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Thread: 'The Best Work I Ever Composed' - Mozart

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    Default 'The Best Work I Ever Composed' - Mozart

    'The best work I ever composed' (W.A. Mozart - 10th April 1784)


    On 30th March 1784 Mozart, in Vienna, made a written entry in his new thematic catalogue to record the completion of a new and now very famous Piano Quintet, listed today in the Koechel list as KV452. Two weeks later, and very proud of it, he refers to this same piece in a letter of 10th April 1784 to his father in Salzburg –

    ‘I have composed two grand concertos and then I composed a quintet, which produced the very greatest applause. I consider the (piano) quintet to be the best work I have ever composed. It is written for oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and pianoforte. I wish you could have heard it yourself. And how beautifully it was performed !’.

    Welcome once again to the surreal world of Mozart attributions !

    A brief study of KV452 reveals a very different story from that which Mozart tells us. Here it is –

    'Mozart's greatest work', this Piano Quintet, seems not to have interested any music publsher during his entire lifetime. A strange fact, yes ? n fact, it was first published in Mozart’s name by the Vienna publisher ‘Artaria’ in 1794 (10 years after its supposed composition and 3 years after Mozart’s death). A strange fate for such a great work, don't you think ?

    After Mozart’s untimely death in December 1791 his widow, Constanze, entered in to protracted negotiations for sale of all Mozart’s musical manuscripts. These negotiations involved several music publishers over years including Artaria, Breitkopf and Hartel and, finally, the Andre family. Constanze finally agreed (many years and many intrigues later) to sell them to Andre. (It was around the year 1800 that he was able to obtain these manuscripts and began publishing them). Breitkopf and Hartel, failing to get rights to them, cancelled their publicised plan to publish 'all Mozart’s works'. They even stopped publishing (eventually) works that were not by 'Mozart'. Thus, around the time the infamous ‘Mozart’ Requiem was being first published by them 1799/1800 the Mozart manuscripts became the property of Andre.

    Shortly after taking control of the 'complete Mozart collection', Andre noticed there was a musical manuscript missing. This very quintet. (He'd consulted Mozart’s thematic catalogue and saw no such work in the mass of papers before him).. So he asked the widow Constanze, the seller, for information. The story she gave him of the piece is the same one she later gave to Rochlitz, editor of the ‘Allgemeine musikalische’ who published in 1798 a series of 10 memorial anecdotes on Mozart’s career. (In these 10 anecdotes Rochlitz first records that he was careful to obtain all information for these anecdotes from Constanze Mozart herself).

    In the first of the 10 published anecdotes Constanze speaks to Rochlitz about the Piano Quintet. She said –

    My husband performed this piece shortly after its completion in 1784 and the audience were so pleased that one listener, a Polish Count, unexpectedly gave a sum of money to Mozart in gratitude. Mozart was happy with this donation of money and sent the Count the original musical score of this same quintet – ‘something he never did at other times’. ‘’

    Then, according to this same report by Constanze Mozart –

    ‘This Polish nobleman kept the original document and, a short time later, without my husband’s agreement, this composition was published by Artaria not as a Piano Quintet but as a Piano Quartet, with accompaniment by Violin, Viola and Cello’.

    (Constanze Mozart – ‘Allgemeine musikalische’ – 1798 ed. Rochlitz)

    But here is where problems begin. The first is as mentioned that KV452 was first published by Artaria in 1794, 3 years AFTER Mozart’s death and fully 10 years after its supposed completion date. But Constanze told Rochlitz that it was first published ‘[I]a short time later’, (after its composition) /I] by a Polish nobleman via Artaria in Vienna. This is impossible, since, of course, Artaria were the main publishers of Mozart’s music in Vienna. How could they publish the quintet without Mozart and Constanze Mozart being aware of it ? And, as already said, the piece actually appeared first from Artaria 10 years later - long after Mozart’s death.

    This strange story might end here. But now we discover other facts. In the late 1790’s the music publisher Andre wants to get his hands on the manuscript which he now owns. But this time, in reply to his written request Constanze Mozart suddenly invents a totally new story about the piece. She replies/explains/confesses (as you prefer) to Andre that its originalk owner was NOT, in fact, a Polish Count ! Thus, she tells one story to Rochlitz and the ‘Allgemeine musikalische’ and a quite different story to the new owner of the Mozart manuscripts. And, from 1800 onwards she even tells people that Rochlitz invented the original story ! (The same Rochlitz who had paid her to provide the 10 anecdotes in the first place)!

