Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Same tune, different words

Reading in The Penguin Book of Hymns this afternoon I came across this in the section about Newton's hymn "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken":
The tune still first and foremost associated with this hymn is, I suppose, Austria, which was written by Franz Josef Haydn (1732-1809) for the Hapsburg emperor Francis II. The hymn was first performed on the emperor's birthday in 1797. It is said to have been a particular favourite of Haydn's and the story goes that it was the last piece of music that the composer ever played on his piano. It was first used as a hymn tune in England in 1805. Later it was taken up as the music for the German national anthem, 'Deutschland! Deutschland! ├╝ber alles'. The German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, is said to have been very startled when, during a visit to his godmother, Queen Victoria, at Windsor Castle, he found himself singing the words of Newton's hymn to it.
As a subject of the Queen might react, I suppose, to hearing citizens of the US sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee."


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