Thursday, July 23, 2015

Haydn - Motet 'Insanae et vanae curae'

The beginnings of Haydn's motet Insanae et vanae curae (Insane and stupid worries flood our mind) began in 1775 with the composition of his first oratorio Il ritorno di Tobia (The Return of Tobias). The work written to an Italian liberetto was first performed in 1775 in Vienna and was a resounding success. But by 1781 the public's musical taste had changed so much that another planned performance in Vienna in 1781 failed to materialize due to lack of interest. Haydn revised the work and in 1784 a performance of the revision was performed in a benefit concert in Vienna. The oratorio had one more performance in 1808, after which Haydn took one of the choral numbers from the oratorio and rewrote it to a Latin text.

While Il ritorno di Tobia was popular in its day, it could not compete with Haydn's two masterpieces in the form The Creation and The Seasons. Perhaps that is why Haydn extracted this fine choral piece from it and revised it as a stand-alone work.  The piece is in two contrasting sections. The first section is one of fear and dread, the second section is a more lyrical one. Each section is repeated. The original was written for choir and orchestra, but there is a version for choir and organ that was not written by Haydn that is sometimes performed.

Insane and stupid worries flood our minds,
often mad fury fills the heart, robbed of hope,
O mortal man, what good does it to strive for worldly things,
if you neglect the heavens?
All things work in your favor, with God on your side.


  1. Since childhood, I have loved the music of Franz Joseph Haydn. There is a certain purity to his music, and that purity leads me to love Haydn's music more than Mozart's.

    The words of this Haydn motet speaks to the time in which we are living right now.

  2. I recently discovered this marvelous piece on a recording by St. John's College Choir, featuring the version with choir and organ. Absolutely brilliant!! This is now one of my favorite choral pieces of all time. What a thrill it would be to sing this with a choir!

  3. This is my favourite choral piece bar none. As a chorister many years ago I looked forward to singing it more than any other. I think I perceived it as a conflict between war and peace in my soul, even as a ten-year-old. The fact that the 'war' part is repeated after the 'peace' section very powerfully represents a back-and-forth battle between the two, and it's not clear which will win until the end. Yes, Haydn's other works are perhaps more famous, but this is the one that really stirs my heart.