Kyrie from Litanie della Madonna

Composed by Michael Haydn
Edited by Betsy Cook Weber
Voicing: SSA
Instrumentation: keyboard or strings
Catalog number: AMP 0145
Price: $1.60


Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806) was the younger brother of the more famous Franz Joseph Haydn. Like his older brother, Haydn's training consisted almost entirely of his experiences as a choirboy at St. Stephen's in Vienna. After his voice changed, Haydn was forced to rely on these skills in order to survive as a free-lance musician. Except for a brief tenure in Hungary, Haydn spent his entire adult career as a composer, conductor, organist, and teacher for the musical establishment of the Archbishop in Salzburg. Michael Haydn was recognized as one of the area's most prominent musicians, particularly as a composer of sacred choral music. During this period, the Archbishop of Salzburg also employed Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart. Numerous studies have demonstrated that Michael Haydn's music exerted a strong influence on that of the younger Mozart.

It is said that Michael Haydn particularly enjoyed working with the Salzburg Cathedral's fifteen choirboys. These boys sang the treble parts of all the choral music performed in the Cathedral. The “Kyrie” is one of a number of treble pieces written by Haydn for those choirboys and was probably intended for the boys to perform on Holy Innocents' Day, December 28.


The “Kyrie” is the first movement from the six-movement Litanie della Madonna (1782), written for three-part treble chorus, two violins, and continuo. A part for two horns was added by Haydn as an afterthought; the inclusion of the horns is optional. A full score edition of this movement and of the entire work, in addition to the string, horn, and continuo parts, is available from the publisher. The music is tuneful, energetic, and dance-Iike. These qualities must have been very appealing to the boy choristers for whom it was written.


This edition is based on a photocopy of the manuscript which is located in the Museo Carolino in Salzburg. Any editorial marks are enclosed in parentheses. The only other musical contribution made by the editor is the realization of the right hand of the keyboard part.


Although the use of violins is highly recommended, the editor recognizes that this is not always possible. Consequently, in this edition, the right hand of the accompaniment incorporates the violin parts as much as is possible. A conductor might want to consider purchasing the violin parts and playing them on synthesizer in addition to using the original continuo part on a piano or organ. While this practice is unorthodox and will, of course, not equal the beauty of well-played violins, the contrast in textures may prove to be more appealing than the use of one keyboard alone.

Haydn probably used a small portative organ for the keyboard part. In addition, a cello would have played the bass line. A bassoon or a string bass may have also supplemented the cello at the lower octave.


The editor believes that the solo lines were probably sung by boys, since the Litanie della Madonna was written for them. During this period, however, Salzburg also employed adult women soloists, including Haydn's wife, Magdalena. These women may have sung the solo lines. In either event, during this period soloists sang both the choral and solo parts. If capable soloists are not available, conductors should feel free to use a small group within the large group to create the solo vs. tutti texture.

The Litanie della Madonna is a charming setting of the Litany of Loreto, a text which consists primarily of invocations to the Virgin Mary. The “Kyrie” portion of the text follows:

Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleison,
Christe audi nos,
Christe exaudi nos,
Pater de coelis,
Fili Redemptor mundi Deus.
Spiritus Sancti Deus.
Sancta Trinitas, unus Deus,
miserere nobis.
             Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Christ hear us,
Christ plainly hear us,
Father of heaven
Son of God, Saviour of the world,
Holy Spirit of God
Holy Trinity, one God,
have mercy on us.

Betsy Cook Weber

Click here to see a sample.

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