Jun 9, 2014

Haydn Singing at Vivaldi's Exequies: An Ineradicable Myth

The following post is based on a paper which in September 2002 I submitted to the conference "Music and Death in the Eighteenth Century" (King’s College London, 8–9 February 2003) and which was rejected by the organizer of this conference.


That on 28 July 1741 the nine-year-old Joseph Haydn sang at Antonio Vivaldi's exequies at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna is one of the most beloved myths of music historiography. Many authors seem to be deeply enamored with the image of two great artists, meeting unknown to each other and somehow "passing the torch" from one creative spirit to the other. And yet this scenario is pure fiction. Caused by a series mistranslations and misunderstandings it became a popular myth and made its way into the biographies of both composers.

I have developed a simple and quick litmus test for the quality of a new Haydn biography: look for Vivaldi's name in the index, go to the page where Vivaldi is referred to (usually near the beginning of the book) and check if young Haydn is described as "having sung at Vivaldi's funeral". And if this is the case the book can be put away immediately. Countless books about Haydn – especially some of those published on the occasion of the 2009 anniversary – did not pass this test, because many authors simply cannot let go of this beloved myth. The most recent item that caused my surprise at the longevity of this story, is Frank Huss's book Joseph Haydn. Das unterschätzte Genie, published in 2013, where on p. 17 the author states: "Likewise Haydn sang in the Requiem which was performed in the course of the funeral service of the composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), who had surprisingly died in Vienna." On p. 823 of the Haydn-Lexikon (Laaber-Verlag 2010) Christin Heitmann writes: "Haydn war zu dieser Zeit Chorknabe an St. Stephan es ist daher zu vermuten, dass er im Chor bei der Beerdigung Vivaldis gesungen hat." The Vivaldi and the Haydn literature are equally flawed concerning this issue. Since every author copies from all the others, scholarship soon ends up in a kind of echo chamber and printed misinformation is spreading relentlessly. As I stated in a lecture on source studies that I gave in October 2005 at the University of Salzburg: "Going back to the original sources often leads to a systematic demolition of the secondary literature."

To shed more light on the fascinating genesis of the Haydn-Vivaldi myth we have to go back several decades when the music world first learned where and when Abbate Vivaldi met his maker.

Vivaldi's Funeral

Until 1938 the year and place of Vivaldi's death were unknown. It was generally assumed that Vivaldi had died in Venice around 1743, until the Venetian scholar Rodolfo Gallo (1881-1964) came across the following passage in the Commemoriali of Pietro Gradenigo (1695-1772) in the collection of the Museo Correr (Mss. Gradenigo II, cap. 36):
L'Abbate Antonio Vivaldi eccelentissimo Sonatore di Violino detto il Prete Rosso, stimato compositore de concerti, guadagnò ai suoi giorni cinquantamille ducati, ma per sproporzionata prodigalità mori miserabile in Vienna.
The Abbé Antonio Vivaldi, a most excellent violinist called the Red Priest, the famous composer of concertos, is said in his times to have earned fifty thousand ducats, but owing to excessive prodigality died a pauper in Vienna.
Gradenigo's reference made it easy to locate the Viennese sources pertaining to Vivaldi's death. In 1938 Rodolfo Gallo was the first to publish the entry in the death records of St. Stephen's Cathedral concerning Vivaldi's funeral on 28th July 1741 and the second, more detailed one in the so-called Bahrleihbuch (protocol of funeral fees) concerning the costs of this ceremony. Surprising as it may seem, the original document has never been transcribed completely and without mistakes. The entry in question in the Bahrleihbuch (with folios 177v and 178r merged into one picture) looks as follows:

The entry concerning Antonio Vivaldi's exequies on 28 July 1741 in the Bahrleihbuch of the parish of St. Stephen's Cathedral (A-Wd, Bahrleihbuch 1741, fol. 177v and 178r)

This entry can be translated as follows:
28 July
Conduct Vivaldi
The Hon. Mr. Antonius Vivaldi, secular priest, who died of internal inflammation at the age of 60, was seen by the coroner at the Saddler's House next to the Carinthian Gate and was buried in the graveyard of the civic hospital.
Peal of the small bells .........." 2"36"
Curate ..................................." 3"―
Shroud .................................." 2"15"
Parish picture ......................." 0"30"
Gravesite .............................." 2"―
Bier renter and sexton .........." 1.15"
Sacristan ..............................." –"30
6 bearers with coats .............." 4"30
6 lanterns .............................." 2"―
6 cowlboys ..........................." –"54"
Bier ......................................." –"15"
Pelican                        S[um] "19"45"
Most translations in the literature, like the one in the 1970 English edition of Kolneder's book (with the symptomatically wrong shelfmark "necrology, Vol. 23, fol. 63") and in Karl Heller's Antonio Vivaldi: The Red Priest of Venice (Portland: Amadeus Press 1997) are flawed: a Bahrleicher is not a gravedigger and a Kuttenbub is not a choirboy. It seems that David Marinelli, the translator of Heller's book, copied some of his mistakes directly from Kolneder.

The "Wallerisches Haus" and the "Spitaller Gottsacker"

Vivaldi died on 28 July 1741 of internal inflammation at the house of Agatha Waller, née Freisinger (1674-1751). The spelling of her name as "Wahler" which appears in the literature is based on a mistranscription of the h-like sign before the l, which – as I have explained elsewhere on several occasions – was not an h, but a sign that doubled the following consonant.

