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"Oh wow," you may be thinking.  "Mozart Symphony #37?  Wait a minute!  I bought an expensive collection of the complete Mozart Symphonies on Ebay and it doesn't include the Mozart #37!  I was screwed!"

Well, you're not the only one who has wondered what happened to #37.  There's his masterpiece, #36, "The Linz Symphony."  And then there's his masterpiece, #38, "The Prague Symphony."  But no Symphony #37!

... Or is there?  Listen to it now.  And more discussion below about ringers, informed guesses, scholarly blunders, and other headaches of musical history.

Mozart Symphony #37 in G Major, K. 447, first movement.  


So you followed me past the squiggly line.  You're wondering what the gotcha is, right?  Well, the first part is by Mozart, the slow introduction.  The rest of the symphony is by Michael Haydn, the brother of Joseph Haydn.  Both Haydns were close friends of the Mozart family and they used to share a lot of the same gigs.  

The "Mozart" Symphony #37 was premiered in Linz together with his Symphony #36, "The Linz," a symphony there has never been doubts about.  If you don't own the Linz Symphony, you're still a Mozart newbie.  That's fine -- you'll have fun discovering that on your own.  Because of the timing, however, and because the surviving written scores of the symphony were in Mozart's handwriting, and because the introduction of the symphony is Mozart's and in his particular style -- and because Michael Haydn was a pretty damned good composer in his own right -- the symphony was eventually hoovered up into a pile of symphonies that the historians labeled The Mozart Symphonies.  Until 1906, this was still considered a Mozart symphony.

There have been many confusions like this in the realm of Mozart scholarship.  There are competing numbering systems, and revised numbering systems.  It seems doubtful that Mozart worried much about the confusion he may have left prosperity by his frequently copying out other composer's scores.  At a time when there were no copying machines and composers were paid like day laborers, copying out yours and other people's music was just part of the job.  It was also a good way of learning.  Mozart copied some of Michael Haydn's scores deliberately, we know, because he admired how M. Haydn used fugues in his final movements.  By the time Mozart got to his last real symphony, "The Jupiter," #41, we see how much he absorbed, because Mozart's Jupiter's finale, the first and only time Mozart used a fugue in a finale, may be the single finest 6 minutes of music of the 18th century, "Proof for the existence of God," as Woody Allen is rumored to have said. (I can find no proof of that.  Besides, it makes no sense.  So maybe he did say it.)  

Being friends, and all of them also being prolific composers who produced symphonies and concertos and quartets the way hens lay eggs, paranoid issues of plagiarism never seem to have become an issue for them.  

I've been distracted this week and didn't have time to prepare a longer diary, so I dithered over skipping this week or pulling something out of my ass at the last minute.  Voila.  I feel comfortable talking about Mozart today because I don't need to really analyze any music.  

And a lot of the work is already done for me, thanks to wiki, who made a list of Mozart Symphonies of Spurious or Dubious Authenticity.  They list thirty-nine such symphonies, the above symphony being just one.  Some of them have been already proven to not be by Mozart but by other previously uncredited composers.  Others are still under a cloud of suspicion.  Still others are comfortably considered Mozart although they are not included in the usual #1-#41 numbering because of other questions or because they showed up too late and nobody wants to renumber the Jupiter.

And some previously established Mozart symphonies are still under a cloud.  For instance, this, the Mozart Symphony #11 in D Major,  K. 84/73q.  The K. stands for Kochel, one of the early Mozart scholars who attempted to number his works.  The second number is one of his revisions to the numbering.  It is believed to have been composed about 1770.  Since Mozart was born in 1756, that means he would have been about 14.  Hey, what were you doing when you were 14?  This is very good music, and listening to it, I personally can't doubt that it's legit Mozart.  It's not of the quality that Mozart would achieve in his later years.  Mozart only lived to be 35, so later means, like, about 9 years later.  Wiki says questions about this symphony's authenticity were raised as recently as 2008.

Mozart Symphony #11 in D Major

To me, it has the Mozart voice, especially in the Andante second movement.  But a great deal of Mozart's music also sounds like his father's music.  Up to that time in his life, Mozart had been globetrotting with his dad for some time as a musical prodigy phenomenon that all the ladies of the nobility wanted to hug and feed candy like a chihuahua.  His early works do have similarity to that of his father, Leopold Mozart.  And some of the Mozart questionable symphonies were, indeed, later shown to be by Leopold.  Like this one, the Neue Lambach Symphony, so named because it was discovered languishing in a drawer in a monastery in Lambach, a place the Mozart's are known to have visited.

Yeah, I think, when I listen to that, it sounds like our Wolfgang!  But nope.  It's generally agreed now that this one is by Mozart's father, Leopold.  It is dated, they believe, to 1769, which would have made Mozart all of 13.   We can compare this to another symphony in the same drawer that IS believed to be by Wolfgang and from the same period, The Symphony #7a in G Major K. Anh. 221 (K. 45a), the Alte Lambach, of around 1768 (which would make Mozart... 12).

Mozart Symphony #7a

And then there are cases of symphonies that were identified as being by Mozart just because they struck people as the kind of thing Mozart would have composed, with little other justification.  This next one was briefly labeled as a Mozart symphony in 1971, possibly based on a misread signature.  The music is quite good, though, and I like it.  It turns out to have been composed in 1785 (when Mozart would have been a mature 29) by Joseph Martin Kraus, a man who was called "The Swedish Mozart" of his time.  I don't have as much trouble listening to this and going, "That's good stuff, but I know it's not Mozart."

Joseph Martin Kraus Symphony in C sharp minor VB 140

And then there are others that we just don't know.  I thought this one was interesting.  It's sometimes labeled Mozart Symphony #55, based on the Neuen Mozart-Ausgabe renumbering system, which is a little crazy.  It's believed to have been composed around 1767, which would put Mozart at about 8 years old.  We know Mozart was already composing operas at that age, so that isn't a big shock to those of us that are big Mozart buffs, but it might be a shock to you, dear reader.  He was a scary smart little kid.

Mozart Symphony ("#55") in B-Flat Major, Anh 214 K. 45b

According to Wiki about this symphony:

Symphony was lost until a copy was found in Berlin, 1943. The origins of the symphony are disputed (1767, Salzburg per Zaslaw, 1768, Vienna per NMA). Attribution to Mozart cannot be confirmed, but it is frequently treated as genuine.
This could be Mozart.  I don't feel confident taking a stand on this.  It sounds too mature to have been composed by an 8 or 9 year old.  There are many things to like about it.  Puzzling, though.

That's the end of my survey of Mozart's clouded music.  Since this was rather heavily weighted towards the early, less mature Mozart, let me finish with one of his later works.  Mozart composed his last three symphonies, #39, #40, and #41, in the space of six weeks.  That is three of the greatest compositions of the eighteenth century and he wrote them in a total of six weeks.  It's simply disgusting to think about.  I understand Salieri's position completely in the film Amadeus.  It's great music, but it's a cause for despair.

This is the slow movement, the Andante, from the Symphony #39.  I like this one because it's so pleasant, so serene... And then it has two brief moments of harmonic madness that come as terrible shocks, our having been so completely lulled into complacency.  The second shock especially, the one at 4:45, must have been bewildering to its first audience.  I feel like getting out my guitar right now to figure out just what the hell he did there.

Mozart Symphony #39 in E Flat

Next week: Ah, we'll see.  It was a busy week here at home.  I still want to do Dvorak.

Originally posted to Dumbo on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 08:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA and Community Spotlight.

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