Jonathan Bellman

One of my first blogs ruminated on the subject of the rediscovered fragment, the little piece of tertiary importance, the scrap of manuscript paper by a great composer and why such things mean so much to us.  A new Mozart fragment has just been rediscovered: a complete melody, apparently, from 1787–1791 (obviously; his death year), without harmonization or orchestration, but a complete melody. This scrap was known in the nineteenth century but since its positive identification has slipped under the radar.

I have not seen the melody, so it is impossible to say what I would get from it. This is a period in which Mozart was interested in Church Music, so it is not impossible that the melody could be an example of what Wye Jamison Allanbrook has called Mozart’s “exalted style,” and anything that adds to our ongoing style database is a great gift. Jeffrey Kallberg has an article on the Aesthetic of the Sketch as it relates to Chopin in Early Music XXIX/3 (August 2001)—this includes his famous reconstruction of the early E-Flat Minor Prelude—and my thoughts always go back to that when new discoveries are made. It is not that sketches provide undiscovered masterworks, nor are they footnotes fit only for obsessives and completists. Rather, they expand, even incrementally, the eye-view of the composer’s output and aesthetic. Making this up for speculative purposes, now: an incomplete church piece? No big deal. But, a new relative of what was previously considered an atypical melody? An italianate church melody for a Quid Mariam, or a French, or a German? What would these things mean about how his creativity worked? A relative of a melody from an instrumental piece? A relative of a melody by another composer? What new ideas can we now consider about Mozart’s compositional journey, his relationship to the music of his time and perhaps even to the wider culture?

I wish the thing would be made available to those of us who can’t afford the gazillion dollars to buy the manuscript. Meanwhile, it’s another one in the eye to those who imagine that the study of history (of any kind) is a primarily static, placid endeavor.

About jonathanbellman

Professor of Music History and Literature and Head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Author, *The _Style Hongrois_ in the Music of Western Europe* (Northeastern University Press, 1993), *A Short Guide to Writing About Music* (2e, Longman, 2008), *Chopin's Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom* (Oxford University Press, 2010), Editor, *The Exotic in Western Music* (Northeastern University Press, 1998), author of bunches of articles and reviews and so on. Likes to play the piano, the mandolin, and even guitar sometimes. A. M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar at UNC, 2011.
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4 Responses to Mozartiana

  1. Daniel Wolf says:

    When a number of possible Mozart manuscripts turned up recently in Poland, I made this plea for an opening vetting of the materials:

  2. Jonathan says:

    Daniel–did anything come of this? Any further word on these “maybe” Mozart mss.? Follow-up–So. Cal. where, and when? Myself: Claremont, class of ’75.

  3. Daniel Wolf says:

    Jonathan —
    Nothing came of it. I have the impression that musicologists don’t tend to read blogs by composers, and even less by composers who sometimes criticise musicology.
    I haven’t heard anything further about the Polish manuscripts.
    With a few years in Palm Springs and at Mt. Baldy, I lived mostly in Russian Village, with a Claremont mailing address, but in one of the houses actually in San Bernadino County. Montclair class of ’79.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Neighbor! I suspect that what transpired is that there was no Mozart stuff to be found there–perhaps a too-eager announcement by someone interested in generating interest. A similar situation is the Vienna Staatsbibliothek (I think); I’ve been told there are floors of manuscripts that the Viennese aren’t interested in letting anyone else look at but can’t get around to studying themselves. There may be for foreigners’ attitudinizing there, of course.

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