contributo di Robert Newman
LA BETULIA LIBERATA
THE JESUIT ORDER AND THE CAREER OF MOZART PRIOR TO 1773
It is important to appreciate that Mozart, the young boy, received surprisingly little academic or musical education. His father (a mediocre composer) provided some. There were some academic lessons at home from a Jesuit priest Abbe Bullinger – tutor to Count Arco. In fact, Bullinger was to become virtually a ‘member of the Mozart family’ for many more years – up to and beyond the ‘Paris’ symphony – and it was Bullinger who assisted financially at various times - although, of course, the Jesuit Order were officially suppressed in 1773. It was to Bullinger (not to Leopold) that Wolfgang wrote news of his mother’s death from Paris. And it was to Bullinger that Wolfgang wrote to celebrate the death of Voltaire. Several of Mozart’s early Salzburg works were written with the musical assistance of other Jesuit educated composers.
The Emperor/Empress in Vienna were increasingly approving of dissolution of the Jesuit Order although, by 1773, Joseph 2nd was still official ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. This mistrust of the Jesuits by Joseph and other European rulers was well known. But in Salzburg Mozart was able to consider his next move. A tour to Italy seemed the best idea. This was the next target for improving the status of the young composer.
2. La Betulia Liberata KV118/74c
Mozart, as a ‘prodigy’ of the Holy Roman Empire was to tour 3 times in Italy during his lifetime. The story of him writing down from memory a sacred mass in Rome is, of course, largely fiction (the written music already available for his study in Vienna long before his arrival). But, from a public perspective, Mozart was able to obtain, by 1770, the Order of the Golden Spur, a papal knighthood. This, for a composer nurtured by the Catholic Church, seemed highly appropriate. Surely, it would improve his status ? So too his short association with Padre Martini ?
Among the works attributed to Mozart from his time in Italy was the oratorio, ‘La Betulia Liberata’. This piece, with its libretto by Metastasio, is refered to in a letter by Leopold Mozart of March 1771 – ‘We spent the 13th March in Padua and stayed in the Palazzo of the nobleman Pesaro’ he wrote - ‘We saw a lot of the city in one day and Wolfgang was asked to play at two houses. He also received a commission to compose an oratorio for Padua, which he can do at his own convenience’.
The commission had come from Don Giuseppe Ximena of Padua, Prince of Aragon. He asked for it to be performed in the city the following Lent.
But there is, in fact, no evidence ‘La Betulia liberata’ was sent to Padua by Mozart ! In fact, the Mozart’s never returned to Padua after Milan in December.
And, although ‘La Betulia liberata’ WAS performed at Lent in 1772 in Padua the libretto (which still survives) identifies the composer of the music, NOT as Mozart, but by the local composer, Giuseppe Callegari ! What happened ? How do we explain the manuscript of ‘Mozart’s’ La Betulia liberata ? It’s definitely not by Callegari.
Well, we must look at this problem from another angle. In fact, from another composer. But first some comments –
By the time of Mozart’s arrival in Padua there were many new developments within music. It was clear the Jesuit control of musical education would probably suffer considerably soon in all countries of the Holy Roman Empire if the Order was annulled.
Mozart had a problem. He now had a commission. Myslivececk may very well have been the solution.
I introduce in to this story details of Josef Myslivececk (b.Prague 1737 – d. Rome 1781). According to the ‘Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians’ Josef Myslivececk was a Czech composer and elder of identical twins. There is some speculation that he was a pupil of Benda. His attendance at the Jesuit Gymasium in the Prague Clementinum has been posited. He definitely attended Charles Ferdinand University (now Charles University).
In the early 1760’s M abandoned his family business for music and began study of composition with Franz Haberman, then Josef Seger, organist at the Tyn Church in Prague. According to Pelel he was able to compose 6 symphonies in the early 1760’s though none survive in his name. He soon established an excellent reputation as a violinist. In November 1763 he left Prague for Venice, being funded partly by his brother Jachymn and also his long-standing patron Count Vincent von Waldestein.
