It is still not known when or why Mozart composed the ‘Gran Partita’ (k361). Its proportions defy any norm – written as it was for thirteen instruments (pairs of oboes, clarinets, basset horns, horns in F, horns in B flat, bassoons and a double bass) at a time when six or eight would have been usual, and in as many as seven movements, including a slow introduction and second trios in both the minuet movements. Such proportions far exceed those of any other known piece of Harmoniemusik written until years after the composer's death. Alan Tyson's analysis of the manuscript papers used by Mozart established beyond reasonable doubt that the types of paper found in this autograph were available to the composer between 1781 and 1784.Footnote 1 Those who have offered the opinion that Mozart wrote the work during the latter part of the date range – notably Daniel LeesonFootnote 2 – refer among other things to stylistic similarities in the slow introduction of k361 and those of two works from 1784, the quintet for piano and wind k452 and the violin sonata k454, and of course to the only known performance during Mozart's lifetime, on 23 March 1784, when four of its seven movements were played in a concert given by Anton Stadler in the Burgtheater.Footnote 3 The possibility that basset horns were not available in Vienna before 1783 was thought to be a potential hazard to any earlier date, since no other instrumental work featuring parts for basset horn is listed in the Köchel catalogue before k436.Footnote 4
The first recorded appearance in Vienna of the clarinettist brothers Johann and Anton Stadler was in 1773,Footnote 5 and their names appear occasionally thereafter in the theatre accounts as extra musicians. Eight years later they were on the point of leaving the city and seeking employment elsewhere. On 6 November 1781 they wrote to Captain Ignaz von Beecke, the music director at Öttingen Wallerstein.Footnote 6 Among the options they offered him were trios for three basset horns with a colleague named Griessbacher, which, if one can accept the Stadlers' claims as true, is of peculiar significance in confirming that the instrument was already available in Vienna, and even that there may have been a market for basset-horn trios in Vienna as early as 1781.
When Mozart arrived in Vienna on 16 March 1781, less than four months had passed since the death of Empress Maria Theresa. Her son Joseph II, Emperor and Co-regent since 1765, was at last free to embark upon the reforms he had long desired. His plans for the opera house included taking into his employment the finest wind players in Vienna, who from 1 April 1782 would provide the personnel for both the emperor's Harmonie and the enlarged wind section in the Burgtheater orchestra.Footnote 7 The Stadler brothers were persuaded to remain in Vienna as members of the new ensemble. Rumours of the planned Harmonie were evidently circulating the previous summer, but apparently not that it was to be an octet of oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoons. Thus Mozart, determined to impress those who had the ear of the emperor with his ability, wrote the Serenade in E flat major (k375) ‘somewhat carefully’ – but in the standard sextet combination of the time. It was probably first performed on 15 October 1781.Footnote 8 His choice of clarinets rather than oboes as treble instruments suggests that he had already made the acquaintance of the Stadler brothers. He decided to rewrite the serenade the following summer as an octet, and in considerable haste, if the handwriting and short cuts taken are any guide.
The final nine bars of the first movement of the Serenade k375 – in its original form scored for pairs of clarinets, horns and bassoons – were written on paper that Mozart had used before. As was his practice with the latter movements of the ‘Gran Partita’ (k361), he had braced together the top eleven of its twelve staves. On the top line he had written and later crossed out what appear to be the bars before and after the double bar in the middle of a variation, for an unnamed instrument, possibly an oboe (see Figure 1 ). He added barlines consistent with this part throughout the system.Footnote 9 The melodic line and the underlying chord structure offer intriguing suggestions of the variation movement of the ‘Gran Partita’, and are identical to it in tonality and metre.Footnote 10 The differences in the implied harmonies, and the irreconcilable difficulties of collating the fragment (which must have had a missing leaf before it) with the autograph of the ‘Gran Partita’, seem significant enough to disqualify it from being part of an abandoned variation of the theme as finally composed. But it could be interpreted as the last bars of an earlier theme-with-variations movement abandoned by the composer before starting again using subtly different material. The evidence to support this proposition lies in the following demonstration that the bifolium comprising folios 5 and 6 in k375 may briefly have been used before as a bifolium following folio 31 in k361 (which is the one single leaf in the formation of the k361 manuscript), and then discarded from that work. The argument is supported by the particulars of the paper used, coupled with the way this fragment of music written on it is to be interpreted.
