contributo di Robert Newman

Mozart, Forgery and Piano Quintet KV 452

On 30th March 1784 Mozart, in Vienna, made a written entry in his new thematic catalogue to record the completion of a new and now very famous Piano Quintet, listed today in the Koechel list as KV452.  Two weeks later, he refers to this same piece in a letter of 10th April 1784 to his father in Salzburg –

‘I have composed two grand concertos and then I composed a quintet, which produced the very greatest applause. I consider the (piano) quintet to be the best work I have ever composed. It is written for oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and pianoforte. I wish you could have heard it yourself. And how beautifully it was performed !’.

But a brief study of KV452 reveals a very different story. Here it is –

Strangely, this Piano Quintet (today described as one of Mozart’s finest chamber works) was not published in Mozart’s lifetime. In fact, it was first published in Mozart’s name by the Vienna publisher ‘Artaria’ only in 1794 (10 years after its supposed composition and no less than 3 years after Mozart’s death).

After Mozart’s death in December 1791 his widow, Constanze, entered in to protracted negotiations for sale of all Mozart’s musical manuscripts. These negotiations involved several music publishers over many years including Artaria, Breitkopf and Hartel and, finally, the Andre family. She finally agreed (years later) to sell them to Andre. (It was around 1800 that Andre obtained these manuscripts and began publishing them). Breitkopf and Hartel then cancelled their plan to publish all Mozart’s works. Thus, around the time when the ‘Mozart’ Requiem was first published 1799/1800 so also the Mozart manuscripts became the property of Andre.

Shortly after taking control of the complete Mozart collection, Andre noticed there was a musical manuscript missing. He had consulted Mozart’s thematic catalogue and saw there was no Piano Quintet. So he asked the widow Constanze for information. The story she gave him is the same one she later gave to Rochlitz, editor of the ‘Allgemeine musikalische’ who published in 1798 a series of 10 memorial anecdotes that spoke of Mozart’s career. (In these 10 anecdotes Rochlitz records that he was careful to obtain all information from Constanze Mozart herself).

In the first of these 10 published anecdotes she told Rochlitz about the Piano Quintet. She said –

‘My husband performed this piece shortly after its completion in 1784 and the audience were so pleased that one listener, a Polish Count, unexpectedly gave a sum of money to Mozart in gratitude. Mozart was happy with this donation of money and sent the Count the original musical score of this same quintet – ‘something he never did at other times’. ‘’

Then, according to the same report by Constanze Mozart –

‘This Polish nobleman kept the original document and, a short time later, without my husband’s agreement, this composition was published by Artaria not as a Piano Quintet but as a Piano Quartet, with accompaniment by Violin, Viola and Cello’.

(Constanze Mozart – ‘Allgemeine musikalische’ – 1798 ed. Rochlitz)

But here is where the problems begin. First, KV452 was first published by Artaria in 1794, 3 years after Mozart’s death and fully 10 years after its supposed completion date. But Constanze says it was published ‘a short time later’, by the Polish nobleman via Artaria in Vienna. This is impossible, since, of course, Artaria were the main publishers of Mozart’s music in Vienna. How could they publish such a piece without Mozart and Constanze Mozart being aware of it ?  And, as already said, the piece actually appeared first from Artaria 10 years later, long after Mozart’s death.

This strange story might end here. But now we discover other facts.  In the late 1790’s the music publisher Andre wants (naturally) the manuscript. This time Constanze invents another story. She replied/explained/confessed (as you prefer) that its owner was NOT, in fact, a Polish Count ! Thus, she tells one story to the ‘Allgemeine musikalische’ and another story to the new owner of the Mozart manuscripts. And, from 1800 onwards she tells people that Rochlitz invented the story ! The same Rochlitz who paid her to provide the 10 anecdotes !

In this confused world of lies and inventions our story of KV452 continues –

Constanze now tells Andre that the true owner of the Piano Quintet was not a Polish Count but was Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanovecz and Lestine, a Secretary to the Hungarian Court Chancellery. She also tells Andre (the year being 1800) that this quintet exists with two different final pages ! These she describes as ‘duplicate endings’.

But close study of the original music (which finally was restored to Andre several years later) shows that ONLY THE FINAL 11 BARS OF THE 3RD MOVEMENT ARE ACTUALLY IN THE HANDWRITING OF MOZART ! (Bars 228-238). Folio 16 Recto (which contains only 4 bars of a final musical cadence) were written by a different person whose style of writing is so close to that of Mozart that the forgery is revealed only by very close examination of the document.

Recent research has also shown that Folios 9 to 16 of this quintet were originally separate sheets before they were later glued together.

The problems now begin to multiply. For this fraudulent ending to KV452 (given to Andre with the rest of the manuscript in 1800) is almost identical to the ending we find in the Artatria version of the quartet version that first appeared in 1794 and in all the other versions (there were many) which were published widely after 1794 !

Therefore, beyond reasonable doubt, a forger who wrote in handwriting very similar to Mozart’s was active in Vienna before 1794 (i.e. within 3 years of Mozart’s death). This forger (and not a Polish Count or Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanoveca and Lestine) created this version in ‘Mozart’s’ handwriting and sold it to Artaria before 1794.

If this Quintet was truly by Mozart why did Constanze Mozart lie ? Why was forgery necessary ? Why would Artaria have accepted this quintet for publication when they were already in close contact with Mozart and, also, Constanze Mozart ?

It is clear that in the final years of Mozart’s life, many pieces of music were coming in to the hands of the Mozart family which Mozart claimed were his own compositions. In the final years a professional forger was even creating music in Mozart’s own handwriting (or in versions so close to Mozart’s handwriting) that it made no difference.

This is why, with documents such as the ‘Mozart Requiem’ KV626 we have a manuscript that appears to be partially by Mozart. In actual fact, KV626 is NOT by Mozart. None of it. It’s signature is a forgery and the entire ‘Mozart’ within it is also a clever forgery. So are the stories of its rehearsal days before Mozart’s death in December 1791. Mozart, despite a complex web of false claims, was NOT commissioned to write a Requiem Mass. That story was invented. But the forger gives us the false impression that Mozart wrote large parts of KV626. He did not. Nor did he write KV452.

R.E. Newman