The entry in the municipal death records concerning Vivaldi's death. Note the spelling "Waller[isches] Hauß" (A-Wsa, Totenbeschreibamt 42, fol. 395r)

In 1714 the four-story building at the south end of the Kärntnerstraße was bought by the Prague-born saddler Augustin Waller (1678-1730). Waller was able to afford this purchase, because he was the personal master saddler of the widowed Empress Wilhelmine Amalia. Even in 1830 there was still a saddler's workshop located on the ground floor of the building.

The "Wallerisches Haus" at the southwest corner of the Kärntnerstraße opposite the Kärntnertor in 1778. This clip from Huber's map shows that in the 18th century the building had only four storeys.

The groundplan of the fourth floor of the "Wallerisches Haus" which was drawn in March 1826 on the occasion of the addition of a fifth floor (the red color marking the reenforcements of the walls). On the right is the Kärntnerstraße, at the bottom the Sattlergasse towards the city wall. This floor is described in the 1788 tax register as consisting of two apartments of which each consisted of "2 rooms, 2 chambers, 1 kitchen". On the top a small atrium is visible. On the ground floor the big room at the corner of the house was the seating room of an inn. (A-Wsa, Unterkammeramt, A33, 11811/1826)

There is a well-known photograph dating from before 1858 that shows the two top floors of Vivaldi's last residence looking over the old city wall right beside the old Kärntnertor. I refrain from using this photograph which has been published many times in the literature. Instead I present an unknown photograph that has so far completely escaped the attention of Vivaldi scholars. It was taken in 1863 from the roof of the newly built Heinrichshof and, because the city wall and the Kärntnertor had already been torn down, shows the full facade of the house Stadt No. 1038, (the "Wallerisches Haus") where Vivaldi had died 122 years earlier. The fifth floor was added in 1826 and the roof is not the old tiled original. This may well be the last picture ever taken of this building. In the foreground we can see the early stages of the construction of the new K.K. Hof-Oper, in the back the rebuilding of the south tower of St. Stephen's is in progress.

The house Stadt No. 1038 (on the left), where Vivaldi died in 1741. The two houses which today mark the beginning of the narrower part of Kärntnerstraße are not located on the exact same area as the buildings Stadt Nos. 1038 and 1019 that appear on this photograph (A-Wn 114.145C).

The façade of Stadt 1038 towards the Kärntnerstraße with the newly added fifth floor. On the left of the entrance is the door of the inn, on the right the one of the saddler's workshop. (A-Wsa, Unterkammeramt, A33, 11811/1826)

The information in the Vivaldi literature (Talbot 1993, p. 69) that this house was destroyed in 1858 together with the Kärntnertor is false. On Emil Hütter's elliptical watercolor of the Bürgerspitalszinshaus and its surroundings we can see the small atrium, the yellow facade and the round-shaped verdigris copper plated roof which was added in 1826.

A clip from Hütter's 1865 watercolor (Wienmuseum). The Kärntnertortheater is in the center, on the upper left there is a section of the Bürgerspitalszinshaus with the Komödiengassel and on the far right the green-roofed "Wallerisches Haus" is visible.

Augustin Markus Waller, the saddler who had given the house both its names, died on 1 August 1730 of biliary fever (his funeral cost 37 gulden 32 kreuzer) and after having agreed to a settlement with her sons his widow inherited the building.

Seal and signature of Vivaldi's landlady Agatha Waller on her will, written on 14 August 1751 (A-Wsa, AZJ, A1, 10112/18. Jhdt.) Agatha Waller died on 11 December 1751.

Based on information in the Viennese topographical literature some authors have pointed to the fact that Beethovens's lawyer Johann Zizius (1772-1824) and the legendary dancer Fanny Elßler lived in the Haus Stadt No. 1038. But from a musical point of view the far more prominent residents of this particular building were the composer Conradin Kreutzer (who lived there in 1830 with his family and his sister-in-law), the dancer and theater director Louis Duport and – in my opinion more interesting – Therese von Droßdik (née Malfatti), Beethoven's never-to-be bride, who died in this house on 27 April 1851.

After the exequies at the cathedral Vivaldi's body was transported all the way down the Kärntnerstraße to the Kärntnertor again, then across the 85 meters long bridge which spanned the city moat and the Kärntnertorbrücke across the Wien to the cemetery of the Bürgerspital. 

The "Wallerisches Haus" beside the Kärntnertor on the right and the "Spitaller Gottesacker" beside the Karlskirche on the left on Joseph Daniel von Huber's 1778 map of Vienna.

The cemetery of the Bürgerspital with the St. Augustine Chapel (built in 1701). This is not a contemporary drawing, but a 19th-century watercolor copy of the cemetery as it appears on Huber's map. 

 The "Spitaller Gottesacker" on Steinhausen's 1710 map of Vienna before the building of the Karlskirche

The cemetery and the chapel were closed on 1 May 1783. In 1785, after the chapel had been torn down, the houses of the priest and the gravedigger were sold to the military and used as uniform depositories. Because these premises did not meet the demands, they were sold back to the Bürgerspital in 1788. In 1791 the ground was leased to the military command which established a riding area there until in 1807 the area was put up for auction and a number of houses were built there.

The first page of the Vienna City Council's response of 17 November 1791 to the military command concerning the military's request to let the Bürgerspital cemetery be turned into a riding area ("Wegen Uiberlassung des Armensündergottesackers zur Errichtung eines Reiterpikets") (A-Wsa, HReg, A17, 7/1791)

The memorial plaque for Vivaldi on the east wing of the Vienna University of Technology is slightly misplaced: the Bürgerspital cemetery was located closer to the Karlskirche, on the adjacent area between Argentinierstraße and Karlsgasse.

