Mozart’s Diary Where He Composed His Final Masterpieces Is Now Digitized and Available Online

We have a ten­den­cy to regard Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart’s music as hav­ing emerged ful­ly formed into the world, not least because we hear it per­formed almost exclu­sive­ly in a high­ly pol­ished state of near-per­fec­tion. That makes any glimpse into the process of its cre­ation all the more valu­able, and the British Library has now pro­vid­ed us with much more than such a glimpse: at its site you can now read Mozart’s own thir­ty-page musi­cal diary, a record of “his com­po­si­tions in the last sev­en years of his life” and thus “a unique­ly impor­tant doc­u­ment” in the his­to­ry of clas­si­cal music.

The British Library notes that, dur­ing the peri­od from Feb­ru­ary 1784 until Decem­ber 1791 that the diary cov­ers, Mozart “com­posed many of his best-known works, includ­ing his five mature operas, sev­er­al of his most beau­ti­ful piano sonatas, and his last three great sym­phonies, as well as sev­er­al famous less­er works.”

The pages you see above and below this para­graph come from his com­ic opera The Mar­riage of Figaro. “It was a tur­bu­lent time of his life, with finan­cial crises, fam­i­ly tragedy, and his ongo­ing unsuc­cess­ful search for a per­ma­nent court posi­tion.” Enthu­si­asts will have tak­en notice that those years also con­sti­tut­ed the last sev­en of his life, before his ear­ly death at age 35.

But the flame that burns twice as bright, to coin a phrase, burns half as long, and we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture some of the for­mi­da­ble musi­cal accom­plish­ments Mozart attained before even reach­ing ado­les­cence. But it some­how feels even more of a won­der to see writ­ings in the actu­al hand of the mature Mozart, at the height of his com­po­si­tion­al pow­ers. You can read the musi­cal diary he wrote in two dif­fer­ent for­mats: as a stan­dard web site with details about the viewed pages and his­tor­i­cal con­text from Mozart’s life pro­vid­ed below each set of pages, and a zoomable, page-flip­pable brows­er with option­al audio notes. If you’d like a sound­track to go with the read­ing expe­ri­ence, a cer­tain 127-hour playlist of Mozart’s music sug­gests itself.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear All of Mozart in a Free 127-Hour Playlist

Hear the Pieces Mozart Com­posed When He Was Only Five Years Old

Read an 18th-Cen­tu­ry Eye­wit­ness Account of 8‑Year-Old Mozart’s Extra­or­di­nary Musi­cal Skills

See Mozart Played on Mozart’s Own Fortepi­ano, the Instru­ment That Most Authen­ti­cal­ly Cap­tures the Sound of His Music

Leck Mich Im Arsch (“Kiss My Ass”): Lis­ten to Mozart’s Scat­o­log­i­cal Canon in B Flat (1782)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (4)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • William Goodwin says:

    Why is it not dis­closed that only select­ed pages of the “Verze­ich­nüß” are includ­ed in fac­sim­i­le for online view­ing?

  • Rupert says:

    Only a selec­tion of images from the man­u­script are giv­en on the web­site with full com­men­taries. This is how the BL orig­i­nal­ly made the man­u­script avail­able online back in 2006 to mark Mozart’s 250th birth­day.

    Since then it has pub­lished the entire man­u­script in high res­o­lu­tion images:

    For links to all the BL’s digi­tised Mozart man­u­scripts, see:

  • John Massaro says:

    This is not a “glimpse into the process” of Mozart’s cre­ativ­i­ty. It is a diary — a list­ing of the main themes of his works. He did this for most of his life. He didn’t have Drop­box, so he devised his own method of fil­ing his works. There is noth­ing “cre­ative” about it. No glimpse into any process aside from his own per­son­al orga­ni­za­tion. Did you real­ly read the press release from the Muse­um?

  • John says:

    Thank you for sav­ing me the time of point­ing out that the title of this arti­cle is com­plete­ly wrong.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.