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It must have been difficult to enforce the "no talking" policy when a small sheet of paper found in a library in Nantes, western France, was confirmed to be a lost score by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, worth about £50,000. Donated by autograph collector Pierre-Antoine Labouchère early in the 19th century, the score had lain undisturbed for nearly 200 years until it was discovered as staff re-catalogued their archives.
Ulrich Leisinger, head of research at the International Mozarteum Foundation in Austria, who authenticated the score, maintains that there have been only about 10 Mozart discoveries of similar importance. But how significant is the content itself? Although one of the pieces is illegible, the other appears to be a melody sketch in D major for a Credo (a movement from a Mass), which, according to music editor and conductor Jonathan Del Mar, is of great importance.
“In terms of Mozart Mass movements, we don’t yet have a Credo, so this is a first,” he says.
Could there be a negative reason for its loss? Perhaps because it wasn’t among Mozart’s best? Del Mar doesn’t think so.
“Libraries are given such volumes of stuff they haven’t got the time or staff to catalogue it all. Decades can go by until you get to the bottom of the pile, or until somebody comes along and says, ‘This is a Mozart manuscript, you know’.”
It was in a similar way that in 1999, a Beethoven string quartet was discovered in a chest in Cornwall after more than 150 years. So, will this find influence studies into Mozart’s style or performance practice?
“I don’t think so,” says Del Mar. “It will just be another lovely piece by Mozart which adds to our treasury.”
This, he believes, is likely to continue to grow, as other lost scores gradually come to light in the future. We can’t wait.
Five more hidden musical treasures
1) A handwritten score of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No.2 was discovered in a carrier bag in 2004
2) A Gloria by Handel was found in an unmarked book of arias at the Royal Academy of Music in 2001
3) A manuscript penned by Beethoven was spotted in 2005 in a cupboard by a Philadelphia librarian
4) In 2005, a Dixit Dominus attributed to Baldassare Galuppi was verified as the work of Vivaldi
5) A Bach Wedding Cantata, BWV216, missing for 80 years, turned up in a Tokyo suburb in 2004