Vivaldi's Bahrleihbuch Entry in the Literature

Somehow the problems with the publication of the pivotal primary source already began in 1938 with Rodolfo Gallo, who, having never actually seen the original document at the archive in Vienna, published the entry with a wrong name of the book ("Totenbuch"), one transcription error ("Grabstall" instead of Grabstell), an incomplete folio number (only "Fol. 177") and without the word "Pelican" at the end. Furthermore Gallo failed to include any information regarding the general context of this document as well as the currency of the expenses – mistakenly calling them "spese modeste" and noting their sum only as "19:45". He did not provide a usable translation of this entry and because of the words "im Satleri[schen] Haus" he erroneously assumed that Vivaldi had died "nella casa della famiglia Satler".

Gallo's unclear documentation affected the Vivaldi literature for decades. It seems easy to correctly transcribe a short entry concerning an 18th-century funeral, but for scholars who only knew two pages of the Bahrleihbuch this proved to be a too difficult task. In his article "Biographisches um Antonio Vivaldi" (ÖMZ 2/1952) Walter Kolneder more or less copied Gallo's version, adding the mistake "Kartnerthor", because he took the "f" (of "florin") for a "t". Like Gallo Kolneder also ignored the mysterious "Pelican". In his 1965 book Antonio Vivaldi Kolneder added the word "Pelican" (without explaining its meaning), but provided a wrong shelfmark of the Barleihbuch, conflating it with "Tom. 63, p. 23" of the parish's regular death register. Equally flawed is the transcription in Karl Keller's Antonio Vivaldi (Reclam 1991). A case in point is the presentation of the entry in Theophil Antonicek's and Elisabeth Hilscher's 1997 book Vivaldi. There is a wise rule concerning the publication of transcriptions of historical documents: avoid publishing them alongside facsimiles of the original source, because this might backfire. Antonicek and Hilscher provide a transcription of the list of expenses, but not only is their text flawed, two of their numbers are wrong as well and therefore do not add up to 19 gulden 45 kreuzer:

Antonicek/Hilscher: Vivaldi (Graz: Akademische Druck und Verlagsanstalt 1997, p. 137): The date is wrong and the expenses do not add up to 19 gulden 45 kreuzer.

A truly amazing conglobation of errors is the presentation of the document on p. 252 of Siegbert Rampe's Antonio Vivaldi und seine Zeit (Laaber-Verlag 2010). Rampe looked at the entries pertaining to the two funerals before and after Vivaldi's and (because he could not read them) concluded the following: "The funeral of Lothar[sic] Englhart which preceded Vivaldi's only cost 12 kreuzer, Anton[sic] May's, the one after Vivaldi's on 28 July cost 1 gulden 27 kreuzer." The truth is: Caspar (not Lothar) Engelhart's son Bernhard was a two-year-old child, Peter May (son of Anton May) was a fifteen-month-old child. The "Pelican" was turned into a "Delican" in Rampe's edition of the entry, a word that makes no sense and is explained nowhere in the book. Because Rampe not only copied the misspelled "Windliechter", but also the list of expenses from Antonicek, it is flawed (the numbers again do not add up to the correct sum):

A section of p. 252 of Rampe's book Antonio Vivaldi und seine Zeit. The date at the top "29. Juli" (copied from Antonicek) is wrong. The comma after "19" is wrong and the quotation mark does not mean gulden, it means kreuzer. Five sequins were not 19,7 ducats. Johann Joseph Fux's burial, which did not take place on 16, but on 15 February 1741, did not cost 170 gulden, but 180 gulden 52 kreuzer (Rampe knows nothing about Fux's burial, except what he extrapolated from Heller's book). The "Spitaler Friedhof" was not located "unweit der Hofburg", the "Kuttenbuben" were not boys and they did not sing "Grablieder" (burial songs). The fact that Vivaldi was buried in the "Armesünder-Gottesacker" had nothing to do with his status as foreigner. Note that Rampe calls the two dead children "die Herren Englhart und May". Together with the typo "Beerdingungen" this jumble is vintage Laaber material.

Enter the "Choirboys"

The honor of having created the myth of choirboys having sung at the "pauper's burial" of Vivaldi belongs to the great Vivaldi scholar Marc Pincherle, who in his 1948 book Vivaldi: Génie du baroque translated – or rather interpreted – the entry in the Bahrleihbuch as follows:
Le livre de caisse de Saint-Etienne (même année, folio 177) indique de façon assez vague qu'il est mort d'une inflammation interne (an inneren Brand bschaut), et fournit le décompte des frais exposés pour ses humbles funérailles: 19 florins 45 kreutzer. Il n'a eu droit qu'au "Kleingleuth" (Kleingeläut) ou sonnerie des cloches pour les pauvres[!], moyennant 2 florins 36, à six porteurs de civière, à six enfants de chœur[!]; un noble homme[!] enterré la veille avait eu le glas à 4 florins 20, huit porteurs, douze enfant de chœur, six musiciens, le reste à l'avenant, à concurrence de 102 florins! (Pincherle 1948, p. 27)
This statement proves that at some point Pincherle must have seen (the by then unpublished) folio 177r of the original 1741 Bahrleihbuch. It also proves that he had only a small notion of what the words in this book really mean. Robbins Landon's misunderstanding, which consequently was to appear all over the Haydn literature, originates from this passage in Pincherle's book. A "Kleingleuth" was not a "pauper's peal of bells". 2 florins 36 kreuzer was a week's salary of a well-paid manservant. The commissioning of a holy mass cost 30 kreuzer in Vienna, a price that did not change for at least two centuries. The six "Kuttenbuben" were not even boys, but men in cowls and they surely did not sing. The "nobleman", who according to Pincherle was buried the day before Vivaldi, was actually a noblewoman: the widow Maria Agnes von Feichtenberg, who had died of dropsy on 26 July 1741 at the "Goldener Hirsch" on the Fleischmarkt:

