Did Mozart co-write a song with Salieri?

The German composer Timo Jouko Herrmann believes he has found a score in the Czech National Library that was composed jointly by Mozart and his arch-rival, Antonio Salieri.

It’s a solo cantata, listed in Köchel as K477a, and long believed to be lost. The text is by Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart’s librettist, and the piece is thought to have been written for the English soprano, Nancy Storace, the original Susanna in Marriage of Figaro. At the time, Salieri was writing Ofelia for her in his opera La Grotta Di Trofonio.

nancy storace

 

The premiere of K477a by Storace was widely reported, but no-one since then has had sight of the score. It contains, says Herrmann, a ‘Song of Joy’ jointly written by Mozart and Salieri.

Sensational, if authenticated.

mozart cantata prague

Timo interview here. (Spoiler alert: expect Classic FM to steal this story.)

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  • Storace scholars (not to mention Mozartians) have been hoping for the emergence of this score for years. Let’s hope it has finally turned up?

    The text is indeed a ‘Song of Celebration” – written for the return to health of its dedicatee and performer, Ms Storace. What was less widely known is that her sudden disappearance from the opera stage was the result of a miscarriage. There was also a third composer included in the credits, one unknown “Signor Fagotto” (possibly a pseudonym?)

    Although Anna (Nancy) Storace is often listed as a confidante of Mozart’s (as she may well have been), this didn’t stop her appearing in the main female role of Salieri’s “Prima La Musica, Poi Le Parole” (“Music first, libretto later”) comedy. This was Salieri’s witty entry in a two-composer contest (set up by the Austrian Emperor himself – who was Nancy Storace’s lover, as a known fact) to pit Salieri against Mozart. The idea was to see whether Italian or German would make a better libretto for a comedy. Mozart employed his relative, Constantine Stefanie, to produce the German libretto for his sparkling entry “Schauspieldirektor” (“The Theatrical Impressario”). Needless to say, Mozart’s entry won the contest (as it was supposed to), and the Emperor was placed in the invidious position of having to vote his lover’s show into second place.

    The coroner’s inquest into Nancy Storace’s death, many decades later (she died at her house in Dulwich), her maid testified that a few days before she died, “men had come, trying to bully Ms Storace into selling them the private letters she held from Mozart”.* The maid went on to relate that her mistress burnt the letters the same night, weeping bitterly, and crying “They shall never have them!”.

    Now there are some further Mozart-related documents which will remain a mystery forever – thanks to the loyalty of his one-time Leading Lady. Mozart had touchingly written the concert aria “Ch’io mi scordi di te” (with piano obbligato, for Mozart himself) for her farewell Benefit Concert when she left Vienna. The reasons for suddenly dropping such a wonderful Viennese career were never explained, but they were apparently the result of an order from above. Her brother, the composer Stephen Storace, and the composer Attwood were also banished from Vienna the same week, and they all left for London on the same stagecoach. Much has been made of the closing text of the aria (“No matter where I may be, your soul will always be with me”), and the fact that it was written “for Miss Storace and myself to perform”)

    * Presumably on the initiative of Von Nissen – the Danish diplomat who had married Mozart’s widow. He aimed to gather and destroy all material which might prove discreditable to the composer’s memory – in advance of the publication of his Life Of Mozart, written to provide Constanza Mozart with an income in her old age. Nannerl Mozart similarly reported approaches by Nissen’s men for her brother’s letters.

  • I don’t think the question if “Mozart co-wrote a song with Salieri” is the main issue at hand. The printed sources that support this assumption is quite strong. First, the piece cannot be authenticated, unless the autograph material is found. Second, this authentication IMO is not really necessary. On 18 October 1785 an ad in the “Wiener Realzeitung” reads: “Per la ricuperata salute da Ophelia. By Abbate da Ponte. Set to music by the Kapellmeister Salieri, Mozart and Cornetti. 17 kr. at Artaria”. On 26 September 1785 a note in the “Wienerblättchen” refers to an “Italian song of joy: ‘Per la recuperata salute di Ophelia’, words by da Ponte, music by Salieri, Mozart and Cornetti, to be sung at the piano on sale at Artaria’s in Vienna”. For the time being that should suffice.

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