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Is It Really By Mozart?

by Daniel N. Leeson

An earlier installment of this series dealt with the official mechanism of inventory and chronology of Mozart's compositions, the Köchel catalogue. The way new information affects a work's location in the catalogue was the main purpose of that discussion. It dealt mostly with the impact of new information on compositions already in the repertoire. A more complex situation (and a very emotional one) concerns discoveries alleged to be by Mozart. These are compositions that are attempting, even now, to make their way into the body of Mozart's oeuvre. Putting aside the rare discovery of an original manuscript in Mozart's own hand for which no authenticity problem exists, two different situations need to be addressed. Both are the stuff of dreams.

The first originates with someone's assertion that a lost composition, known by references in documents contemporary to Mozart, has been found. In the second situation, someone claims a discovery of a work not previously identified with Mozart in any way. For example...

In 1936, Albert J. Andraud, English hornist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and publisher of the Albert J. Andraud Wind Instrument Library, added a work to his catalogue of items for sale. It bore the title "CASSAZIONE." Andraud described this work as a quartet for "Oboe (or Flute), Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon by W. A. Mozart." The publication claimed to be an "Original Work discovered in 1910." When Andraud died, Texas' Southern Music Company absorbed this work (and probably his entire catalogue of publications). They still advertise and sell the "Cassazione" as a Mozart composition. The existence of several recordings of this work by distinguished musicians (Philadelphia Orchestra, Paris Wind Ensemble, etc.) shows the seriousness with which some performing musicians accepted Andraud's assertion. The performers implicitly support the composition's authority and promote its authenticity by recording it under Mozart's authorship.

Andraud's publication revealed nothing about the background of the piece. The allegations of authorship and discovery-date appeared on the dust cover without explanation. K3, the first Köchel catalogue published after the composition's discovery, did not mention it. K6 rejected the composition out of hand with the statement, "This work has nothing to do with Mozart," and assigned it to an appendix reserved for compositions of questionable authenticity.

I mention this not to argue for or against the authenticity of the Andraud publication. I simply want to show how easy it is for almost anything to get Mozart's name attached to it. Such incidents are not uncommon. Unknown compositions, alleged to be by Mozart, turn up with good reason. There is little excitement generated by discovering a previously unknown work of Kozeluch, Maschek, or Fiala. On the other hand, if one discovers a lost Mozart composition, the eyes of the world focus on both it and its discoverer.

A similar circumstance, created either as a joke or with darker intentions, occurs in the forgery of a Mozart composition. An example may be found in the work called Mozart's "Adelaide" violin concerto, formerly K.294a. K6 cites Marius Casadesus as the author with the cadenza by Paul Hindemith.

The total number of questionable works is high: 316 compositions that were once thought to be by Mozart. Some of them really may be Mozart compositions. Here is a list of them:

39 religious works including masses and requie
38 smaller church works including hymns and oratorios
1 cantata
1 final chorus of a Gluck opera
9 scenes from various operas, including Mozart's own
50 songs
13 various other vocal works
22 canons
15 complete symphonies
1 fragmentary symphony
3 orchestral dances
16 concerti for instruments other than piano
3 concerti for piano
3 keyboard cadenzas
1 sonata for organ and strings
12 divertimenti for winds
7 string quartets
2 piano trios
9 violin sonatas
I piano four-hand sonata
5 piano sonatas
22 sets of piano variations
12 miscellaneous keyboard works
26 marches for piano or strings
5 miscellaneous compositions

The existence of so many questionable compositions is a positive barometer of the value of Mozart to the world. That is, if Mozart's music were not so loved, no one would spend time searching for more of it (or inventing it).

Few of the works brought forward as newly discovered Mozart compositions become part of the repertoire. Sometimes the reverse happens: the baby gets thrown out with the bath water; that is, genuine Mozart is declared to be spurious. The last such proven case occurred when a copy of a lead-in from the third movement of the Piano Concerto in B-flat, K.595, was witheringly dismissed as spurious. The reviewer said that the music displayed "inorganic and aimless modulations [that] awaken legitimate doubt concerning its authenticity, or at least hint at a corrupt source that cannot be [correct]." Then the autograph in Mozart's own hand was discovered in Estonia. Ouch!!!

However, there are works that do get through the sieve to become a part of the Mozart repertoire. Several recent additions are now being heard in performances. I mention three here. The first is to be found in the opera The Abduction from the Seraglio and is a brief interlude called "The March of the Jannissaries." Its acceptance as part of the body of Mozart's music was, like many hopefuls, complicated by the source material not being in Mozart's hand. But the evidence in support of its authenticity, though circumstantial, is convincing: there is a cryptic note in the opera's autograph making reference to a march with a specific number of measures. The discovered work is a march with exactly that many measures.

The previously unknown second work is a particularly thrilling addition to the repertoire because the source material is in Mozart's own hand. The American musicologist, Robert D. Levin, has completed a 190-measure unfinished sonata for two pianos discovered in Kremsier, Czechoslovakia by Gerhard Croll.