The entry concerning the burial of Maria Agnes von Feichtenberg on 27 July 1741 inside St. Stephen's Cathedral (A-Wd, BLB 1741, fol. 177)

Von Feichtenberg received a "Fürstengleuth" for 4 gulden 20 kreuzer, twelve Kuttenbuben folded their hands at her bier and she had musicians (for six gulden) performing in the church and singing "[Der] grimige todt" which at the Cathedral at that time was the "ordinari" (standard) funeral song whose a capella performance always cost six gulden. That there were exactly six musicians was Pincherle's assumption. As can be seen, the item that made Feichtenberg's burial so expensive was not the "Gleuth", but the tomb in the crypt of the cathedral which cost 50 gulden.

In his book Vivaldi (London: Chappell & Co., 1978) Alan Kendall took the mistaken "choirboys scenario" to an even more suggestive level. Basically echoing Pincherle, Kendall wrote:
Only nineteen florins and forty-five kreutzer were spent on the funeral, and he was only entitled to the Kleingeläut or pauper's[sic!] peal of bells, which only cost two florins and thirty-six kreutzer. He has six pall-bearers and six choirboys[sic!], too, but one sees how mean all of this was when the same records reveal that a nobleman's[sic!] funeral might cost at least one hundred florins. (Kendall 1978, p. 93)
The idea of Vivaldi having died a pauper now really took hold. In  the 1993 edition of his book on Vivaldi in the Dent Master Musicians series Michael Talbot writes:
The expenses, which totalled 19 florins and 45 kreutzers, were kept to the minimum. If Mozart's burial 50 years later was that of a pauper, Vivaldi's deserves that sad epithet equally. (Talbot 1993, p. 69)
In his book Vivaldi: Voice of the Baroque (London: Thames & Hudson, 1993) Robbins Landon expresses a similar judgement: "He was entitled, only to the Kleingeläut, or the pauper's peal of bells, costing two florins and thirty-six kreuzer." In his Vivaldi article in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Talbot states: "[...] he was given a pauper's burial on the latter day at the Hospital Burial Ground (Spittaler Gottesacker)." (New Grove, Vol. 26, p. 820). In the other prominent music encyclopedia Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart Karl Keller tells us that Vivaldi was buried "mit einfachster Zeremonie" ("with the simplest ceremony") (MGG, Vol. 17, col. 89). None of the authors who wrote books about Vivaldi ever scrutinized the Viennese sources to actually figure out how obsequies at the time of Vivaldi's death were performed in Vienna.

Obsequies at St. Stephen's Cathedral Around 1740

For someone, who for about fifteen years has been studying the Bahrleihbücher of St. Stephen's (which survive from 1662 into the 1830s, with lots of gaps in the late years), Vivaldi's entry leaves no room for ambiguity or misunderstandings. It refers to a regular funeral ceremony with a "Kleingleuth", i.e. the peal of the small bell on the west section of the Cathedral's roof. At the time of Vivaldi's death there were four kinds of peals of bells at St. Stephen's (fl stands for florins, x for kreuzer):
  1. "Großgleuth" at 9 fl 41 x (or "ordinari" at 19 fl 22 x)
  2. "Fürstengleuth" at 4 fl 20 x
  3. "Bürgergleuth" at 3 fl 45 x
  4. "Kleingleuth" at 2 fl 36 x
These four classes of "Gleuth" actually referred to four different bells on the cathedral. On rare occasions at a price of 50 gulden the "große Glocke" (the old Pummerin) was pealed, but this was not a separate class, it was an additional luxury which was only available for members of the Landstände  (i.e. the nobility). Of course combinations were also possible: after a "Großgleuth" at the beginning of the ceremony there could be an additional "Fürstengleuth" right before the Requiem prayer ("zum Requiem vorgeleuth"). There were bells of many other churches that could be pealed on demand on the occasion of funerals at St. Stephen's: the Magdalene Chapel beside the Cathedral, St. Peter's Church, the Minoritenkirche, the Bürgerspitalskirche, the Ruprechtskirche, "Unser Lieben Frauen Stiegen", St. Nicola, St. Salvator and the "Deutsches Hauß". Furthermore there were bells of chapels in privately owned houses all over the city that could be pealed for funerals, such as the ones in the Freisingerhof, the Gundelhof, the Seitzerhof and the Johanneshof. Many funerals, like those of small children and really poor people, had no peal of bells at all.

 A funeral without a peal of bells: Georg Planckh, being buried on 5 May 1740 in the "Spitaller Gottsacker" (A-Wd, BLB 1740, fol. 119r)

There were a number of general rules and customs concerning funerals at the Cathedral that can be figured out by studying the 18th-century Bahrleihbücher of St. Stephen's. The "Kleingleuth" was not part of a pauper's burial. Real pauper's burials were "gratis".

The "gratis" burial of Giulio Cesare Birravri on 30 May 1741 in the cemetery of St. Stephen's (A-Wd, BLB 1741, fol. 131r). This entry proves that poor adult foreigners were also buried in the "St. Ste[phans] Freind Hof", i.e. the cemetery around the Cathedral.

The "Kleingleuth" was the standard procedure for the funeral ceremony of adult citizens. Court officials, civil servants, civil craftsmen and secular priests all received this kind of peal of bells. Karl Heller's claim that "the sum of nineteen florins and forty-five kreutzers would have been sufficient for only the simplest of ceremonies" (Heller 1997, p. 265) is simply false.

