By SUSAN CLERMONT
More than 250 years after his birth on Jan. 27, 1756, the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) still resonates with music lovers around the world. In honor of this occasion, birthday celebrations for the beloved composer have been held across five continents—from his birthplace in Salzburg to Tokyo, and from San José to Washington, D.C.,—in concert halls, opera houses and conference centers, and across radio waves.
Throughout the year 2006, the Library of Congress's Music Division joined in this global celebration by providing access to its rich Mozart collections and sponsoring a series of display, lectures and public concerts (www.loc.gov/concerts/).
During the year, the Music Division's reference staff assisted a greater than usual number of music scholars and performers from around the world who came to the Library to use its remarkably Mozart-rich collections. There are more than 10,000 items, including original and copyist manuscripts, facsimile and first editions, printed scores and libretti, books, serials, letters and iconography.
Forming the cornerstone of the Library's Mozartiana are 12 autograph music manuscripts that span the composer's creative life. In addition to these manuscripts are three non-musical autographs, including a letter from Mozart to his sister, Nannerl, another to his father, Leopold, and a fragment from the diaries of Wolfgang and Nannerl.
Counted among the Library's most valuable Mozart treasures are a manuscript copied in Beethoven's hand of a terzett and sextet from the second act of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" (Moldenhauer Archives), three autograph cadenzas by Johannes Brahms for Mozart's piano concerti (K. 453, K. 466 and K. 491) (The Gertrude Clarke Whittall Foundation Collection), and a late 18th-century copyist's manuscript full score of "The Marriage of Figaro" (M1500.M84 N55 Case).
Autograph letters by Mozart's father, wife and sons, and a rare volume penned in the mid-1760s that contains one of the earliest extant accounts of the boy Mozart are also among the equally remarkable treasures too numerous to list.
Complementing the Library's early engravings of the child Mozart is a unique piece of early Mozartiana recently rediscovered by the Music Division's reference staff: Daines Barrington's original handwritten notes from his afternoon with the Mozarts (ML95.B266). Barrington (1727–1800), a prominent English lawyer with eclectic interests, was one of many observers invited by Leopold Mozart to authenticate the talents of his prodigious son. In June 1765, after Mozart flawlessly completed the lawyer's tests, an overwhelmed Barrington described the boy as an "eight-year-old (sic) who stood seven feet tall."
Barrington's beautifully narrated "Account of a Very Remarkable Musician" was published first in 1771 ("Philisophical Transactions," vol. 60, 1770, pp. 54–64) and again in his "Miscellanies" (London: J. Nichols) in 1781. Both of these volumes are housed in the Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division.
As a mature composer, Mozart found himself haunted by these accounts of his days as a child prodigy. In a 1778 letter to his father from Paris, he complained, "What annoys me most of all here is that these stupid Frenchmen seem to think I am still seven years old, because that was my age when they first saw me. This is perfectly true!" (Anderson, Letters…, II, #319, p. 870).
A popular item among researchers is the Library's autograph of "Sonata for Clavier and Violin" (K. 379), which varies significantly from Mozart's typically pristine scores. The unusually messy manuscript makes use of multiple colored inks, different paper types, superimpositions and reordering of musical contents. In a letter from Mozart to his father, dated April 8, 1781, he confessed that this sonata was composed "last night between eleven and twelve; but in order to be able to finish it, I wrote out the violin accompaniment for Brunetti and retained my own part in my head." After performing the especially technical keyboard part from memory the next evening, he put the notes that were still in his head onto paper, now using darker ink and adding an additional leaf to accommodate the keyboard part for the final variation.
Besides noting its messy appearance, many researchers have inquired how the Music Division acquired this manuscript, which bears accession stamps from the Austrian National Library. In the late 1930s the autograph of K. 379 along with Franz Schubert's "Sonata for Violin and Piano," opus 137, no. 2 (Whittall Collection), were part of a collection of manuscripts, paintings and early works of art belonging to Oscar and Elizabeth Bondy of Vienna. Tragically, most of their treasures were confiscated by the Nazis. The artwork was reportedly stored in the salt mines at Linz, while the music manuscripts were incorporated into the collections of the Musiksammlung of the Austrian National Library.
The Bondy family managed to escape to Switzerland and then moved to New York City, where Oscar Bondy died in 1944. After the war, his widow struggled for legal restitution of her family's artwork. On June 18, 1947, the music manuscripts were officially de-accessioned from the Austrian National Library and returned to their rightful owner. Gertrude Clarke Whittall purchased the Mozart and Schubert sonatas along with four additional works and donated them to the Library in 1949.
The Library sponsored a number of Mozart-related lectures by the Library's music specialists in conjunction with its 2005–2006 concert season. On Oct. 18, 2005, Denise Gallo delivered a lecture prior to a concert featuring the Mozart "Concerto for Violin in A major" (K. 219) performed by the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra with violin soloist Arabella Steinbacher. On Feb. 3, 2006, Robin Rausch discussed the creation and compositional influences on one of Mozart's early string quartets, the K. 80 in G major, which was performed later that evening by the Cuarteto Casals. Rausch drew comparisons between the young Mozart and Juan Crisóstomo de Arriagas (1806–1826), a Spanish composer who was born on Mozart's birthday. As a child, Arriagas exhibited exceptional musical talents, which his father zealously promoted during Arriagas' brief musical career. A performance of Arriagas' "String Quartet No. 3" in E-flat major was also featured at the concert.