But it is with the third discovery that one's belief in miracles is reaffirmed. There is a popular Rondo for horn and orchestra, K.371 that has been played for years, despite the fact that Mozart did not finish the orchestration. While the first two pages of the autograph are complete, the rest of the manuscript supplies only a fragmentary orchestral accompaniment. Several completions of the work have been made, the best known probably being that of Erik Smith. The Rondo has been recorded on a number of occasions and most Mozart lovers would recognize it on hearing a few measures played. Surprise! ! Four missing pages from that autograph — pages not even known to have existed — have now been discovered. The additional 60 measures of music increases the movement's length by 27%. Somehow, someway, and somewhere, the four rediscovered pages became separated from the autograph and, until 1988, no one knew about them. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, there should have been 50 musicological papers pointing out that something was wrong with the work, i.e., the measure count was wrong, the music of the autograph's page 2 did not correctly connect with what everyone thought was page 3, etc., etc. But no one seems ever to have noticed these anomalies. How could we have been so blind!

The remarkable story of this rediscovery was told by Professor Marie Rolf of the Eastman School of Music at the Salzburg Mozart Congress held in February, 1991. With a breathtaking sense of the dramatic, Professor Rolf concluded her talk by playing in public for the first time a new Philips recording of the now complete movement. For 100 or so Mozart scholars simultaneously to hear a work for the first time is a rare event indeed and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. It was one of life's precious moments.

Returning now to the subject of compositions of uncertain origin, one might assume that authenticity questions arise only in the early days of organizing a musical estate. Not so! The dismissal as inauthentic of the fragment of genuine K.595 music mentioned above occurred in 1960. So here we are, two hundred years after Mozart's death, with issues related to authenticity continuing to arise. At this very moment, at least a half-dozen such matters are being investigated with several of the scenarios sizzlingly hot. I mention two briefly. Who knows what their resolution will be at the time of the tricentennial?

The first, a composition discovered in a manuscript copy in 1869 — though not in Mozart's hand — is a well-known and popular work. People praised it as a Mozart composition for more than a half century. Musicians performed it continually to almost universal critical acclaim. After its discovery, and until ca. 1950, the literature was full of remarks about the work's beauty, its purportedly clear and identifiable Mozartean style, and its undoubted authenticity. Then things went sour as K6 unceremoniously classified the composition as a work of doubtful authenticity and placed it in an appendix reserved for questionable compositions. The work is the concerto for four wind instruments and orchestra that formerly bore the listing K.297b. It was commonly referred to as the Sinfonie Concertante in E-flat for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn and orchestra.

This authenticity issue is hot enough to have caused the above-mentioned Robert D. Levin to author a book on the work's complex controversy: Who Wrote the Mozart Four-Wind Concertante? (Pendragon Press, Stuyvesant, NY, 1988). A large portion of the book explains the conceptual basis underlying Levin's reconstruction of the lost Mozart composition, a reconstruction that restores the instrumentation of the original solo quartet explicitly called for by Mozart; that is, flute, oboe, French horn, and bassoon. Now published in both score and performance parts, several recordings and many performances of the work show it to be gaining support in the performing community.

The other controversial composition is a new find of the Dutch musicologist Bastiaan Blomhert. His discovery, a set of manuscript performance parts in an unknown hand, is an arrangement for eight wind instruments of Mozart's opera The Abduction from the Seraglio. Blomhert asserts this composition to be the work Mozart spoke about in a 1782 letter to his father. Musicologists have been searching for this arrangement for years. It is so recent that the debate about its authenticity has barely begun. A recording of the 70-minute-long work, played on original instruments by the Amadeus Winds, is available.

To summarize, when it comes to matters of authenticity, the apparently calm, untroubled world of Mozart's music is really a volcano of dynamic activity. There is an active, ongoing, worldwide effort to amend the body of his music with new discoveries, each of which must be scrupulously examined.

There is an interesting identity of purpose between the work of Bible scholars and Mozart specialists. The Bible scholar builds and maintains a protective fence around, for example, Genesis. The fence separates the things that belong inside from those that should be kept outside. Assume, for example, that a newly-discovered Dead Sea parchment were to assert that "In the beginning, God created Paterson, New Jersey," or that the serpent tempted Eve with a California nectarine. The Bible scholar would be expected to examine this information objectively to understand how much, if any, of the borders of Genesis need to be redrawn. An almost identical duty — to the Mozart lover an equally holy one — falls to the Mozart specialist.

This is the second in a series of five articles by Daniel N. Leeson to commemorate the Mozart jubilee. Daniel N. Leeson is a retired professional businessman who worked for the IBM Corporation for 30 years. He is also a leading Mozart scholar and co-editor of the volume of the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe which contains the wind serenades. He plays bass clarinet with the San Jose Symphony Orchestra and is a busy basset hornist throughout California. He also teaches mathematics at De Anza College.

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