His studies in Italy with GB Prescetti brought fast results. In his first opera ‘Semiramide’ (1765) at Bergamo and Alessandria (1766). His first great success came a year later (1767) with ‘Il Bellorfonte’ at Theatro S Carlo in Naples. In 1771 Myslivececk was admitted in to the Accademia Filarmonica of Bolgona after befriending Padre Martini.
Myslivececk made 3 trips to North Europe. The first, a triumphant return to Prague in 1768. The second, in 1772, to Vienna not so successful though he met Charles Burney, the English musicologist there that September. The third was at the invitation of the Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian 3 Joseph in 1777-8 when he visited Munich. (Reports of an earlier visit to Munich have not been confirmed). While in Munich 1778, his opera ‘Ezio’ and oratorio ‘Isacco’ were staged but he needed medical treatment. He also received commissions from Earl Cowper in Venice for 6 symphonies published in England (these recently recorded for the first time).
On his return to Italy in 1778 he enjoyed further successes in Naples and Venice but his final decline came at the same time as failure of two operas he wrote for Carnival in 1780 – ‘Armida’ for Milan, and ‘Medonte’ for Rome. Myslivecek died shortly afterwards in Rome in abject poverty, his funeral held at the St. Lorenzo in Lucina and paid for by a mysterious Englishman named ‘Barry’ (a former pupil ?).
Myslivececk’s adventurous life has been the subject of numerous treatments in Czech and German literature including the opera, ‘Il divino Buemo’ (1912) by Stanislav Suda.
Relations with the Mozart Family
Myslivececk first met the Mozarts in Bologna in March of 1770. He remained a friend of them for some 8 years. Their friendship soured in 1778 when he failed to fulfil a promise to arrange an opera commission for Mozart at the Teatro S Carlo for Carnival in 1779. Leopold was also resentful of the fact that Myslivececk was successful in obtaining patronage through the Prince Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg. Myslivececk is in fact the most commonly mentioned composer in the entire Mozart family correspondence.
Recent research has proved that Mozart undoubtedly turned to Myslivececk for his own stylistic models. For example, Mozart’s very first opera seria ‘Mitridate’ has direct references to Myslivececk’s own ‘Nitteti’ and, in addition, Mozart borrowed copiously from him in numerous concertos, symphonies and even keyboard sonatas. (See Freeman -1995).
The incipit of a Myslivececk symphony specially admired by Mozart (which its composer used as the Overture to the opera ‘Demofoonte’ in 1769) is quoted in a postscript to a letter written by Leopold in Milan in December 1770.
Today, the most famous composition of Myslivececk is rarely credited to him – ‘Il caro mio bene’. This today is better known as an arrangement by Mozart and goes by the name of ‘Ridente la calma’.
Myslivececk adopted Italianate models of expression in virtually all his works. In fact, in the long period 1765-1780 he was the most prolific composer of opera-seria in all of Europe.
At first, he composed works dominated by elaborate ‘del segno’ arias with brilliant passage works and sophisticated arrangements. But around 1773 (corresponding with the official end of Jesuit musical influence) he begins to create music associated with a reform in opera. He starts to construct his operatic arias in sonata and other forms. He also begins, from around this same time (1773 onwards), to use simpler more tuneful themes. Starting with the opera ‘La Calliroe’ (1778) his operas then feature even more elaborate sections of highly accompanied recitatitve and many arias of the slow/fast rondo type in which Myslivececk was specially talented. He uses very rich melodic ideas and has skillful techniques of phrase extension.
His setting of Metastasio’s ‘Isacco figura del redentore’ is perhaps his greatest work.
The violin concertos of Myslivecek (many of them lost of attributed to other composers such as Mozart) were very fine. He was recognized in the 1770’s as one of the greatest composers of this form. 8 violin concertos are indisputably credited to him but questions exist on the 5 of ‘Mozart’.