Karen Moses introduced attendees to Friedrich Ramm, renowned German oboist and longtime friend of Mozart, in conjunction with a Feb. 10, 2006, performance of the "Quartet in F major" (K. 370) by members of the Czech Nonet. Moses explained that this piece was composed expressly for Ramm, whose technical and musical virtuosity was admitted by Mozart.
The much-loved "Haydn" Quartets served as the focus of a Feb. 21 lecture by Gallo and were performed by the Kuijken String Quartet as part of the "Mozart on the Mall" series, sponsored jointly by the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, the Freer Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American History, the National Academy of Sciences and the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Gallo noted that today's audiences have the wonderful opportunity "to hear the genius of one great composer echoed through the artistic invention of another."
On May 19 this author delivered a lecture on K. 379, which, along with K. 306 in D major, was performed that evening by Cho-Liang Lin on violin and André-Michel Schub on piano. The discussion centered on the manuscript's unusual physical appearance, the circumstances under which the work was composed and the unusual provenance of the autograph.
Throughout the 2005–2006 concert season, music specialist Raymond White treated concertgoers to displays of musical treasures that highlighted the breadth and depth of the Library's Mozart collections and provided audiences with deeper understanding of the concert's musical offerings.
For example, on display at the Feb. 3 performance of the K. 80 quartet was an autograph letter written in Milan by the young Mozart to his sister, Nannerl. The letter, dated March 3, 1770 (less than two weeks before he completed the quartet), is said to be one of the earliest extant letters to his sister. Rather than detailing his many performances during that week or discussing his work in progress, Mozart elaborated in great detail, but with little emotion, about the "festo di ballo" held after an opera he attended. Only in the postscript do the young Wolfgang's feelings emerge as he begs his sister to "kiss Mama's hands for me [1 billion] times."
The aforementioned messy, original manuscript of the "Sonata for Clavier and Violin" (K. 379) and a rare copy of the first edition of this were also displayed on May 19 in conjunction with the final performance of the 2005–2006 concert season.
Historically, the "Serenade in B-Flat for 13 Winds," K. 361, also known as the "Gran Partitta," has been the most studied and performed work by Mozart, as well as the most renowned manuscript among the Library's Mozart holdings. Accordingly, during this commemorative year, this work has taken center stage in many of the Music Division's displays, impromptu "show and tells" and special events.
On June 4, at the invitation of David W. Packard, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and members of the Music Division participated in an all-Mozart event at the newly renovated California Theater in San José. Packard, a long-standing supporter of the Library's film preservation efforts, has generously provided funding through the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for a state-of-the-art National Audiovisual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Va., scheduled to open in 2007. (See Information Bulletin, July/August 2006, www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/06078/navcc.html.)
The event, which featured a performance of the "Gran Partitta," was preceded by a display of pertinent materials from the Library's collections. These included a 1976 facsimile edition of the K. 361 holograph (ML96.5.M97 Case), the first edition published in Vienna by the Bureau d'Arts et Industrie in 1803 (M3.3.M93 K361D Case) and the "Serenade" as it appeared in the first edition of Mozart's collected works in 1880 (M962.M88 K.361 1880 Case).
At the center of the display was a photocopy of the 1880 edition that once belonged to Alfred Einstein, one of the most respected Mozart authorities of the 20th century. Einstein was the first scholar given the opportunity to compare early published editions of the "Serenade" with the original manuscript. Measure by measure, Einstein painstakingly highlighted in red ink all apparent discrepancies between the two—close to 1,000 in all. According to Susan Vita, chief of the Library's Music Division, and music specialist Stephanie Poxon, who were on hand to field questions, some of the discrepancies were the result of printers' mistakes—attributable to a lack of access to either the original manuscript or reliable copyist manuscripts. As a result of these errors, the work had not been performed correctly in public for close to 200 years following its March 1784 premiere.
To conclude this event, Billington presented Packard with two gifts to mark the occasion: a panoramic map of San José (from the Library's collection of panoramic maps) and a copy of the Library's facsimile edition of Mozart's "Serenade."
On Dec. 7, 2006, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will perform Mozart's "Gran Partitta" in the Coolidge Auditorium, thereby culminating the Library's year-long celebration of the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth. Noted Mozart scholar Daniel L. Leeson will deliver a pre-concert lecture. The author of two articles on K. 361 that further the research initiated by Einstein, Leeson has recently published a novel titled "The Mozart Forgeries," a fictionalized account of an attempt to forge the manuscripts of two well-known Mozart compositions whose autographs have been lost since 1799.
An intergenerational affection for Mozart and his music have prompted birthday tributes throughout history. In the 1856 edition of "Dwight's Journal of Music," Mozart was remembered on the centennial of his birth as a man who made music as spontaneously as others breathe.
In December 1955 Leopold Stokowski and members of the National Symphony Orchestra performed the "Gran Partitta" in the Library's Coolidge Auditorium to commemorate Mozart's 200th birthday. As noted in the program, this was "the first performance based on Mozart's original manuscript since the composer's death." Washington Post music critic Paul Hume favorably reviewed the conductor and the acoustics. Of the composer he said, "No one can ever possibly know what a Mozart has given to the world. We may know how much music he wrote. We may even approach a very real appreciation of its eventual worth and timeless beauties. But who can weigh the effect of a symphony by Mozart upon the life of someone who hears it?"
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Library's Public Affairs Office.