Sep 22, 2012

A Review of Stanley Sadie's Last Book

In the 2009/2010 issue of the Mozart-Jahrbuch Daniel Brandenburg reviews the late Stanley Sadie's book Mozart: The Early Years, 1756-1781. It is by itself a minor absurdity that owing to the MJb's perpetual tardiness a review is being published six years after the book it deals with. On page 252 Brandenburg addresses the (supposed) deficiencies of Sadie's book as follows:
Die einschlägige Sekundärliteratur wird bis zum Jahr 2005 erfasst, allerdings mit ein paar schmerzlichen Lücken: Dexter Edges Dissertation zu Mozarts Kopisten von 2001 ist von Sadie ebenso wenig rezipiert worden wie etwa Michael Lorenz' Untersuchung zu dem sogenannten Jeunehomme-Konzert oder auch die neuen Erkenntnisse zur Licenza KV 36 (33i).
The relevant secondary literature is being covered until the year 2005, but with a few painful gaps: Dexter Edge's 2001 dissertation on Mozart's copyists has been noted by Sadie just as little as Michael Lorenz's research on the so-called Jeunehomme concerto, or the new findings on the Licenza K. 36 (33i).
Apart from the fact that part of Brandenburg's review seems to be heavily inspired by a review of the same book published in Music and Letters in 2007, the following question comes to mind: did he really read Sadie's book with the necessary attention? If he had looked on page 410 of Sadie's final opus (or had at least checked Google Books on this issue), he would have come across the following text concerning my work and the Jeunehomme/Jenamy topic:


It is surprising that Brandenburg's gaffe was overlooked by the editors of the Mozart-Jahrbuch. Not only did Sadie take my research on the identity of the dedicatee of Mozart's piano concerto K. 271 into account, he also was one of the very few colleagues, who actually understood how the misnomer Jeunehomme Concerto came to be: the name Jeunehomme is a total fabrication, a figment of the imagination of Wyzewa and Saint-Foix. This basic fact seemed easy to understand after I had explained it in several publications. And yet according to a review by Ulrich Leisinger in the Mozart-Jahrbuch 2007/2008 (p. 139) the name Jeunehomme Concerto "is based on a misunderstanding". In the book Mensch Mozart!, published in 2005 by the Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum (and reperpetrated 2011 in English under the title Next to Mozart) we surprisingly are being told that the name Jeunehomme was caused by a "Verballhornung", i.e. a corruption:


It is to be noted by the way, that not at any price the solver of the Jeunehomme puzzle is to be named.

Sep 19, 2012

Joseph Lange's Mozart Portrait

Joseph Lange's unfinished portrait of Mozart is one of the most popular and best known images of the composer. Its somber coloring and its unfinished state have made it a visual icon of Mozart in his Vienna years. Mozart's life, being tragically cut short, is hauntingly paraphrased by the  incompleteness of the painting.


And yet Mozart scholarship does not even know for sure when Mozart's brother-in-law painted this portrait. In 1913 Edward J. Dent claimed that it originates from 1791. After having met sharp criticism from Téodor de Wyzewa in a review in the Revue des Deux Mondes and Edward Speyer, Dent in a later edition of his book Mozart's Operas corrected the dating to 1782. In an article in the 1926 Salzburger Museumsblätter art historian Julius Leisching assigned the Lange portrait to 1790. This dating did not gain acceptance either and in 1931 Roland Tenschert in his book Mozart. Ein Künstlerleben in Bildern und Dokumenten presented the portrait as having been painted in 1782. Otto Erich Deutsch seems to have pondered for several decades over a possible dating of  Lange's work. In 1956 he dated the portrait with "winter of 1782-83", curiously describing it as "a sketch in oils, unfortunately never completed". This dating was influenced by the assumption that Lange's portrait of Mozart was somehow related to his portrait of Constanze Mozart, which since 1931 belongs to the University of Glasgow as part of the Zavertal Collection and is presumed to have been one of the two small portraits that Mozart sent to his father on 3 April 1783: "Auch folgen die 2 Portraits; – wünsche nur daß sie damit zufrieden seyn möchten; mir scheint sie gleichen beyde gut, und alle die es gesehen sind der nemlichen Meynung." ("The two portraits will follow; – I only wish that you will be pleased with them. I think they are both good likenesses and all who have seen them are of the same opinion.") Within the next five years however Deutsch changed his opinion again and in his 1961 book Mozart und seine Welt in zeitgenössischen Bildern (published as part of the NMA) he assigned the Lange portrait to 1782/83. Since then this dating has been revised by Mozart scholarship to 1789, based on Mozart's remark in a letter to his wife from 16 April 1789: "ich möchte gerne wissen ob schwager Hofer den Tag nach meiner Abreise gekommen ist? ob er öfters kommt, so wie er mir versprochen hat; – ob die Langischen bisweilen kommen? – ob an den Portrait fortgearbeitet wird?" ("I want to know if brother-in-law Hofer visited the day after my departure? If he is visiting more often, as he promised me; – Whether the Langes come by now and then? – If work on the portrait is being continued?")