    In this confused world of Mozartean lies and inventions our story of KV452 continues and it begins to take its typically complicated form –

    Constanze now tells Andre that the true owner of the Piano Quintet was not in fact a Polish Count but was someone never mentioned before - Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanovecz and Lestine, a Secretary to the Hungarian Court Chancellery. She also tells Andre (the year being 1800) that this quintet today known as KV452, exists with two different final pages ! These she describes as ‘duplicate endings’.

    But close study of the original music (which was finally provided to Andre several years later) shows that ONLY THE FINAL 11 BARS OF THE 3RD MOVEMENT ARE ACTUALLY IN THE HANDWRITING OF MOZART ! (Bars 228-238). Folio 16 Recto (which contains only 4 bars of a final musical cadence) had been written by a different person whose style of writing is so close to that of Mozart that the forgery was revealed only by very close examination of the document.

    Recent research has also shown Folios 9 to 16 of this quintet were originally separate sheets before they were later glued together.

    With such fakery featuring in yet another 'Mozart' work (this one being 'the greatest he had ever composed) the problems now begin to multiply. For this fraudulent ending to KV452 (given to Andre with the rest of the manuscript in 1800) is almost identical to the ending we find in the Artatria version of the quartet version that first appeared in 1794 and in all other versions (there were many) which were published widely after 1794 !

    Therefore, beyond reasonable doubt, a forger who wrote in handwriting very similar to Mozart’s was active in Vienna before 1794 (i.e. within 3 years of Mozart’s death). This forger (and not a Polish Count or Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanoveca and Lestine) created this version in ‘Mozart’s’ handwriting and sold it to Artaria before 1794.

    If this Quintet was truly by Mozart why did Constanze Mozart lie ? Why was forgery necessary ? Why would Artaria have accepted this quintet for publication when they were already in close contact with Mozart and, also, Constanze Mozart ?

    It is clear that in the final years of Mozart’s life, many pieces of music were coming in to the hands of the Mozart family which Mozart claimed were his own compositions. In the final years a professional forger was even creating music in Mozart’s own handwriting (or in versions so close to Mozart’s handwriting) that it made no difference.

    This is why, with documents such as the ‘Mozart Requiem’ KV626 we have a manuscript that appears to be partially by Mozart. In actual fact, KV626 is NOT by Mozart. None of it. It’s signature is a forgery and the entire ‘Mozart’ within it is also a clever forgery. False too are stories of its rehearsal days before Mozart’s death in December 1791. Mozart, despite a complex web of false claims, was NOT commissioned to write a Requiem Mass. That story was invented. But the forger gives us the false impression that Mozart wrote large parts of KV626. He did not. Nor did he compose KV452.
    Last edited by robert newman; Jun-14-2007 at 19:29.

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    I await with much interest anyone's questions on this last post.

    I am saying nothing about it, as I have voluntarily agreed to lay off and let others ask their questions. I say only that it contains some very obvious faults. I note also that the number of Mozart fakery threads is now spreading, and I trust that Admin is taking notice of this fact.

    Let us see who wishes to pursue the contents of this thread.

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    I will open no new threads here on Mozart.

    p.s. If the 'faults' are so obvious in the above post please list them and you will do a service to others who are not aware of them. Thank You.

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    No, don't tempt him/her, please!!!

    I'd be interested to learn of these "very obvious faults" in your reportage in which I'm now quite interested. I have questions (I doubt I'll air them here) but "very obvious faults"?

    And now, right on cue.....


    Edit: Sorry for any ambiguity - I meant 'I'm quite interested in your reportage and would also be interested to learn about these "very obvious faults",' which are not apparent to me.
    Last edited by Frasier; Jun-14-2007 at 21:08. Reason: resolving possible ambiquity

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frasier View Post
    No, don't tempt him/her, please!!!

    I'd be interested to learn of these "very obvious faults" in your reportage in which I'm now quite interested. I have questions (I doubt I'll air them here) but "very obvious faults"?

    And now, right on cue.....


    Edit: Sorry for any ambiguity - I meant 'I'm quite interested in your reportage and would also be interested to learn about these "very obvious faults",' which are not apparent to me.
    Concerning this famous K452, you may have noticed by coincidence I mentioned this work in my Beethoven vs. Mozart chain, as it is always compared with Beethoven's Op16. The critics and academics consistently rate this piece above Beethoven's effort (I suggest largely because of Mozart's quotation which they observe blindly), yet upon hearing both side by side there can be no doubt that this quintet attributed to Mozart is a very poor production indeed, regardless of Beethoven's effort. In fact I was truly astonished how disappointing it was upon first hearing.

