Mozart and Beethoven Treasures in St Louis

The following remarks were delivered by Hugh Macdonald, Avis Blewett Professor of Music and Chair of the Department of Music, Washington University, St Louis, at the opening on October 29, 1999 of an exhibit of first and early editions of Mozart and Beethoven from the collection of Alan Tyson recently acquired by the University’s Gaylord Music Library.

The Gaylord Music Library of Washington University, St Louis, has recently acquired a collection of some three hundred items by Mozart and Beethoven in first and early editions. This is part of a very substantial library built up by Alan Tyson, the eminent British musicologist, whose work on those two composers has materially altered the framework of modern scholarship in that domain. I am fortunate to have known Alan Tyson since about 1962 when I recall meeting him in an antiquarian music-seller’s shop in London. I was struck by his incredible knowledge of everything he handled and by his obvious delight in the materials of music, often bringing a huge grin to his pumpkin-like face, and often amid gales of laughter. I was then astonished to learn that he was in fact a medical student at University College Hospital, London, who had an Oxford degree in Latin and Greek and was also an assistant editor and translator of the standard edition of Freud’s works in English. By 1967 he was qualified both as a medical doctor and as a psychoanalyst, and he had also by then published two books of musical scholarship, The Authentic English Editions of Beethoven in 1963 and a catalogue of Clementi’s works in 1967, as well as a number of articles on Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Clementi and Field. The propinquity of his hospital to the British Library (then part of the British Museum) allowed him to divide his time most fruitfully between both institutions.

In the 1970s he and I were colleagues on the Faculty of Music at Oxford; he had by then decided to devote himself entirely to musicology. At All Souls, the Oxford college dedicated solely to scholarship and research, he held a fellowship to which he had been elected much earlier on the strength of his classical studies. In musicology his pioneering work was derived first from the meticulous study of printed sources, and then, with astonishing results, from the study of the manuscript music paper used by Mozart, Beethoven and other composers. Like most brilliant advances it was based on a very simple concept – namely the realization that Mozart, who was famously impoverished most of his life, and Beethoven, who was famously disorderly in his domestic life, bought music paper in small quantities. Since the handmade paper of the time can be identified by watermarks, by the disposition of staves and other physical properties, and since each batch delivered from the papermakers was different, it was a reasonable supposition that music written on paper of the same type was composed, or at least written out, within a period of a few weeks, or a few months at the most. Travelling to libraries all over the world Tyson compiled a catalogue of Mozart’s papers which allowed him to date with remarkable precision the great number of works which had hitherto been assigned dates by guesswork, or by stylistic analysis (as done by Alfred Einstein), or by handwriting (as done by Wolfgang Plath and others), all notoriously inexact methods. Tyson’s methods were far more reliable, and they revealed some surprising facts about the origins of Così fan tutte, for example, about the composition of the four horn concertos, about the two slow movements of the Paris Symphony, about the string quartets, about the dates of the many unfinished fragments by Mozart, and so on. His book on the Mozart autographs appeared in 1987 and his definitive catalogue of Mozart’s papers was published as part of the Neue Mozart Ausgabe in 1992.

In the case of Beethoven, Tyson shed new light on the composition of the Violin Concerto, the Leonora overtures, and many other works. He contributed enormously to the cataloguing and identification of Beethoven’s sketches, a body of material which has been of extreme interest to scholars and which had become dispersed in fragments all over the world. When Alan Tyson appeared at conferences with yet another realignment of the Mozart sources or another reconstruction of a dismembered Beethoven sketchbook, his presence always caused a ripple of delight at the artless skill with which he overturned received historical beliefs, at his effortless and witty command of English, and at the total lack of self-importance that informed his style. His legacy in the field of the Viennese classics is colossal and permanent, and his methods have been successfuly adopted by others to extend our knowledge of other composers, Handel for example.

He was generous and gracious toward other scholars and always dazzling company. At the International Musicological Society meeting in Copenhagen in 1972 he was speechless with amusement at the comic potential of the Danish language, and he pretended not to understand it, though he probably did. He was always quick with a rhyme, a pun, or a few lines of doggerel, but his eternal boyish humour never impaired the quality of his scholarship or the seriousness with which he regarded his work. This all sadly came to an end a few years ago when Alzheimer’s struck, and it is hard to believe that a man of such prodigious mental ability is now, at the age of 73, quite unaware of his surroundings and of his own great achievements.

The benefits of this collection to our students and readers are, I think, obvious. Anyone who loves old books and old scores will take pleasure in the printing, the paper, the binding, the vestiges of earlier users, even the foxing, and the sense of contact with one of the great ages of music-making. I like to imagine that this collection can take us back to a typical music-seller’s store in Vienna or London in the early years of the nineteenth century. Publishers then (as now) put out editions which they thought they could sell. Many people preferred to buy Beethoven’s latest works not in the form in which they were written but in an arrangement which suited their own abilities. Hence there are many extracts from operas arranged for instruments, arrangements of symphonies for small chamber ensemble or for piano duet, arrangements of chamber music for different combinations, and there are sets of parts of quartets and concertos rather than full scores. There were big sales for works which we now regard as minor; it is astonishing how many works by Beethoven, and even Mozart, are almost entirely neglected today but which enjoyed wide popularity then. Furthermore the authenticity of music bearing the name Mozart or Beethoven was not always of much concern, so that a number of pieces so designated are not actually by them. Caveat emptor, we might now reflect.