I have been studying Joseph Lange's life and work for over ten years and I assume in all modesty that I have seen more of Lange's paintings than anybody else. Lange's Mozart portrait has been the object of my scrutiny for a long time and I have always been intrigued as to how its appearance and its state of preservation have changed during the last 60 years. Moreover I was always sceptic regarding its supposed "state of incompleteness", which owing to the unusually straight edges of paint on Mozart's body is at odds with many other unfinished paintings I know. Could it be that the painting was not unfinished, but represents an enlargement of an orignal small portrait which then was never completed? There is a model for this particular procedure. It turns out that this model is none other than Lange's portrait of Constanze Mozart which today is on display in Glasgow. That this painting is an enlarged version of a small portrait (previously 18 x 13 cm, now 32,3 x 24,8 cm) has long been known and has been pointed out several times in the literature, most recently in the catalogue of the 1991 Mozart exhibition in Salzburg. The irregular size of the original portrait (as shown approximately in the following picture) was caused by cutting and the obviously bad state of canvas quality on the lower left corner of the original painting. The enlargement was either sewn or glued to the original painting after it had been turned about eleven degrees to the right.


The difference of color between the old and the new canvas becomes especially visible with the picture's histogram being modified:


It is not known when the Constanze portrait was enlarged. Old black and white photographs, taken before a very intensive restoration of Mozart's portrait in the early 1960s, show that the painting underwent a similar treatment as the painting in Glasgow: i.e. a miniature, showing only Mozart's head was turned about four degrees to the right and inserted into a bigger canvas, which was supposed to show Mozart's upper body and the shape of a piano, but later remained unfinished. A photograph of the unrestored painting (in deplorable state of conservation), taken in 1946, eerily shows the distinct contour of the original small painting:

Lange's painting in 1946 (photograph by David E. Scherman)

The original miniature, about 19 x 15 centimeters in size, looked like this (in exact size relation to the colored picture above):


In March 2009 I realized that the portrait is an enlargement which can be attested by several colleague musicologists. On 29 June 2010 I visited Mozart's birthplace and examined the Lange portrait, which at that time had been taken from the exhibition to be scrutinized by the museum staff. I told Dr. Großpietsch and Dr. Ramsauer about my hypothesis and had to realize (because the Mozarteum is a museum like no other) that there is no scholarly documentation on the 1963 restoration of the painting and the Mozarteum had never X-rayed the portrait. The restoration of course has rendered the visible distinction between the original minature and the enlargement almost imperceptible. Not only was the gaping horizontal crack that is visible on old photographs filled with putty, the edge of the brown paint at the lower end of the painted area on Mozart's chest was also horizontally adjusted, as if to hide the tilted original miniature:

Lange's portrait of Mozart before and after the 1963 restoration

Given the current state of the painting, the different canvas of the small original portrait is only discernible as a slightly lower rectangular area, when looked upon in a very flat angle in backlight. Therefore I concluded that in the course of the enlargement the small painting was mounted from behind to the larger canvas. The Mozart portrait by Joseph Lange is not an unfinished painting of "Mozart at the Piano", but an unfinished enlargement of an original miniature of Mozart's head.

What are the implications of this discovery? The original miniature portraits of Mozart and his wife painted by Lange, both of which were later enlarged, could well be the two small paintings that Mozart sent to his father in April 1783. The Mozart miniature portrait from 1782-83 is "lost", because for over 200 years it has been hidden in plain sight in the "unfinished" painting of Mozart at the piano. Constanze's small portrait was successfully resized, while the enlargement of Mozart's portrait – at some time sent back to Vienna – was never completed. That Lange had not finished the work by 1812 may well have been caused by the fact that at this time he had long separated from Constanze's sister and had started a third family with a woman 30 years his junior. The enlargement with the addition of the piano could have been the work Mozart was referring to in his 1789 letter from Dresden ("an den Portrait fortgearbeitet"). Recently some pseudo-scholars tried to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Lange portrait. Their aim was twofold: first, to boost the credibility of the so-called "Hagenauer Mozart" which simply doesn't resemble the man on Lange's painting. And second, to add probability to the absurd idea that "the man in the red frock" could have been the small portrait that Mozart sent to Salzburg in 1783. One proponent of this crude hypothesis even went so far as to visualize Mozart wearing a pigtail on the Lange portrait, which (original quote) "can't be seen because of the chiaroscuro[!]".

As a portraitist Joseph Lange was one of the best 18th-century amateur painters I have come across. He enjoyed a first rate education at the Vienna Academy of Arts and his technique, his shading, his mixture of skin tones was thoroughly professional. I have never seen any reproduction of the Salzburg Mozart portrait that really does justice to the artistry of color and glazing technique of the original. Contrary to a wide-spread misconception, caused by an entry in Joachim Daniel Preisler's diary, Lange did not give up painting in 1788, but diligently pursued this activity into his old age. Many of Lange's masterpieces, such as the group portrait of his mistress Therese Koch (1780-1851) and her three daughters, are still extant in the possession of Lange's descendants. Among the many amazing portraits by Lange the following is my favorite. P. Maurus (Franz Borgius) Stützlinger (b. 6 January 1775 in Gmunden, d. 7 August 1842 in Salzburg) was elected abbot of Lambach Abbey in 1812. In 1820 he was deposed owing to the abbey's complete bankruptcy. Joseph Lange's life-sized portrait of Pater Maurus Stützlinger was painted in 1815:


Joseph Lange's official seal and signature

Joseph Lange's private seal

Sep 16, 2012

An Unknown Mozart Work




In November 1828 Carl Mozart, "Translator beÿ der der Maÿländer Central-Staats-Buchhaltung" in Milan received a fee of 170 Gulden from the Court Chamber in Vienna for his translation of Joseph von Szarka's Lehrbuch der Comptabilitäts=Wissenschaft into Italian.



