BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Flipping through a dusty folder of unidentified music scores in Budapest’s national library, Hungarian scholar Balazs Mikusi’s heart skipped a beat when he came across four pages of the score of a famous Mozart sonata - written down by the composer himself.
Mikusi, head of the Hungarian National Szechenyi Library’s music collection, told Reuters TV about the moment he realized what he had stumbled on.
“I of course remember the heartbeat. You are turning the pages of hundreds of sources which are obviously written by copiers, not the composer. And suddenly you see something that is a composer’s handwriting - and it even looks similar,” he said a few days after the manuscript was presented to the public.
“I said ‘This looks like Mozart’, and very soon I realized this must be Mozart because I started to read the piece, and it happens to be one of the most famous Mozart sonatas.”
Mikusi quickly cross-checked his finding with Mozart experts, and they confirmed his discovery. The four pages were the original score of the Piano Sonata in A Major, K.331, one of the composer’s most well-known sonatas.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote the sonata around 1783 and like most of his works, it was also copied down. This original score was believed to have been lost. Only one page is preserved in Salzburg.
“There were two people who I trust very much and whom I have known for more than 10 years, one of them is Ulrich Leisinger, director of Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg, he wrote back very soon saying yes this must be Mozart hand-writing,” Mikusi said.
On Sunday, Mikusi will present his finding in Salzburg to the Mozart scholar community.
He said there were many Mozart autographs that even turn up at auctions, but the world has known about those for long.
“What makes it very interesting is that it’s new, nobody has ever seen this or if not ever, in the past 200 years,” he said.
“Everybody is intrigued, all the pianists, even average music lovers, and of course Mozart scholars, of what is actually on this page, how should we re-interpret this sonata in the light of this discovery,” Mikusi said.
It remains a mystery how the score ended up in the collection of the Szechenyi library.
Mikusi said for Mozart scholars the most interesting thing will be to look at the differences between the original score and the copies that would provide plenty of debate worldwide.
“In the menuetto there are a couple of passages that have been much discussed, and many people started to correct the first edition saying that Mozart’s autograph could not possibly have said that. And now we have the autograph and it actually confirms the first edition,” he said.
“So I think Mozart scholars will have to re-think what we believe Mozart could have written down and what not.”
“There are actually several differences but we should recall that the first edition was probably authorized by Mozart so it is always the case that the autograph should over-write the first edition. One has to think about that in which case this could be a printing mistake, or in other cases Mozart might have corrected something.
“So this is not to say that this autograph is the Bible and now we have to follow this. This makes the whole situation more complicated and it is one of the most important sources that we have to consider from now on.”
Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo and Krisztina Than; Editing by Hugh Lawson