Once he had moved to Vienna in 1781, it was Mozart's preference to use manuscript paper of north Italian manufacture. Each sheet was formed into a querformat (landscape) gathering by folding first along the long axis, then the short axis, then slitting along the long fold, to create an eight-page (four-leaf) booklet. The watermark and countermark, two designs occurring centrally left and right in the sheet, were, after folding and slitting, thus divided into four quadrants.Footnote 11 Two such papers are present in k361, with watermarks NMA 56 and 57.Footnote 12 The entire autograph of the k375 sextet consists of paper with NMA 56 watermarks.
Both these papers carry the standard twelve staves, drawn by a stave-ruling machine known as a rastrum, capable of ruling all sixty lines in a single pass. A rastrum tended to leave a characteristic pattern in the line-ends where the inked nibs first struck the paper on the left-hand side of the page. And it is thus possible more precisely to distinguish a particular paper, depending not only on its watermark but also on the rastrum used to draw the staves upon it. In the case of the paper used in the manuscripts of k361 and the sextet form of k375, three different rastra seem to have been employed, defined here as X, Y and Z. Rastrum Z was used on all the NMA 57 paper, but it is possible further to subdivide the sheets of NMA 56 paper between rastrum X and rastrum Y in the following disposition (see Figure 2):
ANALYSIS OF PAPER WITH WATERMARK NMA 56
Sheets of paper with quadrants 1a, 2a, 3a and 4a (SW, NW, NE, SE) were made incorporating one twin of the watermark, while 1b, 2b, 3b and 4b (SE, NE, NW, SW) feature the other.Footnote 13
There are three numbering systems in the k361 manuscript that require explanation. First there were five gatherings of manuscript paper, each of eight pages, numbered ‘No 1’ to ‘No 5’ before they came to form part of the k361 autograph.Footnote 14 Secondly, the autograph was page-numbered later, in a system omitting the pages not written on by the composer. The gathering numbers were overwritten by these. Thirdly, folio numbers were added much later, and are the principal means of identification used here. The argument proposes that three leaves, which completed the ‘No 2’ gathering, followed folio 31 in an earlier state of the manuscript, and the notional ‘folio 32’, ‘folio 33’ and ‘folio 34’ are used as the means of identifying them. The folio numbers in Table 1 are grouped in their gatherings within the manuscript.Footnote 15
PROPOSED SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
Note that the diagram on page 101 may assist in explaining the proposed sequence of events from 3 onwards.
1 Mozart, now resident in Vienna, has in his possession six gatherings of NMA 56 paper, each of eight pages, five of them numbered (in an unknown hand) ‘No 1’ to ‘No 5’ in the top right-hand corner of the front pages. Whatever the original purpose for this paper, it was never accomplished. Instead it would be absorbed into the manuscript of k361 from the start of the fifth movement, and the numbers 1 to 5 were later overwritten in another hand by page numbers 52, 60, 62, 69 and 77 of the k361 manuscript, as indicated in Table 1. Pages left blank by the composer were omitted from this numbering system.
2 Mozart starts composing k361 using watermark 57/Z paper (folios 1 to 26), continuing with the ‘No 1’ gathering to begin the fifth movement (folios 27 to 30, on 56/Y paper).
3 Mozart requires new paper to complete the fifth movement: he takes up the ‘No 2’ gathering of watermark 56/Y paper (see Figure 3), and concludes the movement on folio 31 (watermark quadrant 3).
4 For whatever reason, the inner bifolium of the ‘No 2’ gathering is at some point removed from the outer, so separating the bifolium with watermark quadrants 4 and 1 from that with 3 and 2. Mozart begins the sixth movement, his first attempt at a theme and variations, on ‘folio 34’ (watermark quadrant 2), still conjugate with folio 31. Starting on the recto, the theme, probably sixteen to twenty bars long, would have been concluded on the verso, together with the first four bars of the first variation.