The entry concerning the funeral of the "Königlicher Laufer" (Royal footman) Lucrezio Bonno on 8 April 1742 which proceeded exactly like Vivaldi's (A-Wd, BLB 1742, fol. 95r). Bonno (b. 1683 in Pralboino) was the father of the Hofkapellmeister Joseph Bonno (1711-1788). Bonno's first name was not Giuseppe (as given on Wikipedia and in the recent Mozart literature), but expressedly Joseph, because his godfather was Emperor Joseph I. Contrary to the date given in the literature Joseph Bonno was born on 30 January 1711 (A-Wd, Tom. 54, fol. 397r).

The entry concerning the funeral of the secular priest Joseph Russignol on 1 February 1741 in the "Schwarz Spanier" cemetery on the Alsergrund (A-Wd, BLB 1741, fol. 24r). Except for the Kelch (chalice), which was put on the bier, this funeral resembled Vivaldi's.

The entry concerning the funeral of the renowned composer Carlo Agostino Badia on 24 September 1738 (A-Wd, BLB 1738, fol. 254r). Note that owing to the lack of lanterns the funeral of the "Kaÿs: Hof- und Cammer-Musicus" was two gulden cheaper than Vivaldi's, making it seem likely that the lanterns at Vivaldi's funeral were a dispensible luxury. Badia died a wealthy man and his funeral only was so modest, because he had requested this in his will.

The entry concerning the funeral of the court musician (bass singer) Marco Antonio Berti on 9 December 1741 (A-Wd, BLB 1741, fol. 269v). Because Berti was buried in the cemetery around the cathedral, his expenses included the ringing of the cemetery bell and the fee for the gravedigger which added 66 kreuzer to the costs of Vivaldi's ceremony.

The class of peal of bells was not the decisive factor concerning the costs of funeral ceremonies at the cathedral. The most expensive items – apart from the very high costs of tombs in the cathedral's crypt which sometimes came with the additional wage of a master builder – were always the services of qualified people, such as the presence of a high number of additional clergymen (Curaten and Canonici). One Canonicus cost three gulden, a curate two, an accolidus (acolyte) 50 kreuzer. The Kuttenbuben only cost nine kreuzer apiece, the better Minestranten each cost one gulden. High fees had to be paid for musicians (in variable numbers) who actually sang a Miserere and one or several "Motteten" (an exception being the obsequies of prominent musicians such as Antonio Caldara for whom on 29 December 1736 his colleagues played "gratis"). Even more expensive was the participation of instrumentalists (for 15 gulden) who accompanied the singing "mit Sartin" (also spelled "mit Sardin") or "Sartindl" (with muted trumpets or trombones). The most expensive musical service available was the performance of an actual Requiem which required additional musicians for at least 15, or up to 24 gulden. Sometimes the conduct was followed by a group of poor people from various poorhouses, such as the "Nepomuceni Spitall" on the Landstraße or the poorhouse in the Alstergasse, who received alms from the attendants and the clergy. This was an important additional income for the poor and this custom was observed in Vienna into the 19th century (on its way from the Alsergrund to Währing Beethoven's coffin was followed by inmates of the "Versorgungshaus am Alserbach", who got paid for this service). Sometimes the bier was also accompanied by regular people, who are listed as Steuerdiener (tax payers) in the Bahrleihbuch.

A group of poor people, following the bier of Georg Gaber, a law student, who was buried on 23 December 1741 on the "Spitaller Gottsacker": "Mitgang. 12. paar arme Leüth auß Nep:[omuceni] Spitall 12. paar auß d[er] alstergass[en] [Gleuth] Paulaner und Francis:[caner]. Pelican" (A-Wd, BLB 1741, fol. 280r).

What follows are several examples of expensive 18th-century funerals at St. Stephen's Cathedral:

The entry concerning the exequies of the architect Joseph Emanuel Johann Fischer von Erlach in the evening of 29 June 1742 (A-Wd, BLB 1742, fol. 173v and 174r). Prominent people often received a Nachtbegräbnüß (night funeral). Note the five altars which were put up on the following day and the additional "gleuth" at "[St.] Magdalena, Bürger Spitall" and the "Johannes Hof".

The entry concerning the funeral on 10 January 1726 of Carlo Agostino Badia's first wife, the singer Anna Maria Badia, née Lisi (A-Wd, BLB 1726, fol. 7r), whom Badia had married on 18 October 1700 (A-Wd, Tom. 34, pag. 710). Again the grave in the crypt was the most expensive item. The last item are "12 stiell" (12 chairs). Note that the song "[Der] grimmige Todt" could also be accompanied by muted trumpets or trombones ("mit Sartindln"). When Johann Steinecker transcribed this entry for his 1993 dissertation Die Opern und Serenate von Carlo Agostino Badia (supervised by Theophil Antonicek) he could not figure out the meaning of "grimmiger Todt mit Sartindln" and transcribed this as "gereinigte Tote mit Sartinol", as if "Sartinol" was some kind of strong disinfectant for corpses (this is one of the all-time funniest transcription mishaps in Viennese historical musicology).

The obsequies for Princess Maria Theresia von Auersperg, née von Rappach on 21 January 1741 with "VorLeithen" (a preceding peal), two peals of the Pummerin ("gar grosse glocken") on two separate days and a double ("ordinari") "grossgleüth". This was not a a funeral, but only the consecration of the Princess whose body on 23 January was transferred to Garsten where it was buried in the crypt of the monastery (A-Wd, BLB 1741, fol. 16r).

