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A New Piece From Mozart
March 25, 2012 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is well-known for having been a child prodigy. A previously unknown composition of his, dated c. 1767, when he would have been 11 years old, (PDF of score) had it's premiere earlier this week.

The short Allegro Molto in C Major was discovered by RISM researcher Hildegard Herrmann Schneider in a hand written music book from around 1780.

The 84-bar piece was performed in Salzburg by Florian Birsak (who has performed newly-discovered works of Mozart's before) on Mozart's own fortepiano(Complete Recording).

Hildegard Herrmann Schneider is also the researcher who attracted attention in 1996 when she "definitively established" that the true author of the Toy Symphony was not Joseph or Michael Haydn or Mozart's father Leopold, but actually a Tyrolean Benedictine monk named Father Edmund Angerer.
posted by bardophile (32 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
An eleven-year-old playing through a completed piece like this cannot, cannot fail to be grinning enormously and thinking OMG THIS IS SO AWESOME!

Also, you can hear clearly that they've made room in the parlour for the new fortepiano by moving the harpischord upstairs to the back bedroom--but not yet to the attic.
posted by jfuller at 3:23 PM on March 25, 2012


Oh yeah, thanks bardophile. Hadn't heard it. (PS yeah kid, it's awesome.)
posted by jfuller at 3:25 PM on March 25, 2012


And for further flavor, here are the first three pieces he wrote, when he was four years old. As the youtube notes mention, you can hear an evolution even from 1st piece to 3rd- in the span of a week- where his musical mind is already becoming considerably better at grasping harmony, melody, and counterpoint than, well, most anyone you'll ever meet. At age four.

Mozart has to me always been the genius of geniuses. As I've aged, I think I've come to enjoy Beethoven or Chopin more among the classical titans; but the unceasing prodigy of Mozart's mind, it's about the only thing to challenge my trenchant atheism. I guess one day some musical software will "grasp" music well enough to churn out an unending stream of masterpieces, and the luster will dim a little... but still. The thought of one human brain being that gifted is incomprehensible to me.
posted by hincandenza at 3:34 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whoa, that fortepiano sounds and looks beautiful. Thanks for posting.
posted by Corduroy at 3:39 PM on March 25, 2012


When I took piano lessons for the first time at age 25, I killed myself trying to learn a 1-page Mozart piece, one of his sonatinas. I sweated, agonized, drove myself crazy whenever I missed a note, which was often. Even when I played it for my teacher, it wasn't perfect and I grumbled and fretted over my lack of talent. Then I realized that Mozart had written the darn thing at age 9.
posted by Melismata at 3:40 PM on March 25, 2012


Yeah, I remember sitting in music history class in college and realizing that he had already written several symphonies by the time he was my age. And I realized this year that he never got to be the age I am now. Unthinkable genius.
posted by bardophile at 3:42 PM on March 25, 2012


When Mozart was my age, he had been de-composing for 23 years. it's a wonder any of his music is left.
posted by pjern at 3:54 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was just sitting here listening to that on my crappy little smartphone speakers, and realizing that Mozart couldn't have imagined such a thing, just as I can't imagine writing something like that, age 11 or not!
posted by heatherann at 3:55 PM on March 25, 2012


Too many notes!

Just kidding, it has just the right amount of notes.
posted by bleep at 3:56 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mediocrities everywhere...I absolve you.
posted by Salieri at 4:03 PM on March 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


> Mediocrities everywhere...I absolve you.

Heh. Except Milos Forman, and anyone remotely connected with that wretched movie.
posted by jfuller at 4:10 PM on March 25, 2012


Am I the only one who found that pianists' facial expressions somewhat hilarious?
posted by delmoi at 4:20 PM on March 25, 2012


By the time Mozart was 11, he was already writing operas.

Kid was a menace.
posted by Trurl at 4:24 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a six year old composer performing some of her work on the Ellen show in 2007. I think there was an FPP on it at the time.
posted by delmoi at 4:28 PM on March 25, 2012


Which- nothing against Emily Bear- really underscores how ridiculous Mozart was. Emily is amateurish there- not for six, of course, but she isn't writing symphonies that already show grace and polish.

Also... um, I f'loved Amadeus. It was for a long time my favorite movie. Yeah, the Salieri thing isn't true, and Mozart was surely not quite such a buffoon, but... it was still a great movie.
posted by hincandenza at 5:02 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mozart was surely not quite such a buffoon

The letters show his sense of humor to have been notably puerile.

