emperor joseph ii


Mozart/Grieg - Sonata no.16, K.545 [arr. two pianos]

Mozart’s C major piano sonata is famous for being a simple piece, its simplicity specially for Mozart’s own students. Like Beethoven’s Für Elise Bagatelle, this piece is considered a mile stone for piano students everywhere, one of the first pieces by a “major composer” that is charming enough for anyone to enjoy. Grieg took it upon himself to add a second piano part, to include more texture and color to the work, as well as elevating the Classical sonata with more Romantic harmonies. The idea makes me smile because I remember the famous quote from Emperor Joseph II in the 1984 film Amadeus, “There are simply too many notes…just cut a few and it will be perfect” [to which Mozart’s character replies, “Which few did you have in mind?”]. While the sonata is balanced on its own, including a second piano and “extra notes” really does produce something…magical. I don’t know, maybe it’s my own bias for the niche repertoire of piano duos. 


1. Allegro

2. Andante

3. Rondo


More art for the underrated, I say! Joseph II as the real historical figure is seriously fashionable cool, but his character in the Amadeus film? WAY COOL.  I prithee watch it if you haven’t already.
(By the way, this is the best surreptitious catchphrase ever–it’s good for ANY setting when you want to sneak in a quote without anyone ever knowing… then you can be smug about yourself later.)  I totally don’t wish this was a legit meme

On this day in history, 29th of November 1780, death of Empress Maria Theresa (Maria Theresia) at the age of 63, in Hofburg Palace, Vienna. She was the was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. She was the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Transylvania, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma. By marriage, she was Duchess of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Holy Roman Empress.

Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, had sixteen children, including the Queen of France, the Queen of Naples and Sicily, the Duchess of Parma and two Holy Roman Emperors, Joseph II and Leopold II. Out of the sixteen, nine or ten of them did not make it to adulthood. She had eleven daughters, ten of which were named Marie, and five sons. Though she was expected to cede power to Francis and Joseph, both of whom were officially her co-rulers in Austria and Bohemia,Maria Theresa was the absolute sovereign who ruled by the counsel of her advisers. Maria Theresa promulgated financial and educational reforms, with the assistance of Count Friedrich Wilhelm von Haugwitz and Gerard van Swieten, promoted commerce and the development of agriculture, and reorganised Austria’s ramshackle military, all of which strengthened Austria’s international standing.

Pictured: Herzog Albert und Erzherzogin Marie Christine shows to the family painting they brought from Italy (Maria Theresa is in black), 1776. Friedrich Heinrich Füger

The 1782 Toleranzedikt

In 1782, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II issued the Edict of Tolerance, through which he sought to end most persecutory practices towards the Jewish people. The edict allowed for Jews to attend universities and schools, and eliminated a tax that had previously only been levied against Jews and cattle.

However, Joseph II also demanded that Jews give up their languages and banned Hebrew and Yiddish from being published in official documents or taught in schools, in favor of the national language. Judaism was branded the “quintessence of foolishness and nonsense.” Moses Mendelssohn responded to the edict by writing, “Such a tolerance… is even more dangerous play in tolerance than open persecution.“

By the spring of the next year all the necessary preparations had been completed; and on the evening of the 10th of April, 1770, a grand court was held in the Palace of Vienna. Through a double row of guards of the palace, of body-guards, and of a still more select guard, composed wholly of nobles, M. de Durfort was conducted into the presence of the Emperor Joseph II., and of his widowed mother, the Empress-queen, still, though only dowager-empress, the independent sovereign of her own hereditary dominions; and to both he proffered, on the part of the King of France, a formal request for the hand of the Archduchess Marie Antoinette for the dauphin. When the Emperor and Empress had given their gracious consent to the demand, the archduchess herself was summoned to the hall and informed of the proposal which had been made, and of the approval which her mother and her brother had announced; while, to incline her also to regard it with equal favor, the ambassador presented her with a letter from her intended husband, and with his miniature, which she at once hung round her neck.
—  The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France - Charles Duke Yonge

Joseph II, Emperor of Holy Rome

Joseph was the brother of Marie Antoinette, and when he became Emperor, he sought to change laws, like promote more tolerance for religions. He was a monarch ahead of his time.  During his reign, he had to deal with foreign affairs with legendary leaders like Catherine the Great and Frederick II of Prussia. His wife, Isabella of Parma, apparently had a romantic “affair” with his sister, Maria Catherine.

Overall, he seems like a cool person! And look at those eyes.


On February 20th, 1790, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II died in Vienna. He was only 48 when he passed away, but had suffered from poor health for the past few years.

He was buried in a simple looking tomb 42 in the Imperial Crypt, which stands in great contrast to the elaborate tomb of his parents behind it. He is said to have asked for his epitaph to read “Here lies Joseph II, who failed in all he undertook.”, but this was not carried out.

Joseph had no surviving children at the time of his death, and was succeeded by his younger brother, Leopold II.

Emperador Rodolfo II del Sacro Imperio Romano Germánico y Archiduque de Austria
Imperator Rudolphus II Sacri Imperii Romani et Archidux Austriae
Kaiser Rudolf II. des Heiligen Römischen Reiches und Erzherzog von Österreich
Emperor Rudolf II of the Holy Roman Empire and Archduke of Austria
Empereur Rodolphe II de le Saint Empire Romain Germanique et Archiduc d'Autriche

Joseph Heintz der Ältere (1564-1609), 1594.

Emperor Joseph II with Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Tuscany (1769). Pompeo Batoni (Italian, 1708–1787). Oil on canvas. Kunsthistorisches Museum.

In this “friendship portrait,” Batoni dispenses with all pomp and presents the young rulers as travelers on their Grand Tour; reference is made to the maxims of the Enlightenment by means of Montesquieu’s “L'Esprit des los.”