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01 May 2020

47. X marks the spot(s)

As with most of us these days, Im working more from my home office than usual.  A week or so ago, as my eyes wandered during a Zoom session, they fell upon a box containing files from work during my first summer of graduate schoola project involving all of Mozarts works for wind ensemble.  Some of the questions I considered that summer prompted a first-hand examination of the autograph manuscript of the thirteen-instrument serenade K. 361 (the so-called Gran Partita), held by the Library of Congress.  This document has garnered a lot of attention over the years:  I recall a remark by one of the librarians in the manuscript division that day that it ought to be attached to a clothesline because they brought it out so frequently.  The LOC published a widely-available facsimile of it in 1976, and a few years ago supplanted that with a high-resolution digital scan on their website.  Readers of this blog will recall that I used those scans in the previous post.

There was something from that research long ago that I had long meant to write about here, but it always seemed too complicated to explain cogently.  (My intention for this blog is basically non-technical writing about very technical stuff, and sometimes I live up to it.)  It has preoccupied me so much in recent days, however, that I thought I might as well give it a try.  So I pulled out the file and flipped through it until I found this photocopied page.
SOURCE:  scan of my photocopy of Book Conservation Report (dated July 1986) shelved with the autograph of K. 361
The above was preserved with the autograph when I examined it in July 1998.  (I have no idea if it still is, and I have no way of checking right now because the Library is closed to the public as part of the COVID-19 shutdown.)  This page gives details about a specific aspect of how the fasciclesthe individual sections of the manuscriptare bound together.  The vertical lines represent the binder's threads passing through the spines of each fascicle to make a codex.  The penciled note at the top is my identification of the item; conservator Pamela Spitzmuellers note below that says that the fascicles are all double folios / except 6 and 13 / which are single / folio.  (A double folio here means that one large sheet (folded to produce two leaves = four pages) is nested inside another.)  All is not completely accurate; the description in the critical commentary the NMA (pub. 2002) gives a more typical schematic representation of the folio structure of this manuscript, revealing a slight discrepancy in the collation.
SOURCE:  description of the structure of the autograph of K. 361 as presented in the critical report (ed. Dietrich Berke, 2002) of NMA VII/17/2 p. 35, available in full online here.
Here the fascicles are given Roman Numerals (I-XIV); the single leaf the NMA labels as IX was apparently counted in with the next fascicle in Spitzmuellers diagram.  (My illegible note in ink below Spitzmuellers legend was to indicate how the stub end of the single leaf IX was folded behind the binding of Xwhich together were labelled just 9 by Spitzmueller, so the NMA numbering differs by one from that point onward.  I called it Coda there because it is the coda of the fifth movementthe moment that figured prominently in that last post.  I am not sure when I made that note:  because it is in ink it couldnt have been in the LOC reading room, but must have been fairly soon after that visit.)  But the most important detail of Spitzmuellers diagram is her discovery of the consistent appearance of three sets of unused sewing holes in the last half of the manuscript (each of which she marks with an X).  It is impossible to know where and when the fascicles were first bound together as a codex, but Spitzmuellers evidence suggests that the last portion of the manuscript were at some point bound without the first portion.  The first six fascicles have five holes each, (almost) uniformly placed; the rest have those five holes but an additional two moreagain uniformly placed in each fasciclewhich remained unthreaded in the binding as of 1986 when Spitzmueller examined it.  My suggestion here is that this last portion, consisting of the last four movements of the work (as we know it today), existed as its own four-movement work for a time, bound together apart from the rest.

The idea that the seven-movement work could have originally been shorter is nothing new:  in fact, the first publication of K. 361 presented it as two shorter works, adapted for a more standard scoring of wind octet (pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns, and bassoons):  one contained movements 1, 2 3, and 7; the other presented movements 5, 4, and 6 (in that order).  This of course does not account for my suggestion, which groups movements 4–5–6–7 in some order.  And it has been suggested that the work initially included four movements, based on the first unambiguous documented reference to this unique combination of instruments:
I heard music for wind instruments to-day, too, by Herr Mozart, in four movementsglorious and sublime!  It consisted of thirteen instruments, viz. four corni, two oboi, two fagotti, two clarinetti, two basset-corni, a contreviolon, and at each instrument sat a masteroh, what an effect it made--glorious and grand, excellent and sublime!
[Johann Friedrich Schink, quoted in Deutsch (trans.), pp. 232f.]