Reference books on Myslivececk’s works –
Evans and K Dearling – ‘J Myslivececk’ – Thematic Catalogue (Munich, 1999) of Instrumental and Orchestral Works
Semiramide – (1766)
Il Bellorofonte – 1767 Jan
Fernace – Nov. 1767
Il trionfo di Clelia – Metastasio – Dec.1767
Demofoonte – Metastasio – Jan 1769
L’Ipermestron’ –Metastasio – March 1769
La Nitteti – Bologna – April 1770
Motezuma – Jan 1771
Il Gran Tamerlano – Dec 1771 Milan
Il Demetrio – Metastasio – May 1773
Romolo ed Eruilia – Metastasio – Naples – August 1773
Antigona – Turin – Dec 1773
La Clemena di Tito – Metastasio – Jan 1774 – Venice
Aride – Padua – June 1774
Artasarse – Metastasio – Naples – Aug 1774
Il Demofoonte (2nd version) – Naples – Jan 1775
Ezio – Metastasio – Naples 1775
Adriano in Siria – Metastasio – September 1776 – Florence
Ezio – (2nd version) – Metastasio – Carnival 1777 – Munich
La Callioroe – May 1778 – Naples
L’Olimpiade – Metastasio – Nov 1778
La Circe – Venice – 1779 May
Demetrio – Metastasio – Naples – Aug 1777
Armida – Milan – Dec 1779
Il Medonte – Rome – Jan 1780
Antigono – Rome – April 1780
* Betulia liberata – Metastasio – Padua 1771 (lost)
La Passion di Nostro Signore Gesu Christo – Metastasio – Florence 1773
La liberazione d’Israele – Easter 1775 – (lost)
Isaac figura del redentore – Metastasio – Florence – March 1776 (parts attributed to Haydn and parts to Mozart)
At least 45 symphonies
Lost 6 early symphonies (possibly attributed to others)
Lost 5 symphonies (c.1776-7)
A symphony in C formerly in Berlin Staatsbibliothek destroyed during 1945
G. de Saint-Fox ‘Mozart d’apres Myslivececk’ ReM Vol 9/4-6 (1927-8) p.124-8
M Shaginyan – ‘Resurrection from the Dead – J Myslivececk’ – Moscow 1964 – translated into Czech language 1965
R Pecman – ‘J Myslivecek und sein Opern – Brno 1970 (with extensive list of minor literature including stories of Myslivececk’s life and career)
M. Flothius – ‘Ridente la calma – Mozart oder Myslivececk – MJb – 1971/2 – p.241-3
D.E. Freeman – ‘Josef Myslivececk’
It is surely a remarkable coincidence that Mozart, commissioned to write ‘Betulia liberata’ for Padua was unable to do so, and yet the very same piece was composed by Josef Myslivececk in Padua, in that very same year of 1771, now lost !
So the solution may be simple. Mozart accepted the commission for ‘Betulia liberata’ in Padua but was unable to write it. His friend and great helper Josef Myslivecek came to his rescue. But, by this time, the delay in providing the piece made it necessary for the commissioner to obtain the same work for Padua from a local composer, Callegari. This is the only oratorio of that name performed in Padua at Lent in 1772.
There is no record that ‘Mozart’s’ work of that name (actually by Myslivececk) was performed during Mozart’s lifetime. Nor any record that it was sent to Padua.
Once again, the clear inference is that Mozart’s reputation was being manufactured by men who, just prior to the dissolution of the Jesuit Order, wanted to promote him, Mozart, as a symbol of musical excellence. Myslivececk was very probably the true composer of the violin concertos attributed today to Mozart. The works of Myslivececk are indisputably similar in style to those we today associate with Mozart. (Recently recorded arias by this composer are virtually ‘Mozart’, stylistically).
The Mozart/Myslivececk relationship ended with the death of Myslivececk in Rome. Mozart’s debt to this Jesuit educated Czech composer is enormous. It will only increase. And with the rediscovery of Myslivececk’s music will surely come recognition of the true composers of many works falsely attributed to Mozart.