5 Mozart takes up the now separate inner bifolium of the ‘No 2’ gathering (watermark quadrants 4 and 1), adds an eleven-stave brace and writes bars 5 to 12 of the first oboe part of the first variation on ‘folio 32’ recto (see Figure 4). He adds barlines for all the other instruments on this page, including the conventional double-bar repeat sign between sections in the eighth bar. He draws an eleven-stave brace for the continuation on ‘folio 32’ verso, but abandons the composition at this point, leaving ‘folio 33’ (watermark quadrant 1) conjugate but unused. He sets aside, but does not dispose of, this paper.
6 Mozart detaches the now redundant ‘folio 34’, retaining what has now become a single leaf, folio 31, with the end of the fifth movement.
7 Mozart starts the sixth movement of k361 again (see Figure 5), the theme and variations as we know it, continuing to the conclusion of the work on watermark 56/X (folios 32 to 47, the gatherings numbered 3, 4 and 5 and the unnumbered one), and finally 57/Z papers (folios 48 and 49).
8 Mozart starts the k375 sextet using watermark 56/X paper (folios 1 to 4).
9 To conclude the first movement, Mozart takes up the bifolium of paper with watermark 56/Y quadrants 4 and 1, on which were written the last bars of the abandoned sixth movement discarded from k361 (‘folio 32’ and ‘folio 33’). In order to begin on unused paper, he turns the bifolium inside out, so that watermark quadrant 1 precedes 4. He writes on the now leading recto and verso to continue the first movement of k375 (folio 5).
10 Mozart still has nine bars to write to complete the movement. He continues on folio 6 recto (watermark quadrant 4), crossing out the k361 oboe line and replacing the double bar repeat sign on the second staff down, but otherwise using the k361 barring already present, including the space for the anacrusis. He adds top and bottom markers defining the five-stave system required for the sextet and confirms the instrumentation (refer to Figure 1). Folio 6 verso, carrying only the k361 brace, remains unused.
11 Mozart continues to the end of the serenade k375 using 56/X paper (folios 7 to 19).
12 k375 was performed, probably for the first time, on 15 October 1781.
OTHER INDICATORS THAT THE DISCARDED FRAGMENT HAD FORMED PART OF k361
1 Mozart braced the upper eleven staves – as in the final two movements of k361. In the first four movements he had braced the lower eleven, but for the fifth he required and braced only the centre ten staves – hence perhaps the discontinuity.
2 The written line is eminently suited to an oboe, and seems to be an elaboration of a theme.
3 The double-facing double bar is wholly characteristic of the centre point of a variation movement, with the arrival of the music in the dominant key F major, then immediately moving away towards flatter keys.
4 The underlying structure of the music has characteristics similar to the final version of the theme in k361, with the same B flat major tonality (no key signature, but indicated by the unmarked B flats, and the naturalized E to approach F major), the same simple duple metre, the same quaver anacrusis and a chord sequence with intriguing similarities.
5 The two sides of the lost leaf that without question would once have been attached to folio 31 in k361 are fully capable of accommodating a theme of sixteen, even twenty bars in length, in addition to the first four bars of a first variation.
6 A single leaf, which, as Alan Tyson observed, is uncommon,Footnote 16 would be vulnerable loose in a large manuscript, and it is unlikely that Mozart would have reduced folio 31 to that form if the remainder of the bifolium was unused.
7 Clearly three leaves following folio 31 in k361 are now missing from the second of the five gatherings of NMA 56 paper numbered ‘No 1’ to ‘No 5’. It may not be mere coincidence that this is precisely the point in the manuscript where, if this proposition be correct, there were once the three leaves containing the start of an abandoned theme and variations movement as described here.
Unless the leaf containing the start of an abandoned sixth movement were ever to be found, it is impossible to prove conclusively that the discarded fragment formed part of k361, though the evidence leads strongly to the possibility. But one undeniable property of this fragment is that there is no other known work of Mozart with which it could reasonably be connected. It was intended either as part of k361, or of some other wholly unrecorded composition. And if of the ‘Gran Partita’, the evidence presented here points to its possible composition in the summer months of 1781 for an event of which there is currently no record.