    I care not who this piece belongs to, but I have some sympathy with Robert on this one. That such a relatively lame piece of music can be highlighted as 'great' by the establishment says everything to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    there can be no doubt that this quintet attributed to Mozart is a very poor production indeed
    In which specific ways do you find it to be a "poor production"? Please point to specific passages which highlight/underscore your points, and which you find to be especially poor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    Concerning this famous K452, you may have noticed by coincidence I mentioned this work in my Beethoven vs. Mozart chain, as it is always compared with Beethoven's Op16. The critics and academics consistently rate this piece above Beethoven's effort (I suggest largely because of Mozart's quotation which they observe blindly), yet upon hearing both side by side there can be no doubt that this quintet attributed to Mozart is a very poor production indeed, regardless of Beethoven's effort. In fact I was truly astonished how disappointing it was upon first hearing.

    I care not who this piece belongs to, but I have some sympathy with Robert on this one. That such a relatively lame piece of music can be highlighted as 'great' by the establishment says everything to me.
    Alas We did enjoy the last five days you had decided to "put a cork in it, Mr. Corkin".
    Last edited by ChamberNut; Jun-15-2007 at 18:13. Reason: spelling

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leporello87 View Post
    In which specific ways do you find it to be a "poor production"? Please point to specific passages which highlight/underscore your points, and which you find to be especially poor.

    Well for starters this is what I wrote in the Mozart vs Beethoven chain on the subject...

    "I don't rate Schubert at all but l wish to stick to Mozart/Beethoven where possible in this chain. One particular Beethoven work that has suffered in comparison with Mozart is
    his Piano & wind Quintet in Eflat op16, in relation to Mozart's also in Eflat. I have recording's of both, even on period instruments too, but no way can I accept the establishment position that Mozart's is the superior. The drama and rhetoric is there but is hesitant in the Mozart, like he's dipping his feet in cold water and not too sure about taking the dive. Beethoven's is a grander and more assure conception."

    I also have period instrument recordings of both and if anything Beethoven stands out even more when performed like this. Basically Beethoven is superior when it comes to the treatment of his material, Beethoven's sense of form is unsurpassed. As I say above Mozart in rhetorical mode is never as assured as it could or should be. I'll say more later, my daughter wants me to watch South Park...

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    Ironically, Naxos has decided to join a throng to couple these works in a CD. I've heard/read something about this mystery before.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    .........my daughter wants me to watch South Park...
    Don't get corrupted now I trust you know that Mozart wrote the theme tune for that!
    Last edited by Frasier; Jun-15-2007 at 18:36.

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    Senior Member Leporello87's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    Well for starters this is what I wrote in the Mozart vs Beethoven chain on the subject...

    "I don't rate Schubert at all but l wish to stick to Mozart/Beethoven where possible in this chain. One particular Beethoven work that has suffered in comparison with Mozart is
    his Piano & wind Quintet in Eflat op16, in relation to Mozart's also in Eflat. I have recording's of both, even on period instruments too, but no way can I accept the establishment position that Mozart's is the superior. The drama and rhetoric is there but is hesitant in the Mozart, like he's dipping his feet in cold water and not too sure about taking the dive. Beethoven's is a grander and more assure conception."

    I also have period instrument recordings of both and if anything Beethoven stands out even more when performed like this. Basically Beethoven is superior when it comes to the treatment of his material, Beethoven's sense of form is unsurpassed. As I say above Mozart in rhetorical mode is never as assured as it could or should be. I'll say more later, my daughter wants me to watch South Park...
    Nice! I hope you enjoy South Park

    I saw the comment you made on the Mozart/Beethoven thread; however, that comment does not really address my question. This remark is still extremely general. Your opinion of this work is quite strong and directed, and so there must be specific passages that inspire this reaction; specific passages you find especially poor, or where you find the "drama and rhetoric" to be "hesitant", as you put it. You don't have to give measure numbers (although if you did, that would obviously be great), but a reference to a specific passage would be helpful.

    The period instruments comment is a good one. I have, unfortunately, heard neither work on period instruments, and that might indeed lead to some change in thinking. Nonetheless, a statement that the music is a "poor production" is a comment on the quality of the music itself. So there are obviously issues here which go beyond the instruments on which the music is performed.

    Also, the idea that Beethoven's quintet might have a surer conception isn't surprising, given that he had Mozart's quintet as a model to work from!

