Posted by: Nazausgraben | April 16, 2012

FINDING MOZART


Visiting with our friends Reini and Silvia in nearby Vils (the smallest city in the Tirol) some time ago, I was invited to explore their Antique Stadl..literally a barn that they had converted into a treasure house of antiques, books, art, collectibles and all types of cast away eccentricities…cashed away for generations in the attics and cellars of ancient farmhouses, shops and homes. Reini always directs me to a corner of the Stadl when he brings home a new collection of music. 

Some months ago, I arrived at the Stadl to have a look at a rather large collection of scores newly acquired by Reini. He had purchased the collection from the estate of one Ignaz Dreier, a musician and teacher in the village of Elbingalp in the nearby Lech Valley. Some of the works looked very interesting, handwritten and bound together. After a quick review, I discussed the collection with Reini. He agreed that the scores should be examined by a Musicologist to see if there was anything especially of particular local interest…music composed by local composers. The price for the entire collection was beyond my means, so I also suggested that the collection (coming from a local music teacher) should remain housed and studied here in the Tirol.
 
Not long thereafter, Reini sold the collection to the Grüne Haus, a wonderful local folk museum in nearby Reutte. He also contacted Univ.-Doz. Mag.art. Dr.phil. Hildegard Herrmann-Schneider, a Musicologist from the Institut für Tiroler Musikforschung in Innsbruck, who has an internationally recognized outstanding reputation for her expertise in the history of classical and folk music, especially from the Tirol. Whilst studying the collection, something caught the Musicologist’s eye; a 160 page bound collection of handwritten scores dating from 1780. One of these had the name Giovane Wolfgango Mozart written at the top. Now, it is known that Wolfgang’s Father, Leopold, employed the Italienate version of his name and it is strongly suspected that he likewise referred to his son in this manner.
 
The pages of music were apparently not written by the young Mozart himself, but rather had been copied, perhaps from the original that had been in the possession of Leopold. The date of the work suggests that it was composed by Mozart when he was about 10 or 11 years old.
 
The Musicologist from Innsbruck sent the work off to her colleagues in Salzburg and Vienna. These scholars confirmed some exciting news…this short work for piano, an Allegro Molto (meaning, to be played at a fast tempo…between 120 and 160 beats per minute or so) appears to indeed have been composed by Mozart and has, to date, been quite unknown. It does not appear in any of the catalogues of Mozart’s collected works. It had been apparently copied directly from the original score and came in some manner into the possession of Herr Dreier.
 
Now, one must be cautious about such things, as there are many examples of works attributed to one composer that, in the end, was found to have been composed by another. Still, the evidence that this was a heretofore unknown Mozart was quite convincing. The work was deemed authentic by the scholars, an announcement was sent out to the press, and the work was performed for the first time a few weeks ago…in Mozart’s birthhouse in Salzburg and on the pianoforte upon which he, his sister Nannerl and his Father Leopold had all played. 
 
With the clarity of hindsight, I’m delighted that the collection was sent for study to the Musicologist in Innsbruck; if I had purchased it, I might have played the work at some time, thinking “hmmm..a lovely piece…sounds abit like Mozart or Haydn”…and, not knowing better, possibly put it back on my shelf to be found by our children after they had buried me in the rich Pinswang soil in the cemetery behind the Ulrichskirche. Thereafter it probably would have gone to yet another, perhaps less inquisitive antique purchaser/seller. One shudders to think that it might have somehow have been destroyed.
 

First page of the Allegro Molto by W.A. Mozart. Original from Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum; referenced from http://salzburg.orf.at/news/stories/2526167/

 
Indeed, one must wonder just how many such works have been ignored or lost…thrown out as refuse, crumbled to dust in an attic or library somewhere. I try to stay optimistic, wondering about the many works that remain to be found…rediscovered and reborn. In this regard, I have always strongly believed that regardless of when a work was composed, there is no such thing as ‘old music’, for the muse is timeless and comes to life…fresh, different and new, with each playing.
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