MOZART, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791). Autograph music manuscript, 6 passages for string quartet, reworkings of compositions by Mozart's pupil Thomas Attwood, K.506a, n.d. [second half of 1786], headed ‘Zu ein[em] 4tett’, 67 bars in 6 systems of four staves, a further four bars added by Attwood, two pages, oblong folio (230 x 318mm), on a single leaf, annotations on verso ‘Adagio’, ‘Rondo’, ‘Buono’, the recto with notes of authenticity in the hands of Georg Nikolaus Nissen and Julius André, the latter signed and with an impression of his signet seal in red wax (minor wear to right and lower margins), tipped into an album, signed on front endpaper by Yehudi and Hepzibah Menuhin, 1975, brown morocco.
Provenance: Thomas Attwood (1765-1838) returned to England early in 1797 with the manuscript of his compositional exercises; at his death, he left it to Sir John Goss, his successor as organist at St Paul’s; Goss’s widow sold it to one of his pupils, Sir Frederick Bridge (1844-1924), who referred to the manuscript in some of his courses as Gresham Professor of Music; the manuscript was bought at the auction of Bridge’s library after his death by Cecil B. Oldman, and subsequently acquired by the British Library (Add. Ms. 58437). The present leaf however had evidently become separated from the main manuscript somewhat earlier: it appeared in the catalogue of Joseph Baer & Co., Frankfurt, 1911 (cat.4, lot 4287), then at auction at Leo Liepmannsohn, Berlin, 27-29 March 1913, lot 2140 (for 960 marks); it was acquired by a private collector from Otto Haas, London, in September 1974.
MOZART AS A TEACHER OF COMPOSITION. The leaf derives from the compositional lessons given by Mozart to the young English composer Thomas Attwood. A protégé of the future George IV, Attwood arrived in Vienna in August 1785 after having already completed two years of compositional study in Italy, and quickly began a series of lessons with Mozart that were to last until the end of the following year. The two men enjoyed a close relationship – according to Michael Kelly in his Reminiscences, Mozart declared that Attwood ‘partakes more of my style than any scholar I ever had’, and as late as 1821 Constanze still retained happy memories of the young Englishman’s visits to Schulerstrasse. Certainly, the 144 leaves of the Attwood manuscript bear witness to Mozart’s painstaking attention to Attwood’s studies, all the more remarkably given that this was one of the most productive periods of his own creative life.
The present leaf relates to the last stage of Attwood’s studies in late 1786, when he was working on free compositional forms, specifically for string quartet, and comprises reworkings of sections from three movements for string quartet by Attwood (an Allegro in G, a lost Adagio in C and a Theme and Variations in G) – indeed in the first two instances, the manuscript can be related directly to briefer emendations extant in the Attwood manuscript. The recto comprises four sections from the Allegro, beginning with a full reworking of six bars from Attwood's first subject, followed by a lighter modification of the subsequent 16 bars, whilst a third section concentrates on the last eight bars of the development, where we see Mozart introducing a syncopated motif in the 2nd violin which cuts into the dialogue between the 1st violin and viola. A fourth sketch is a reworking of the 2nd subject, introducing increasing variation and bringing the viola part to the fore. An extended passage in C major at the foot of the recto and continuing on the verso is surmised by Daniel Heartz in the NMA Kritische Bericht to relate to part of a lost slow movement of Attwood's G major quartet, which, he infers, would have been one of the most impressive compositions of the Attwood studies. Mozart's last contribution is a brief improvement to the 6th variation of a theme and variations in G (of which the theme and first four variations are lost), continuing an emendation begun on Attwood's autograph. The four bars in Attwood’s hand replace a passage in the main manuscript so heavily amended by Mozart as to have become illegible. The music of all these passages reflects the strong influence on Attwood's quartets of Mozart's own 'Haydn Quartets', and in particular K.464 (though Einstein in the 1937 edition of the Köchel-Verzeichniss was sufficiently struck by the resemblance to K.465 to classify this leaf as a collection of sketches for that work, under K.465a), and it is intriguing to see Mozart’s incomparable creative intelligence polishing and refashioning music that is derived at one remove from his own compositions.