Funeral Music Composed for a King

Gustav II Adolf, born in 1593, was founder of the Swedish Empire at the beginning of what is widely regarded as the Golden Age of Sweden. But, despite the luminous quality of the era’s name, Gustav faced an era characterized by nearly endless warfare. He led his armies as King of Sweden from 1611 at seventeen until his death in battle while leading a charge during 1632 in the Thirty Years’ War.

While Gustav was fighting his wars, Andreas Duben was admitted to Leipzig University, where he studied music from 1614 to 1620. In that year, Duben became second organist of the new Swedish court orchestra at Stockholm, engaged from Germany for Gustav II Adolf’s wedding.

Gustav was taken with the composer, and Duben soon reached a prominent position among court musicians. He was appointed conductor in 1640, and alongside his court service he became organist at two Stockholm churches. Pugna triumphalis, one of two choral compositions that survive, is the source for the music in the video above. Duben wrote this piece for Gustav II Adolf’s funeral in 1634 (Gustav was killed in 1632, but was not buried for eighteen months).

According to the post at YouTube for this video, the closing line to Pugna triumphalis, “…in illa die justus judex,” is magnificent. “The composition was printed in Stockholm and distributed to other parts of the kingdom for performances where practically possible. The music moves at a steady pace, reminiscent of muffled church bells, and within this framework allows great flexibility for the declamation and significance of the words, not least the opening cross-rhythms of “bonum certamen certavi” (“I have fought the good fight”).”

Bonum certamen certavi
cursum cunsummavi,
fidem servavi;
In reliquo reposita
est mihi corona justitiae,
quam reddet mihi Dominus
in illa die justus judex.

I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me
a crown of righteousness
which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give
me at that day.

According to Wikipedia, Gustavus Adolphus Day is celebrated in Sweden each year on 6 November. On this day only, a special pastry with a chocolate or marzipan medallion of the king, is sold. The day is also an official flag day in the Swedish calendar. In Finland, the day is celebrated as svenska dagen or ruotsalaisuuden paiva, “Swedishness Day,” and is a customary flag day. In Estonia, the day is known as Gustav Adolfi paev. In all three countries, 6 November is the name day for Gustav Adolf, one of the few exceptional name days in the year.

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