Sep 7, 2012

Johann Mayrhofer's Real Date of Birth

Opinions on the quality of the work of the Austrian poet Johann Baptist Mayrhofer (1787-1836) may be divided, but one thing is a fact: among all the poems Franz Schubert set to music Mayrhofer's rank second only to Goethe in numbers and some of the results of this particular cooperation, such as "Nachtstück" or "Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren", belong to the  greatest achievements in the art of Lieder. Mayrhofer's fascinating and somewhat tragic life has repeatedly been object of scholarly studies and I have delved into this particular topic myself in an article titled "Dokumente zur Biographie Johann Mayrhofers", in: Schubert durch die Brille 25, (Tutzing: Schneider, 2000), pp. 21-50.


All authors who have written on Mayrhofer agree on 3 November 1787 as Mayrhofer's date of birth: from Ernst von Feuchtersleben in his 1843 edition of Mayrhofer's poems to Constant von Wurzbach in his Lexikon; from Anton Schlossar in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie,Viktor Hanus in the Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon and Walburga Litschauer in Neue Deutsche Biographie to Gerrit Waidelich in Bärenreiter's 2012 Schubert Liedlexikon. The only source that is curiously at odds with this long-held information is a commemorative plaque on Mayrhofer's birthplace in the Upper Austrian town of Steyr:



What is the reason for this odd discrepancy of almost two weeks? It turns out that Mayrhofer's baptismal entry in the records of the Stadtpfarre Steyr was never consulted by any of the above authors and that the date 22 October, given on plaque on the house Pfarrgasse 12 is correct. The false date "3 November 1787" was put into existence in 1843 by Mayrhofer's friend Ernst von Feuchtersleben, who had obviously received flawed information from somebody in Steyr. This anonymous researcher (or Feuchtersleben himself?) only checked a separate index (begun in 1785) and not the Taufbuch proper. In this index he came across the following mistaken entry (which in the meantime has been corrected with pencil):


The original entry in the baptismal record (Taufbuch 1784-1813, p. 16) is of course very clear and shows that Mayrhofer was indeed born on 22 October 1787, at 9 p.m., son of court procurator Mathias Remigius Mayrhofer:
 

As can be seen. the wrong date "3ten November" belongs to the following entry referring to Maria Josepha Widal, whose name in the index analogously bears the date of Mayrhofer's birth: 


Mayrhofer's godfather was Johann Baptist Göppel (1763-1827), apothecary and  owner of the renowned Löwenapotheke in Steyr. This may be seen as a kind of omen, since in his later life Mayrhofer was known as a notorious hypochondriac. On 8 September 1818 Franz Schubert writes: "Lieber Mayrhofer [...] Höre auf zu Kränkeln, wenigstens zu mediciniren, so gibt sich das andere von selbst." ("Dear Mayrhofer [...] stop ailing, at least medicating, then the other will be resolved by itself".)

Mayerhofer's seal and signature on his will, written in 1829.

Sep 1, 2012

Mozart Documents "transcribed" (follow-up)

I recently pointed out that money is being spent in Salzburg on the copying of flawed 50-year-old transcriptions of Mozart documents. It turns out that the web-based project "Mit MOZARTs Worten", which in the future is supposed to present the complete Mozart family correspondence on the Web, is also using copy work from the old Bauer/Deutsch edition of the Mozart letters. Because the experts involved in this edition obviously lack the necessary palaeographical expertise and experience, they are unaware of the eighteenth-century use of what was called "Fahnen-h", i.e. a letter resembling a Kurrent "h" that was used to double the following consonant, if it was an l, m, n, r, or s (except where the known elongation of the preceding vowel indicated otherwise). For sheer lack of archival practice Bauer and Deutsch never became aware of this custom which slowly fell into oblivion in the second half of the nineteenth century (and still survives in Austrian family names such as "Weihs", "Lahner" and "Muhm"). The same goes for the special "f" which was often used at the end of words, especially after diphtongs. Since it resembles a regular double-f, it is still repeatedly being mistranscribed, even by renowned historians. The stubborn dragging along of old flaws in Bauer's and Deutsch's edition of the Mozart letters results in digital publications being fraught with countless embarrassing mistranscriptions, such as "genohmen" and "gefahlen". And I am completely sure that Nannerl Mozart's entry in her diary from 10 April 1764 will forever be transcribed with "[...] wie das mer ablaufet und wieder Zunihmt[sic!]".