The entry concerning the exequies of the merchant Joseph Jenamy on 12 November 1740 (A-Wd, BLB 1740, fol. 259). The list of expenses includes a "Fürstengleuth" and the already known expensive grave in the crypt. Here we see that the song "Der grimmige Todt" was also performed without brass and (in addition to the Miserere for six gulden) had to be paid extra. The external bells included St. Magdalene's, St. Peter's Church and St. George's Chapel in the Freisingerhof. Joseph Jenamy (b. 1686 in Saint Nicolas de Véroce) was a great-uncle of Nikolaus Joseph Jenamy (1747-1819), who in 1768 married Louise Victoire Noverre (1749-1812), the dedicatee of Mozart's piano concerto K. 271.

The most expensive funeral in the Bahrleihbuch of 1741 is that of Johann Caspar Joseph Kolb von Kollenburg, "Weÿl[and] der K.K. M[ajestät] Unter Stabelmaister" (deputy staff holder of His late I. & R. Majesty Charles VI), which cost 195 gulden and 16 kreuzer (A-Wd, BLB 1741, fol. 10v and 11r). It included a Großgleuth, a tomb in the crypt, a Requiem with Fürstengleuth, 30 Kuttenbuben and five altars.

The mysterious "Pelican" that appears at the end of the expenses for Vivaldi's funeral and which in the Vivaldi literature has hitherto either been ignored, or left uncommented, was a picture of a pelican as a Christian symbol that was put on the bier.

A pelican reviving her young with blood from her own breast (NL-DHmw, 10 B 25, fol. 32r)

Because in the Middle Ages it was assumed that the pelican provides its own blood to its young by wounding its own breast when no other food is available, this bird became a symbol of the Passion of Christ and the Eucharist. There were several pictures that could be put on the bier at St. Stephen's: pictures of St. Sebastian, St. John of Nepomuk, the Good Sheperd, Todtangst (Agony of Christ), the Holy Rosary, the Holy Trinity, one of a Bruderschaft (confraternity), a Dominicaner, a Carmeliter and two (unspecified) "Franciscaner Bilter". But the pelican was by far the most frequently used. Sometimes a devotional scapular was also put on the bier. The custom of displaying these pictures may go back far into the 17th century, but it is documented in a Bahrleihbuch for the first time only in 1682:

The final passage of the entry in the Bahrleihbuch concerning the funeral of Catharina Regina Thenig on 30 December 1682: "Seint mitgangen Kaÿ:[serliche] Spitall:[er] und Franscis: Gleüth beÿ St: Maria Magd: Bildter: Todtangst und Francisc." ("on the bier the pictures of the Agony of Christ and the Franciscans") (A-Wd, BLB 1682, fol. 171v).

The final passage of the entry concerning the funeral of the mason Adam Häringsleben on 12 Januar 1683: "Haben tragen 8 Steür diener seint mitgang Kaÿ:[serliche] Spitäller Francisc: Dominic: und Minorit[en] Gleüth S:[ancta] Maria M[a]gd: S. Georgj S: Petri auf d[er] Pahr Pelican und St. Sebastiani Bildt." ("on the bier the pictures of the pelican and St. Sebastian") (A-Wd, BLB 1683, fol. 3v).

The final note of the entry concerning the funeral of Mathias Napert on 5 May 1740: "Mitgang 12. paar arme Leüth auß Nep[omuceni] Spitall 12. paar auß  d[er] Alstergass[en] Franciscaner, Domin:[icaner] gleüth. Magdalena, Bilder Pelican, Rosen Cr:[antz] guten Hürten." ("pictures: pelican, rosary and Good Sheperd") (A-Wd,  BLB 1740, fol. 118v).

The four categories of "Gleuth" existed until March 1751, when an Imperial edict replaced them with four "Classen". The prices of the peals in these classes were reduced to (from 1st to 4th class) seven, four, three and one gulden. These classes could be subdivided into rubrics – mostly for the burials of children – but to delve deeper into the intricacies of this new system would lead too far. The first funeral ceremony at the Cathedral which was accounted according to the new regulation, took place on 3 March 1751:

A clip from the entry concerning the funeral of the baby girl Magdalena Krumbschnabel on 3 March 1751: "Die Erste Begräbnuß nach de[m] Neüe[n] Patent. 2te Class Rubrica Tertia" ("The first burial according to the new edict. Second class third rubric [a child between one and seven years]") (A-Wd, BLB 1751, fol. 38v)

It has been suggested in the literature that Vivaldi may already have died on 26 or 27 July. But after closely comparing the official death records of the Vienna Magistracy (the Totenbeschauprotokoll) with  the 1741 Bahrleihbuch of St. Stephen's I have come to the conclusion that during the summer people in Vienna were always buried the very same day they died. Especially interesting – although not particularly surprising – is the fact that there are a number of deaths recorded in the Bahrleihbuch that are missing in the Totenbeschauprotokoll. The fact that Vivaldi was buried in a cemetery which was traditionally called "Armesünder-Gottesacker" (i.e. cemetery of the executed) has sometimes been explained with the composer's status as poor foreigner who had no civil rights, because he was not a citizen of the Austrian monarchy. This hypothesis is not tenable. It was a total coincidence that Vivaldi was buried on the Wieden, because the records show that in the 18th century the dead were buried in whatever cemetery at the moment could provide space. Apart from the Cathedral's crypt (where the graves were expensive) the following burial sites were used for people who were consecrated at St. Stephen's at that time – regardless of their age, wealth or nationality: the cemetery of St. Stephen's (surrounding the Cathedral), the "Spitaller Gottesacker" on the Wieden, the cemetery of St. Nikolai ("auf die Landstraß"), the crypt of the convent church of the Trinitarian Order and the "Montserrater Gottesacker"on the Alsergrund ("zu den Schwarzspaniern"), the crypts of St. Michael's Church, the Minorites Church and the Augustinian Church and the monastery church of St. Nikola in the Singerstraße. The fact that Vivaldi was buried in an own grave at a relatively high cost of two gulden makes the fact that his funeral has repeatedly been described as that "of a pauper" even more bizarre.

