Unheard Mozart piano piece performed to mark composer’s 265th birthday

22 January 2021, 16:48

Newly discovered Mozart piano piece performed to mark composer’s 265th birthday
Newly discovered Mozart piano piece performed to mark composer’s 265th birthday. Picture: Getty / DG

By Rosie Pentreath

A world premiere of a piece by Mozart doesn’t happen every day. But the unearthing of a new manuscript promises the treat of brand new Mozart in 2021.

A newly discovered piano piece by Mozart is due to be performed at Salzburg’s Mozarteum Foundation, to mark the composer’s 265th birthday this year.

Pianist Seong-Jin Cho will give the world premiere performance of Mozart’s ‘Allegro in D’ – which was unearthed in 2018 – at the start of 2021 Mozartwoche Festival this month. The concert will be hosted by Rolando Villazón, artistic director of the festival (pictured below).

Cho’s performance will be streamed on Deutsche Grammophon’s online DG Stage platform, as part of a full piano and lecture recital which will include some other works by the great composer.

Read more: Mozart apparently liked to imitate cats. Here’s the tail as we know it. >

Pianist Seong-Jin Cho will give the world premiere performance of Mozart’s ‘Allegro in D’ on 27 January.
Pianist Seong-Jin Cho will give the world premiere performance of Mozart’s ‘Allegro in D’ on 27 January. Picture: Deutsche Grammophon

How did Mozart’s unknown piano piece go missing?

This long-abandoned Allegro has had quite the journey.

The manuscript, which features notation in Mozart’s hand on both sides, is thought to date from 1773. Instead of being preserved and passed on for enjoyment by the masses through history, like most of Mozart’s works, it seems to have got lost along the way.

Somehow, after passing from the estate of the composer’s youngest son into the collection owned by Austrian civil servant and amateur musician Aloys Fuchs, it was given away – maybe by mistake – and fell off the musical map.

It was owned by an antiquarian book and art dealer in Vienna in the 1880s, and brought to auction by 1899. Maybe they didn’t quite realise the Mozart magic they had. But the Köchel catalogue, which lists the composer’s works, started mentioning it around this time, even though the manuscript itself kept flying in and out of auction houses.

Fast forward around 90 years, and in 2018 the worn manuscript finally made the music community sit up as it should – because it was offered for sale to the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation by the family of the French-Dutch engineer who’d purchased it from a dealer in Paris way back in the late 1920s.

The Foundation’s staff soon confirmed that the unattributed piano piece was undeniably Mozartian, and it’s now safe and sound, and ready for its time in the spotlight. It will be published on the same day as the world premiere.

“It is a great honour to be invited to give the premiere of a formerly unknown work by Mozart, in the city where he was born and where it may have been written,” pianist Seong-Jin Cho said.

“I’m delighted that, thanks to DG Stage among others, many people from around the world will be able to hear this wonderful piece for the first time during my Mozartwoche recital.”

The performance will be accompanied by a recording of the work, released online by Cho on the same day.

Seong-Jin Cho performs Mozart’s newly discovered ‘Allegro in D’ on DG Stage at 17:00 GMT on Wednesday 27 January 2021. Visit dg-premium.com to get tickets and find out more.

Click here to buy and stream the Deutsche Grammophon recording.