But of greater interest to me was how seldom he had a good word for any of his contemporaries. Not a generous colleague.

Which I guess makes sense. He better than anyone would have understood how grossly inferior to his their music was.
posted by Trurl at 5:09 PM on March 25, 2012


The letters show his sense of humor to have been notably puerile.

The man was an Austrian after all, it's not like it's that surprising he was obsessed with scatology.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 5:26 PM on March 25, 2012


Yeah, the Salieri thing isn't true

I beg your pardon.

Yeah, I have an unholy love for that movie too.

On the topic of the post...this is great stuff. It is certainly humbling to know how badly I would struggle to even play the stuff he was writing as a freaking child, let alone compose something like it. I can't even imagine what his brain would have been like. How hard did he work to build his pieces? Did he hear the initial melody and go from there? How did the process of composition he used as a child modify as he grew up, and how was it affected by changes in his brain as he matured?
posted by Salieri at 5:40 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


That was very Bachevelian!
posted by mrducts at 5:54 PM on March 25, 2012


(Not)Salieri: he is alleged to basically hear the music in his head as clear as day, and "visualize" finished sheets of music in total, page by page. How true that is might be up for some debate; there is the well-supported story of his hearing the closely-guarded "Miserere" and transcribing it, note for note, entirely from memory.

However, unlike the tale told in, uh, your movie of utterly perfect scores without a single errant pen stroke, it is known that he would make at least some sketches of his musical ideas- none of which were preserved after his death. That said, where a Beethoven would obsessively tear apart and re-assemble the musical notions, it's not clear how much of these sketches were just capturing the gist of the "radio" playing in his head and how intensely he would rework scores to get them perfected.

It does seem to be at least partly true that he would hear/see the musical score of something he was composing or hearing as easily as you'd look at that "PDF of score" link in your browser, and that he didn't spend much if any time revising the music. The sheer volume of his output supports this to some extent.
posted by hincandenza at 6:11 PM on March 25, 2012


> but... it was still a great movie.

Did you ever hold out a chicken leg to a dog, and then just when it tries to bite it jerk it away so its poor old maw goes POP on empty air? Mean, right? That's exactly what Amadeus does, over and over and over again, to anyone in the audience who loves to listen to Mozart's music and knows it well. Again and again it starts up something familiar and lovely so that you give a happy sigh and settle back to listen to it. The moment you do that, though, actors start yakking all over it just like people with iphones at a concert; or the movie cuts away to something else, leaving raw bleeding hunks of music behind. Small bleeding hunks, too: a finger, a foot, only rarely as much as a torn off hand and forearm. But lots and lots of 'em. The only thing that gets performed all the way through is the Queen of the Night's aria, the ugliest piece of music in the whole sound track and maybe in the whole of Mozart's corpus. (It's meant to be screechy and ugly. It's meant to be the kind of music a wicked witch would sing, to underline what a nasty piece of business the Queen is.)

Someone needed to understand to Forman that you CAN not use great and well-known music as movie music because you MAY not carve it up to fit your action.
posted by jfuller at 6:14 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


you CAN not use great and well-known music as movie music because you MAY not carve it up to fit your action.

Well...why the hell not?

I'm not really invested in making a huge defense of the movie (I mean, it's okay that some people hate it and some people love it), but one of the things I loved best about it was the glimpse of how normalized Mozart's music was for the time period. We saw it performed at cardinals' residences and outdoor concerts and parties, where people were gossiping and walking around and listening all the while. Or singing along, at the vaudeville. It wasn't like the modern concert hall with people getting dressed up and sitting in rapt and holy silence, listening soundlessly from beginning to end. I kinda liked seeing the music "chopped up", as it were, and where they chose to make those chops to fit the story.

One of my favorite scenes is when Mozart's wife goes to visit Salieri (behind her husband's back) with some of his compositions, in order for Mozart to be considered for a teaching job. Salieri kind of indulgently takes the music from her and starts flipping through it, and you can see the way his mind is just utterly blown by the sheer genius of what he's seeing, and the way his face crumbles with this mixture of rapture and horror as he flips through the pages. And on the soundtrack you just hear these brief hits of the orchestrated pieces - no more than about ten seconds each. It's the ultimate in choppiness - as soon as they flip from one page to the next, you're like...wait, go back! I want to finish listening! But it's utterly perfect in that scene, both as a show of the sheer, unbelievable scale of Mozart's genius (and the range of his abilities), and also - in a smaller way - the talents of Salieri, who was good enough to see the notes written down and hear the finished version in his head, but wasn't good enough to create those works himself. It's heartbreaking.