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    I suppose KV452 raises another obvious question -

    If Mozart believed this quintet was the best work he had ever composed what does this tell us ?

    Leaving aside the question of whether he composed it or not here is Mozart saying that 'his own' KV1 to KV451 are musically inferior to KV452.

    Would the REAL Mozart please stand up ?!!! LOL !

    That Op.16 by Beethoven is a better work is, in my view, plain to anyone who hears both. But what is the considered view of Leporello on this ?
    Last edited by robert newman; Jun-15-2007 at 19:30.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leporello87 View Post
    Nice! I hope you enjoy South Park

    I saw the comment you made on the Mozart/Beethoven thread; however, that comment does not really address my question. This remark is still extremely general. Your opinion of this work is quite strong and directed, and so there must be specific passages that inspire this reaction; specific passages you find especially poor, or where you find the "drama and rhetoric" to be "hesitant", as you put it. You don't have to give measure numbers (although if you did, that would obviously be great), but a reference to a specific passage would be helpful.

    The period instruments comment is a good one. I have, unfortunately, heard neither work on period instruments, and that might indeed lead to some change in thinking. Nonetheless, a statement that the music is a "poor production" is a comment on the quality of the music itself. So there are obviously issues here which go beyond the instruments on which the music is performed.

    Also, the idea that Beethoven's quintet might have a surer conception isn't surprising, given that he had Mozart's quintet as a model to work from!

    Under normal circumstances I use would actually use recordings or excerpts thereof to demonstrate my points, but I have been discouraged for presenting music here by Admin, lest it cause offence (you work it out!?). That Beethoven followed the same overall layout does not imply such a huge debt to Mozart, as the material itself is wholely different. When I made the comments so far I was thinking in particular the first movement after the intro, which personally I find his treatment of the material as underachived. Not easy to explain. But I think Beethoven saw the quintet as an opportunity where he could take on Mozart 'head to head' and win.

    Instruments are important to me, I don't take modern instrument performances very seriously for the likes of Beethoven and Mozart, even though I still have many like this. For Baroque forget it altogether. So for me a period instrument performance has the potential to be the very best, and no composer shines on period instruments like Beethoven.

    Putting it another way I was simply expecting more from K452, considering every comment I have read places it squarely above Beethoven's effort, and Mozart apparently rated this is best work at the time of composition. K452 is no earth-shaker, maybe he was thinking of something else, but I would say Op16 is a better work.

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    THE PLOT THICKENS

    Well Rod, we've finally found a way to distinguish between the real Mozart and a room full of wigged Mozartean lookalikes. All we need to do is make this announcement on a loudspeaker -

    Gentlemen, musically, KV452 is simply the 'best' work that the real Mozart (supposedly) wrote up until that time - please stand up if you agree !

    A small wigged man wearing a sword rises from the seated audience. The rest remain firmly seated.

    'I think we've found our man', (said Sherlock Holmes).

    'Yes', said Dr Watson, 'you do amaze me Holmes' !

    'Elementary, Dr Watson' said Holmes as he lit his pipe - 'Elementary'

    Sherlock Holmes (to the perriwigged Mozart) - 'Well, are you coming quietly or must we use force' ?

    Mozart - 'Jumping Jesuits ! I'm rumbled, at last' !

    Sherlock Holmes - Indeed, Sir !

    LOL !
    Last edited by robert newman; Jun-15-2007 at 20:57.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    K452 is no earth-shaker, maybe he was thinking of something else, but I would say Op16 is a better work.

    Beethoven's Op 16 doesn't stand favourable comparison with Mozart's K 452. The third movement of the Beethoven piece is dreadfully weak. It starts off sounding like a nursery rhyme and then deteriorates even further. The Mozart piece is more even in quality, and the melody is preferable to my ears.

    Even so, to be perfectly frank, I wouldn't place K 452 in my top 30 Mozart. I far prefer K 581 (Clarinet Quintet) and K 516 (String Quintet). These last two pieces quite definitely stand far above the quality of anything Beethoven composed for the same number of instruments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robert newman View Post
    Well Rod, we've finally found a way to distinguish between the real Mozart and a room full of wigged Mozartean lookalikes.
    I still can't understand where on earth you are coming from or going to.

    Next you tell us you don't rate Mozart at all in comparison with Beethoven. Also, in some other place I recall you were banging on about Handel.

    And who cares what Mozart said to his father about K 452 being his best work? Beethoven said he thought his Symphony 8 was better than Symphony 7. Again, so what?
    Last edited by Daniel; Jun-16-2007 at 00:48.

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