Newly Discovered Piece by Mozart Performed on His Own Fortepiano

A music schol­ar made an astound­ing dis­cov­ery recent­ly while going through the per­son­al belong­ings from the attic of a recent­ly deceased church musi­cian and band leader in the Lech Val­ley of the Aus­tri­an Tyrol.

Comb­ing through the dead man’s col­lec­tion of old music man­u­scripts, Hilde­gard Her­rmann-Schnei­der of the Insti­tute for Tyrolean Music Research noticed a hand-writ­ten book with the date “1780” on the cov­er. On pages 12 to 14 she found an uniden­ti­fied sonata move­ment with the tem­po mark “alle­gro molto,” Ital­ian for “very quick­ly.” On the upper right-hand side of page 12 was writ­ten “Del Sig­nore Gio­vane Wolf­gan­go Mozart,” or “The young Wolf­gan­go Mozart.”

“Wolf­gan­go” was a name Mozart’s father, Leopold, called him when he was a boy. Look­ing fur­ther into the man­u­script, Her­rmann-Schnei­der found sev­er­al pieces that were already known to have been writ­ten by Leopold Mozart. Those com­po­si­tions were respect­ful­ly marked “Sig­nore Mozart,” or “Lord Mozart.”

Although the writ­ing was clear­ly not in the hand of either the elder or the younger Mozart, the metic­u­lous­ness of the tran­scrip­tions, along with the accu­ra­cy of every ver­i­fi­able detail through­out the 160-page book, led Her­rmann-Schnei­der to sus­pect that the com­po­si­tion by “The Young Wolf­gan­go Mozart” was an authen­tic, pre­vi­ous­ly unknown piece.

On the back of the man­u­script was the copy­ist’s name: Johannes Reis­er­er. After an exten­sive inves­ti­ga­tion, Her­rmann-Schnei­der was able to learn that Reis­er­er was born in 1765 and had gone to gym­na­si­um, or high school, in Salzburg, where he was a mem­ber of the cathe­dral choir from 1778 to 1780. That would have placed him in close prox­im­i­ty to Leopold Mozart. “Researchers have thus con­clud­ed,” writes The His­to­ry Blog, “that Johannes Reis­er­er used the note­book to copy com­po­si­tions as part of a rig­or­ous pro­gram of music instruc­tion by Kapell­haus music mas­ters, per­haps Leopold him­self.”

Based on the style and the lev­el of accom­plish­ment in the piece, now known as the “Alle­gro Molto in C Major,” researchers place the date of com­po­si­tion at around 1767, when Mozart was 11 years old. A press release from the Insti­tute for Tyrolean Music Research describes the piece:

Mozart fre­quent­ly select­ed a C‑major key, and the Alle­gro molto has a sonata form with a length of 84 mea­sures. Its ambi­tus is tai­lored to the clavi­chord. The Alle­gro molto could be a first major attempt by Wolf­gang Amadé to assert him­self in the area of the sonata form. This is sug­gest­ed by the rel­a­tive­ly high lev­el of com­po­si­tion­al technique.…Throughout the Alle­gro molto, the­mat­ic for­ma­tion, com­po­si­tion­al set­ting and har­mo­ny have a num­ber of com­po­nents that are found repeat­ed in oth­er Mozart piano works. Hard­ly a com­po­si­tion­al detail points to a con­tra­dic­tion with the gen­er­al char­ac­ter­is­tics of Mozart’s com­sum­mate musi­cal com­po­si­tion. Accord­ing to cur­rent schol­ar­ly knowl­edge, it must there­fore be regard­ed as an authen­tic sonata move­ment by Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart.

Aus­tri­an musi­cian Flo­ri­an Bir­sak, who spe­cial­izes in play­ing ear­ly key­board instru­ments, gave the pre­mier per­for­mance of the piece on Mozart’s own fortepi­ano last Fri­day at the Mozart fam­i­ly home in Salzburg, which is now a muse­um of the Salzburg Mozar­teum Foun­da­tion. You can watch a video, above, which was record­ed some­time ear­li­er in the same place and on the same instru­ment. You can also read a PDF of the score, and down­load Bir­sak’s record­ing at iTunes.

The first page of Mozart’s Alle­gro Molto in C Major (above) from the 1780 note­book. Cred­it: Salzburg Mozar­teum Foun­da­tion.

via @MatthiasRascher

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Comments (8)
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  • It is incred­i­ble that this piece has been sit­ting around unno­ticed for so long. Makes you hope there may be more some­where.

  • Cj Williams says:

    I don’t nor­mal­ly vol­un­teer my addy for a com­ment, but this is beau­ti­ful. A lit­tle speedy, and the recital isn’t exact­ly flaw­less in exe­cu­tion but skilled all the same. Not one sin­gle com­pos­er these days could write any­thing that bril­liant. Brav­isi­mo, Mozart.

  • doug l says:

    Aston­ish­ing how fresh and yet unmis­tak­ably Mozart it sounds. I wish we could find some of his sis­ter’s work as well.

  • LiNCOLN PARK says:

    Beau­ti­ful.… And play­ful, like a young boy.

  • Cheyenne young says:

    This is great! So won­der­ful that after all this time he can still aston­ish us. I hope that even more pices will be dis­cov­ered.

  • alex says:

    The video is pri­vate now! Can;t find it any­where. Unfair is what it is!

  • Carlo says:

    This is tru­ly remark­able by any stan­dard and sense. Is it pos­si­ble to obtain a pdf-copy of the score?

  • Vahan Akopyan says:

    Yes, very tru­ly indeed a work by a genius, no doubt it’s no one else but Mozart who wrote it! And I com­plete­ly agree myself that this piece had to most like­ly be a sec­ond move­ment of a sonata if it were writ­ten for a sonata! But that’s only a ques­tion of it were left unfin­ished or not found yet? And I actu­al­ly believe that this was instead just a sin­gle move­ment Molto Alle­gro in C, it does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly have to be a sonata to be rec­og­nized as a key­board work! In fact, it could’ve been a prepa­ra­tion work for Wolf­gan­go to start to get him ready to write music in the sonata form!

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