Klarinet Archive - Posting 000647.txt from 1996/01
From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: The Rest of the Sinfonie Concertante Story
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 16:18:02 -0500
Since I seem to have stirred up a hornet's nest, I might as well finish
the story of the Sinfonie Concertante so that you can see what a
historical mess it is in and understand how, for a while at least, it was
considered part of the Mozart repertoire. It is a vast story, somewhat
complicated, but with all the known facts at the beginning. I am not
speculating below, simply stating what happened to bring us to where
PART 1: It begins: I have already spoken about how Mozart was in
Paris in 1788, was invited to compose a work, chose the form of the
Sinfonie Concertante (which is simply a fancy name for a concerto for
multiple instruments and orchestra) because it was the social rage of
Paris. There is a dissertation on the subject of the Sinfonie
Concertante in France and how something like 1,000 of them were
written in the years between 1775 and 1790. The author is Barry
So Mozart wrote a concertante and the instruments he explicitly says
he wrote for were flute, oboe, French horn, bassoon, and orchestra.
He even names the very players, all guys from Mannheim who were in
Paris for one reason or another. All of this information exists in
letters between Mozart and his father (who remained in Salzburg
when Mozart went to Paris).
Intrique caused Mozart's work to be pulled from the program and
another a concertante of identical instrumentation by Cambini
subsituted. Mozart had made the fatal mistake of stepping on the ego
of a man with considerable Parisian clout, and he got outmaneuvered
by a more astute politician.
Mozart's work was never copied out from autograph into orchestral
performance parts, according to Mozart's own letters. He found the
autograph in the office of the man who commissioned the work. It
was at the bottom of a pile. In fact, the work seems never to have
been copied out, then or later. But the soloists must have had solo
parts made for them because they raved about it to Mozart.
When he got thrown out of Paris for having overstayed his welcome
(and showing everyone else what idiots the entire batch of Parisian
composers were), he abandoned the autograph.
Not a note has survived. Not a shred of paper with anything on it.
Not an incipit. NOTHING!! As far as the world is concerned,
officially that work no longer exits and, like
several other lost Mozart originals, it has never, ever been heard.
Now how a lost work somehow got resurrected and established into the
repertoire as a work for solo clarinet, oboe, horn, bassoon, and
orchestra is the subject of parts 2, 3, and 4.
PART 2: Short piece: In 1862, Koechel published his catalog and in
the appendix (German "Anhang") he lists many things including about
12 lost works, numbered Anhang 1 through Anhang 12. One of them,
the 9th one, was the Sinfonie Concertante which he lists as having
been composed in Paris in 1788, notes it as being lost. End of story.
PART 3: Crazy piece: In 1865, the great Beethoven scholar, Otto Jahn
died. He was also a very serious Mozart lover and collected everything
he could get his hands on. He was also a scholar of Greek poetry,
Greek vase painting, and head of a German antiquities museum. He
had a vast collection of many things: music, paintings, vases, maybe
even dirty pictures for all I know. His estate was so big, so vast, that
an estate cataloguer had to be called in to prepare it for sale. The
sale itself took a month and was divided into four categories, only one
of which interests us, namely, the music. That alone, took 7 days to
sell and the catalog ran to several hundred pages.
The estate cataloguer, who was no musician and who had as much
musical training as my dog, went through all of the musical material
in Jahn's estate and catalogued it as "Beethoven," "Mozart," etc.
depending on which pile it was in when he found it. If he found an
unidentified Schubert song in the Mozart pile, he said it was by
Mozart. Got the picture? We are not dealing with a rocket scientist
here, and he was not being paid for his musical expertise, only his
ability to prepare an estate for sale.
In the Mozart pile he found a manuscript score. It is untitled. It is
in the handwriting of a professional copyist. It has no attibution of
any kind. The only words on the front page are "Concertantes
quartett" and it turns out to be a concerto for 4 wind instruments and
orchestra, the wind instruments being clarinet, oboe, horn, bassoon,
and the orchestra the standard strings/winds combination of a work
that you might expect of anything written between 1750 and 1850.
This work was put up for sale as part of the Mozart portion of Jahn's
estate only because the cataloger found it in the Mozart pile and,
therefore, assumed it was by Mozart.
This is the work that has become synonymous with the Sinfonie
Concertante, K. Anhang 9 (later K. 297b).
Notice, I am not suggesting that the work is good or bad. Only that
an unqualified person assigned a composer's name to a piece of music
based on the fact that it was in a pile of stuff, most of which was by
Mozart, but some of which was by Schubert, Beethoven, Quantz, and
goodness knows who else.
The Mozart portion of Jahn's estate was bought by the Berlin
Staatsbibliothek and then the library, now being told that it was a
Mozart work because the catalog of sale said so, made the logical
conclusion that this was the work Mozart wrote in 1778. The fact that
it was the wrong solo instrumentation was not noticed then, nor was
it noticed until 1902!!!!!!!
PART 4: Feeding frenzy: In 1875, as part of the Breitkopf & Hartel
complete edition of the works of Mozart printed between 1875 and
1910, it was decided to include the Sinfonie Concertante in the edition.
On the strength of the above and nothing else, it was concluded that
the discovery from Jahn's estate was the lost Parisian work of 1788
and that was that.
Immediately after publication and all the way up to about 1935, one
reads nothing but praise from reviewers of the work. Personally I
believe that the music is delightful but you should read what was
written: "Clearly this work is undeniably the creation of Mozart. How
could anyone doubt it? It has the master's stamp. The glory of the
music is undeniably Mozart." etc., etc., etc.
There were a few dissenting voices. George de St. Foix commented on
the really strange architecture, the double solo exposition that has no
precendent in all music of the period, and a few other things. Tovey
said, in 1930, "The man who wrote this work could not compose."
PART 5: Downhill time: After the second world war, the work went
downhill fast. Scholarly conferences to discuss nothing but this work
took place. I was at two of them. The bottom line lay in the fact that
the architecture could not be explained. Hardly anyone (except
reviewers) said that it was a poor piece, only that in that form, it
could not be by Mozart.
Reviewers suddenly did a 180. What previously had been Mozartean
was not considered "Cheap and tawdry." I think that one positive
thing came out of all this. It showed that reviewers did not have the
slightest idea what they were talking about. When they thought the
work was by Mozart it was glorious. When it fell from grace, it
became ugly. A bunch
of dumb shits. That's what reviewers are.
The work was pulled from the main body of the Koechel catalog in
1964 and put in an appendix for doubtful and spuious compositions.
That's where it is today, and that is why I brought the matter up in
the first place.
Bob Levin and I did a paper for the Mozart Jahrbuch (which is still
an operative theory) that the work as we know it is based on the solo
parts of Mozart's original work (see!!! I do think it has a Mozart
connection) but that the orchestral parts were done around 1830 by
someone who tried his/her best but did not know what he/she was
Levin did a rework of the composition taking it completely apart,
rebuilding the solo voices back to the original flute, oboe, horn,
bassoon (and it takes a major piece of surgery to bring that off - not
just a transposition of the clarinet part) and the work has been
recorded in that form twice and performed in that form all the time.
End of history. That is where the story is right now. Who knows
where it will be next week. But as you can see, there is a lot more
here than "Sounds like Mozart to me. It's got to be by Mozart."
Sorry for taking so much time. It is a long and complicated story and
I haven't told 50% of it. Just the bottom line of what happened over
5 different period's of the work's history. Don't yell at me. That's
what happened, like it or not.
Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California