Back to Haydn

The spark of wishful thinking concerning Vivaldi's funeral jumped to Haydn scholarship when H. C. Robbins Landon published his five-volume standard work Haydn: Chronicle and Works. Robbins Landon of course immediately fell in love with the idea of choirboys in 1741 which were nothing but Kendall's mistranslation of Pincherle's mistranslation of the original word "Kuttenbuben". In the first volume (p. 58) of his Haydn chronicle Robbins Landon went so far as to even quote from Kendall's Vivaldi book:

"It seems almost certain." Does it? In his 1993 book Vivaldi: Voice of the Baroque Robbins Landon (providing a wrong folio number for the Bahrleihbuch entry) again rhapsodized on one of his most beloved bit of trivia:
There were six pall-bearers and six choirboys from the parish church where Vivaldi died, which happened to be St. Stephen's Cathedral. The six members of the Cantorei of St. Stephen's included the young Joseph Haydn, who was thus probably one of the few to witness the demise of this great composer, now a pauper and already forgotten, placed, like Mozart half a century later, in an ignominious and anonymous grave somewhere under the great capital city of the Austrian Monarchy. (Robbins Landon, Vivaldi, p. 166)
From the countless books about Haydn that present Robbins Landon's idea as proven fact I want to point out Hans-Josef Irmen's Joseph Haydn Leben und Werk (Vienna: Böhlau, 2007), where the information that Haydn sang at Vivaldi's funeral is even attributed to Pohl ("and others"[sic]): "Pohl u.a. berichten, daß der junge Haydn bei den Exequien für Vivaldi mitgewirkt habe." (Irmen, p. 335). Of course Carl Ferdinand Pohl (1819-1887) reports no such thing in his biography of Haydn. He did not know that Vivaldi had died in Vienna.

It is amazing how the probability of this romantic scenario is suddenly destroyed by having seen all the above entries from the 18th-century Bahrleihbücher. From 1715 on the Cantorei of St. Stephen's employed six Capellknaben (choirboys). The documents presented above show that it was a mere coincidence that exactly six Kuttenbuben attended Vivaldi's funeral. And yet this exact number – the number of Capellknaben at the Cantorei – played a major role in the misunderstanding that lead to the metamorphosis of these Kuttenbuben into choirboys.

Capellknaben and Kuttenbuben

Haydn was accepted into the Cantorei of St. Stephen's Cathedral in 1740. Since Kapellmeister Reutter was in a position to only pick the most talented choirboys, Haydn's recruitment was a big privilege and a stroke of luck for the country boy. Haydn lived together with the other choirboys in the building of the Cantorei which was administered by the Kirchenmeisteramt (i.e. the City of Vienna). The administration of the Cathedral and its music was traditionally subordinate to the Vienna City Council, which is the reason that Mozart, when in 1791 he applied for an adjunct postion at the cathedral, submitted his application to the municipal authorities. The so-called Kirchenmeisteramtsrechungen (ledgers of the church administrator of the Vienna City Council) provide detailed information about the organisation of the Cathedral and its employees. They show that the records of expenses for the regular staff ("Außgaab auf ordinarÿ Besoldung", i.e. expenses for ordinary salaries) were strictly separated from the expenses for the musicians of the Cantorei.

The beginning of the list of expenses ("Außgaab. Auf die Cantoreÿ beÿ St. Stephann") for nine months for the Cantorei of St. Stephen's in the 1742 Kirchenmeisteramtsrechnung (A-Wsa, Handschriften, A 41.24, fol. 79r). In 1741 the Kirchenmeister (church administrator) was Claudius Jenamy (1702-1776), a nephew of the merchant Joseph Jenamy who appeared above. Today the 18th-century Kirchenmeisteramtsrechnungen are held by three different archives: the Vienna City Archive, the Vienna Diözesanarchiv and the Domarchiv.

In 1742 the choir at St. Stephen's Cathedral consisted of the following musicians:
Kapellmeister Georg von Reutter
Six Capellknaben
Nine Vocalisten
Extra-Vocalisten (whose number varied according to requirements)
Subcantor Adam Gegenbauer
The organist at that time was Anton Neckh, who in 1736 had succeeded Reutter's son Karl on this post. Georg von Reutter's annual salary consisted of 300 gulden Gebühr (salary), plus 24 gulden Kleÿdergeld (clothing allowance). For the boarding of the six Capellknaben (among them Joseph Haydn) Reutter received an additional sum of 1,200 gulden plus 75 gulden Instructionsgeld (teaching fee). Each of the nine Vocalisten received an annual salary of 130 gulden plus an annual Choraladjutum (choral subsidy) of 26 gulden 60 kreuzer per capita. In addition to that they were also paid one gulden "Rorate Geld" plus (at least in 1742) one gulden forty kreuzer for substituting for dismissed choirboys.