So...if that doesn't work for other people, that's awesome. But it totally worked for me. :)
posted by Salieri at 6:53 PM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


And hincandenza: I've always wondered about that bit of the Mozart mythos, about him "seeing" the finished pieces in his head. Hearing this composition he wrote as a young child, I wonder if it was that way for him from the beginning, or if it's a talent that experience increased for him along the way.
posted by Salieri at 6:56 PM on March 25, 2012


> one of the things I loved best about it was the glimpse of how normalized Mozart's music
> was for the time period.

Point granted; but to me that just underlined how many people there were who couldn't hear any difference between Mozart and Salieri, or Vivaldi, or Telemann, or any other of a vast host of churner-outers of wallpaper music.
posted by jfuller at 7:11 PM on March 25, 2012


Damn. Mozart would have been hot shit had Youtube been around when he was a child prodigy. Too bad sucka.
posted by karathrace at 8:52 PM on March 25, 2012


Just as Jesus is always a baby for Ricky Bobby, I always imagine Mozart at age 6, no matter the complexity of the piece or the reality of his age at the time he wrote it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:32 AM on March 26, 2012


Am I the only one who found that pianists' facial expressions somewhat hilarious?

Watching the pianist, I began to wonder if it was all a joke. His emoting seemed a little insincere and over the top. I also noted how he kept his right little finger curled up almost all the time, though he did strike a couple of notes with it.
posted by DarkForest at 5:04 AM on March 26, 2012


I love Mozart, but it's worth noting that none of his childhood compositions are part of the regularly performed classical repertoire. If Mozart had died at age 16 he'd be known only to music historians as a performing prodigy. If you want an example of truly remarkable premature maturity in a composer you should go for Mendelssohn rather than Mozart.
posted by yoink at 9:08 AM on March 26, 2012


I love Mozart, but it's worth noting that none of his childhood compositions are part of the regularly performed classical repertoire. If Mozart had died at age 16 he'd be known only to music historians as a performing prodigy. If you want an example of truly remarkable premature maturity in a composer you should go for Mendelssohn rather than Mozart.

I agree. I remember reading somewhere that even the greatest classical composers generally require at least 10 years or so of learning the craft before they start writing their truly great works. Although it is an amazing feat that Mozart wrote his 1st Symphony at age 8, his first work of actual genius was arguably his 25th Symphony, which he wrote at age 17. Similarly, Mendelssohn started learning piano at 6, but his first great work was argably his Octet, which he wrote at age 16 (and by the way, it's one of the very greatest pieces of music I've ever heard by anyone).
posted by John Cohen at 10:17 AM on March 26, 2012


You're probably remembering the (Freakonomics?) meme about "it takes 10 years to master any craft", although I guess if you already had the head start of a preternatural ear/musical mind like a Mozart, Mendelssohn, or Saint-Saens, it'll take you 10 years to go from "perfect music machine in diapers" to "crafter of works of true genius".

To me, the really depressing thing about Mozart and his early death is that he wasn't just a parrot of the classical style; he apparently had a real gift for hearing and seamlessly incorporating different sounds and styles. Imaging if he were living today- karathrace's joke comment aside, he actually would have been bigger than the Beatles, penning effortlessly hit song after hit song, producing and creating a flotilla of masterful pop albums. That he died a pauper's death at an early age because of the age he was born in, while today the few lucky- and tone deaf- products of a generation of slashed music education funding can give televised tours of their McMansions on "MTV Cribs"... it just seems so tragically unfair.
posted by hincandenza at 11:04 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


none of his childhood compositions are part of the regularly performed classical repertoire

Yes, and when I listen to K.22 (he was 9), I think that's too bad. Full of remarkable ideas. I suppose length has something to do with it - very short (altho I like it a -lot- better at a considerably slower tempo).
posted by Twang at 11:28 AM on March 26, 2012


> maging if he were living today- karathrace's joke comment aside, he actually would have
> been bigger than the Beatles, penning effortlessly hit song after hit song, producing and
> creating a flotilla of masterful pop albums.

You reckon? Seems to me it's equally possible that he would be ignored all over again or have no more than a cult following. Is there any reason to think the modern age isn't entirely capable of preferring whoever the modern Salieri is, and making him (or her--L*dy G*G* e.g.) rich and famous instead?
posted by jfuller at 3:08 PM on March 27, 2012


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