hughes, Rosemary (1970) Haydn. London: Dent.
- Jones, David Wyn (2009) Oxford Composer Companions: Haydn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Robbins Landon, H. C. and David Wyn Jones (1988) Haydn: His Life and Music, Thames and Hudson.
- Image of the autograph score, from the "aeiou" music history site
- Version of the Croatian folk song similar to German anthem