Only two Kuttenbuben were permanently employed at the Cathedral. In 1742 they were assisted by an "Extra Jung" (extra boy). The other Kuttenbuben worked freelance for a fee of nine kreuzer for every funeral which added up to a nice income of about five gulden a month. This relatively high income (and the income of the permanently employed Kuttenbuben) are proof that those "Buben" were not boys at all, but adult men who were majors (above 24 years of age). The term "Kuttenbuben" had originated in the middle ages and was still applied to men dressed in cowls centuries later. The two regular Kuttenbuben were members of the ordinary staff and their salary was filed under the "ordinarÿ Besoldung". Among the employees that are listed together with the Kuttenbuben were the Bahrleiher Johann Leydl, the Capelldiener at the cemetery "vor dem Schottenthor" Bartholome Kießling and the two church servants and "Preinglöckler" (the ringers of the prime bell). In addition to their individual annual salary of sixty gulden each of the two regular Kuttenbuben also received five gulden for their service during the litany for the Court. The "Extra Jung" Geusgruber was paid 50 gulden a year. The two items in the 1742 Kirchenmeisteramtsrechnung pertaining to the salaries of the three Kuttenbuben read as follows:
147:/ Denen 2. Kutten Jungen Dobraletnig und Vogl ihr gebühr von 1. April bis lezten Xber 742. auf 3/4. Jahr lauth N° 147. vergüthet . . . . 90 .––
148:/ Dem Extra Jung Michael Geusgruber sein gebühr von 1. April bis lezten Xbr 742. auf 3/4. Jahr inhalt N:° 148. entrichtet mit . . . . . . . . 37 " 30.
The entries concerning the salaries of the Cathedral's three "Kutten Jungen" Dobraletnig, Vogl and Geusgruber between 1 April and 31 December 1742 (A-Wsa, Handschriften, A 41.24, fol. 77v and 78r)

The overall expenses of the Kirchenmeisteramt in 1742 amounted to 20,255 gulden and half a kreuzer. The surplus in that year was 2,722 gulden and 29 kreuzer.

Claudius Jenamy's seal and signature in the 1742 Kirchenmeisteramtsrechnung of St. Stephen's


  • Vivaldi's funeral ceremony on 28 July 1741 at St. Stephen's corresponded to that of ordinary Viennese citizens. Because the performance of music was not ordered and paid, no music was performed at that ceremony.
  • To have musicians sing at a funeral at St. Stephen's in 1741 one had to pay at least six gulden for the performance of the song "Der grimmig Tod". A perfomance of a motet was even more expensive, especially if it was accompanied "mit Sardin" ("with mute", i.e. with muted trumpets or trombones).
  • The Kuttenbuben who were present at Vivaldi's exequies did not sing. They just stood at the altar and folded their hands in silence. They were not choirboys of the Cantorei, but members of the ordinary staff of the Cathedral. There was a strict organizational separation between the ordinary employees and the musicians of the Cathedral.
  • Joseph Haydn had nothing to do with Vivaldi's funeral. The mistaken assumption that choirboys were present at this ceremony originated with Marc Pincherle, who in 1948 translated the entry "6 Kuttenbuben" in the original source with "six enfants de chœur". After Alan Kendall in 1978 had turned these "enfants de chœur" into "choirboys", Robbins Landon could not resist the appeal of this scenario and presented Haydn's singing at Vivaldi's exequies as a fact. It is a myth.
Despite repeated statements in the literature that the chances are slim of finding unknown sources concerning Vivaldi's final stay in Vienna, research on this topic is far from finished. It has only just begun.


  1. Thank you for this remarkable bit of research and clarification. I am not a scholar, but I do enjoy researching the music I'm performing, and I'd be very interested in knowing your opinion of Robbins Landon after having written this paper. Is he a less than reliable source ordinarily? Or just in his work on Vivaldi?

  2. Very both interesting. However, Haydn WAS in the Vienna AT the time of Vivaldi's funeral so despite painstaking efforts to refute the myth making, both composers were in the same city at the same time. It is almost certain that Haydn would have known about the funeral and may even have attended the ceremony even if he did not take part in it. I certainly cannot believe he would have remained in ignorance of either Vivaldi, nor the funeral.

  3. It's absolutely not certain that Haydn would have known about this funeral. As a matter of fact it's much more certain that the nine-year-old Haydn had never heard Vivaldi's name and he was certainly not told about this funeral to attend it and thereby waste studying time. Your image of Vivaldi's publicity among Viennese choirboys and the situation at the Capellhaus in 1741 Vienna seems rather fantastic.

  4. Mr Kenchington, you have obviously read the above blog entry with its painstaking research and attention to minute detail. Please back up your comment with an equivalent amount of primary source detail and evidence and we might take you seriously.

  5. Tossing out any book on Haydn because of one error seems a bit extreme...

  6. This one error is mostly only one among countless others. A sign that an author just copied other books and did no original research.

  7. A great piece of detailed research Michael, and one that seems most likely to be credible because of its great detail. To me so often what one wants to beleive and what is credible are almost always two different things.

    However with great respect Michael, to make the assumption that because Vivaldi biographers have failed to research that piece of detail sufficiently well that the rest of their research is bogus does not follow.

    It might be seen to be an extrapolation of the sort you are otherwise at pains to avoid.


    1. Since you seem not to know what the word "extrapolation" means, let me show you what an extrapolation is: if an anonymous commentater, who has the impoliteness of addressing me as "Michael" (as if we had attended primary school together), claims that I "make the assumption that the rest of the Vivaldi biographers' research is bogus", I extrapolate(!) that this commentator's reading and understanding capacities are very limited indeed, because nowhere in the above article do I make that assumption. And that's a legitimate extrapolation.

  8. Sir, Mr. Kenchington don’t understand English proper anyhow. Look:

    ‹It is almost certain that Haydn […] may even have […]›


    ‹I […] cannot believe he would have remained in ignorance of either [X], nor [Y].›

    He ought to shut up shop until he’s learnt as much German as you have English, that’s what I say.

  9. A pity this paper was rejected. It would've been a useful contribution to the literature.