To mark the 260th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart earlier this week, the Library mounted a small exhibition. For the benefit of those who cannot visit the exhibition in person, here are some selected highlights.
Leopold Mozart (1719-1787) was not just a pushy parent: he was also a composer, violinist and music theorist. This first edition of his Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, a treatise on violin playing, dates from the year of his son’s birth, and features a number of plates illustrating common errors. The frontispiece (above left) is a portrait of Leopold himself surrounded by his own compositions, and both images show the practice, common at the time, of playing the violin with a concave bow and without chin rest or shoulder rest.
This set of parts for two sonatas for violin and piano, K.526 and K.481, and for the piano trio, K.496, was bequeathed to the College by Kingsman Andrew Raeburn (1933-2010, KC 1955). It dates from Mozart’s own lifetime, having been published around 1789. The title page bears the ownership inscription of Henriette Lessing. Further details of the item’s acquisition may be found on the College website here.
This German-Italian edition of Le nozze di Figaro, published in Bonn by the newly founded Simrock publishing house, was the first vocal score of the opera to appear in print. The title page of this copy bears the ownership mark of Lady Muir Mackenzie. This may plausibly be Georgina Muir Mackenzie (1833-1874), later Lady Sebright, a traveller and writer who, during a tour of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1858, was arrested as a spy with ‘pan-Slavistic tendencies’. She wrote about this experience and devoted much time during the following years to the promotion of Christianity in Turkey.
This manuscript, a contemporary transcription of ‘Dove sono i bei momenti’ from Act 3 of Le nozze di Figaro and its preceding recitative, is a relatively recent addition to the library’s collection, bought in 1981. In this aria, one of Mozart’s most exquisite, the Countess reflects on her marriage in the light of her husband’s presumed infidelity (‘Where are the lovely moments of sweetness and pleasure? Where have the promises gone that came from those lying lips?’). Naturally the opera ends with the blissful reunion of the Count and Countess.
Unlike Johann Sebastian Bach, whose greatness was not acknowledged (and whose music was not disseminated) until long after his death, Mozart’s popularity was immediate and enduring, and it was as early as 1798, seven years after his death, that the German firm of Breitkopf & Härtel began publishing a 17-volume edition of what purported to be the composer’s ‘Œuvres complettes’ [sic]. This volume of piano music contains among other works the K.331 sonata, with its familiar ‘Alla Turca’ finale.
This programme for a Grand Musical Festival ‘for the benefit of Addinbrooke’s [sic] Hospital (Upon the Occasion of the Opening of the New Wards)’ gives details of three ‘Grand Miscellaneous Concerts’ in the Senate House and two ‘Selections of Sacred Music’ at Great St Mary’s to be performed on 2, 3 and 5 July 1824. The opening concert featured a performance of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, and is most notable for the participation of the composer Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), making a rare appearance as a vocalist. The Times review remarked upon Rossini’s comic talent, observing that in the reprise of the Cimarosa duet that closed the first half his partner Angelica Catalani was ‘literally convulsed with laughter, and unable to proceed in two or three places’.