'New' Mozart symphony -- not bad for a nine-year-old!
Castle Herrenchiemsee, West Germany — It was an electrifying moment. A long-missing childhood creation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, said the announcement last February in Munich, had finally been found in Bavaria -- 216 years after the young genius had composed it at age nine (yes, nine).
Now it was to be performed in a historic castle.
The child prodigy had written his probable third symphony in F major during his stay in London, where the Mozart family had gone with him.
The brief work of three movements -- allegro assai, andante, presto -- and a title page, as copied by father Leopold, was in private hands. The owner, whose name, at his own request, was not announced, did not know where the symphony had been from the time Mozart wrote it until it came into his family's possession.
The owner had turned over to the Bavarian State Library in Munich about 100 manuscripts, which had been in his family's possession for generations. He did not even know that the missing Mozart symphony was among them. Its discovery was the painstaking work of Dr. Robbert Munster, director of the library's music manuscript department, a noted musicologist and specialist in Mozart music.
For Feb. 21, 1765, a concert of Wolfgang Mozart was planned at the little theater at Haymarket in London. At age 8, Mozart had been taken to London to perform as a prodigy, and a plaque on the house at 180 Ebury Street, in Westminster, London, marks the place where he composed his first, or "London," symphony in 1764.
Mozart is said to have astonished the British Royal Family with his playing and even accompanied Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III, in a song. At that time a number of writers praised the boy's extraordinary talents before the family left England for The Hague in September 1765.
At about the time of the concert at Haymarket in London, father Leopold wrote on Feb. 8: ". . . Oh, how much have I to do! The symphonies of the concert will all be from Wolfgang Mozart; but I have to copy them all unless I am willing to pay one shilling per page . . . ."
By mistake, Leopold Mozart had made on the back of the title page of the D-major symphony a notation of the beginning theme of a mere 15 measures for the first violin of a further symphony, in F major, which Dr. Munster located accidentally among the pile of manuscripts he had received. Having known Leopold's handwriting already, Dr. Munster instantly recognized the missing symphony as Wolfgang's work.
The missing Mozart symphony was finally performed with all the pomp and circumstance in the famous Hall of Mirrors, Castle Herrenchiemsee, built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, in a matinee performance on Sunday, May 17.
It was a rainy, overcast day. Yet the castle, a true copy of Versailles, emerged nonetheless in its splendor. To add to the festive occasion, the fountains were playing in the park.
Mozart, were he alive today, could not have chosen a finer orchestra to perform his newly found work, nor asked for more impressive surroundings than those of Castle Herrenchiemsee's Hall of Mirrors. After all, he was accustomed to playing for kings and noblemen in very similar settings.
In the hall, the 400-or-so seats filled quickly. Punctually at 11 a.m., Leonhard Schmucker, county executive of Traunstein and patron of "Musiksommer zwischen Inn und Salzach," a music society, opened this year's concert season with an address signifying the great importance of the discovery of Mozart's work to follow later on.
Erich Keller, noted conductor of the "Convivium Musicum of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra," opened with Mozart's Symphony in D major, which the prodigy had also composed at the age of 9 in London in 1765. The playing of this symphony ahead of the previously missing one gave a welcome opportunity for later comparison.
Then followed Leopold Mozart's "Concert for Trumpet and Orchestra in D major, " written in August 1762, when he was chamber music composer in Salzburg at the court of the Furstbishop. This composition is a favorite of its kind and is said to have been written perhaps for Andreas Schachtner, who was a Salzburg court trumpeter and close friend of Leopold Mozart. It is this work of two movements which got into the possession of the Bavarian State Library in 1859.
After the suspense had thus been built up, the long- awaited "missing" Symphony in F major was performed -- and magnificently -- by the chamber ensemble. It was written by boy Mozart in the then gallant style, a breakaway from the contrapuntal one of Baroque music.
It has graceful, Italian-derived melodies, relatively simple accompaniments, and harmonies that seldom depart from the key. It is music intended to please and indeed it does. Although it never strikes very deep, it is graceful, light, and immensely entertaining!
Afterward listeners in the audience voiced their astonishment that a child at age 9 was able to compose such a lovely piece.
Mr. Keller, the conductor, Bernd Herber of Munich, first violinist, and Mrs. Aiko Mizushima of Tokyo, second violinist, were equally enthusiastic. Mr. Keller pointed out that young Mozart's real masterpieces came about after 1777, when Mozart had reached age 21.
The tremendous applause at the end of the performance of the once-missing symphony stopped only when the orchestra repeated the last movement. Incidentally, there had been such a run for tickets that the entire program had to be repeated the same afternoon.
After the intermission came Mozart's Serenata Notturna in D major, which the then 20-year-old wrote in January 1778. This is one of the most admirable early works of Mozart according to sound and melody.
A performance of the beautiful, widely unknown second Andante in G, from Mozart's Symphony in D major, composed in 1777 in Paris, followed, and his Symphony in C major concluded the program.
A superb recording of the missing symphony is now available through "Musica Bavarica," Munich. The first edition of the manuscript can be obtained from "Barenreiter Verlag," Kassel, West Germany.