The Mozart part of the collection does not include publications from the composer’s lifetime, which were relatively few; his real celebrity came in the 1790s after his early death, when many pieces were published for the first time. Beethoven, on the other hand, was famous quite early on. He saw most of his works through the press himself, and they were published widely in other cities and other countries. The great number of London publications in this collection reflects not only Alan Tyson’s special interest in the English music publishing business but also testifies to London’s vigorous musical culture at that time and to the extent of Beethoven’s celebrity in the wider world.

The Mozart collection includes first editions of the motet Ave verum corpus, of the scores of the ten so-called “berühmte” string quartets, of twenty solo songs, of the C major symphony K. 338, and of La clemenza di Tito. There is a very early score of Idomeneo and the 1821 Paris full score of Die Zauberflöte. There are first editions of choral works and piano pieces that are rarely heard today. As a sample of the commercial exploitation of Mozart’s music, we find, for example, a volume entitled “Favourite Airs in Mozart’s celebrated Opera of Cosi fan Tutte, arranged for the Harp and Piano Forte, with an accompaniment for the Flute.” There are three early scores of Don Giovanni, and four different piano arrangements of the overture from that opera. Then there is “Mozart’s Celebrated Waltz in the Opera of Il Don Giovanni, arranged for the piano forte,” dating from 1818. How many of you knew that Don Giovanni contained a waltz? There is a Scottish publication from 1812 of an “Admired Air by Mozart, with variations by Lewis Beethoven”

Besides this curiosity, the Beethoven collection includes a first edition of his three piano trios opus 1, a rather special item of which the library already possessed a copy, so we now have two. There are first editions of the Fourth Symphony in full score, of the Coriolan overture, of the string quartets opus 74, 127, 130 and the Grosse Fuge, of the Egmont music, and of the oratorio Christus am Ölberge, actually the first full score of any Beethoven work to be printed in Germany. There is a variant issue of the first edition of the Hammerklavier sonata and of the Piano Sonata opus 110, and a piano duet arrangement of the Eroica Symphony published in 1807 which appears to be different from any other issue. These are precious documents which bring us face to face with the labyrinthine history of Beethoven’s music in the press, a subject notorious from the composer’s quixotic dealings with publishers and the loose ethics of international publishing in the days when copyright did not cross national borders. One of Tyson’s earliest achievements was to demonstrate that first editions published close to the source of the music do not always convey the best texts, and the evidence for that far-sighted conclusion is now before our eyes.

As an illustration of the kind of curiosity which has surfaced from the collection, there is a publication entitled “Souvenir à L. Van Beethoven: Six Valses et une Marche Funèbre pour le piano” published by Schott in Mainz and Paris in 1828, shortly after Beethoven’s death. It bears a fine lithographed portrait of Beethoven on the title and contains a miscellany of music clearly put together by the publisher with an eye to the market responding to Beethoven’s death. The implication is that Beethoven is the composer of the music. But while the first item is the Funeral March from the Piano Sonata opus 26, transposed from A flat minor to A minor for the convenience of nervous pianists, the six waltzes that follow have been stolen from elsewhere: the first is partly taken from one of Schubert’s waltzes for piano, and partly from the lesser known composer Friedrich Himmel. The remaining five waltzes are unidentified, but are unlikely to be by Beethoven. The same waltzes show up in another very respectable-looking publication by Birchall of London, proclaimed to be by Beethoven but not, as far as we can tell, the genuine article.

It must not be thought that Gaylord Music Library lacked any material of this kind before. On the contrary, the Tyson collection greatly augments some very notable items which were already in Special Collections, some purchased from a Belleville collector in 1976 and some belonging to the Ernst Krohn Collection. We already had, for example, a remarkably complete series of early editions of Idomeneo, Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte, three early editions of Mozart’s Requiem including the first, and the 1784 publication of Mozart’s three piano sonatas K. 330,331, and 332. Particularly in the field of Mozart’s operas we can claim that Gaylord now has a superb representative collection of the early printed scores. Our Beethoven holdings were less abundant, but they did include the opus 1 trios, as I mentioned before, and a first edition of the Missa Solemnis. I earnestly hope that we can continue to enlarge these collections in the years to come and reinforce their enormous scholarly value.

In addition, this is a rich source for the study of music printing. Most music of this period was engraved on copper plates, but there are a number of scores set in moveable type and some in the more modern medium of lithography. What we can be thankful for is the fact that this is all printed on handmade paper of fine quality which is agreeable to the touch and almost unaffected by the decay that threatens music and books of a century later. This is a permanent treasure that will outlive us all.