Sitting through yet another Zoom presentation the other day, I tried to construct a different schematic representation of all of this information:  the NMA collation of the manuscript structure; the portions of Spitzmuellerunused sewing holes (bracketed in red); an indication of the two types of paper used in this manuscript (yellow shading indicates Tyson 57unshaded portions are Tyson 56); along with labels for each movement, to show which pages they make up (along the bottom).  The green markings I will explain below.  (For a larger view of this densely-packed image, see this page.)
SOURCE:  my attempt to represent all the information cited above; this diagram should be read left-to-right, and as if looking at the manuscript right-side up (so that a Necker illusion would confuse things, as everything would then be turned inside out):  the first page is facing away from you on the left extreme, while the blank final page is facing away from you on the right extreme.  NOTE:  There are seven blank (unnumbered) pages:  one after p. 43 (end of Fascicle V); one after p. 68 (end of Fascicle X, between Vars. 2 and 3); four after p. 80 (end of Fascicle XII); and the final page of Fascicle XIII. 
The musicological literature concerning K. 361and particularly its autograph manuscriptis unusually large, and a substantial portion of it is by the late Daniel N. Leeson (1932–2018).  An enthusiastic and knowledgeable amateur, he was co-editor of the 1979 NMA volume that included K. 361 (though not its 2002 critical report), and he continued to explore and write about it for the next several decades, producing several important articles in the Mozart-Jahrbuch.  Near the end of his life he summarized all he had to say about K. 361 in a self-published monograph, gran Partitta [sicadhering to the spelling and capitalization on the first page of the autographalthough he notes that this inscription is not in Mozarts hand].  In that book, Leeson endeavored to summarize everything that I think is important and valuable to be known about this work [p. 12], delving into many mysteries and proposing solutions.  One that left him stumped, though, is a series of markings, each on the first page of five successive fasciclesbut written-over by the subsequent enumeration of the pages of the whole manuscript.  For my own convenience, I am borrowing his representation of thesea composite of scans of details of five different pagesalthough readers can refer to the full pages on the Library of Congress scan here:  No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5.
A page from Daniel Leeson's "gran Partita" which has detail images from five pages of the manuscript; in the upper right hand of teach recto displayed is a written over number:  "No. 1," "No. 2," etc.  These appear on the first page of five successive fascicles.
SOURCE:  cropped page scan of Leeson, gran Partitta, p. 31.
It is these markings that I have indicated in green on my diagram above.  It can be clearly seen that all of these pages are within the section that Spitzmuellers evidence suggests was at one time bound separately.  That is intriguing:  might these numbers and these holes have something to do with each other?

Leeson could find no meaning in the numbers.  His speculations about their origins go so far as to suggests they (not in Mozart's hand) were on the pages even before any music was written on them:
What these sequential numbers represent, No. 1 ... No. 5, in entirely unknown.  They serve no enumerative purpose in describing anything in K. 361.  That there is no other such superfluous information anywhere on the 34 surfaces of these five units of paper is a clear indication that theyand, perhaps, others not known to uswere prepared in this fashion before Mozart began composing K. 361.  [p. 30]
He notes that the numbers start where the type of paper changes (although there is no No. 6 for the last fascicle of Tyson 56).  But I believe Leeson is wrong to say these serve no enumerative purpose:  what they do is place these fascicles in the order they now appearputting the Theme and Variations (which begins at No. 3) after the Romance (which comprises Nos. 1 and 2).  What if at some earlier point the fascicles (and thus the movements) were in a different order?  I communicated this idea to Leeson in the summer of 1998, we corresponded briefly about it.  He pointed out that we know next to nothing about the way Mozarts manuscripts were bound during his lifetimeif they were at all; and that to advance my hypothesis would require years of trying to sort out that issue for the whole corpus (much as Tyson did with watermarks).  I had other things I wanted to work on, so I left it there.

I have speculated on this blog before (as with my hare-brained idea about the absence of small-note ornaments in Bach autograph scores, and their presence in autograph performing parts):  indeed, it is one of the pleasures of writing a blog like this one.  I am a scholar of neither Bach nor Mozart, but I have found it fun to poke my head in the door (so to speak), eavesdrop for a bit, and see what I can make of the textual issues.  This is armchair musicology, admittedly, but I dont think it is entirely irresponsible.  My speculation (not wholly from the armchair) in this case:  the autograph of K. 361 suggests that the work consisted at some pointmaybe not originally, but possibly at the time of the documented 1784 performanceof movements 4–5–6–7 in a different order.

It would be extremely unlikely to begin with the present movement 4:  I can think of no other multi-movement work (other than suites of dances) by Mozartor anyone else, off the top of my headto begin with a Menuet specified as such.  (K. 188 is a possible exception.  If there are others, Im sure I will hear about it and will post them in an addendum below.)  It would be impossible to begin with movement 5, as it is in a subordinate key (the Subdominant).  Movement 7 is labelledin Mozarts handFinale (although I suppose it is impossible to be certain when he wrote that label).  Thus movement 6 would be the first movement of the four-movement version I am positing.  Beginning with a Theme and Variations?  Unusual, perhaps, but he did it in the famous K. 331 (the A major piano sonata that concludes with the rondo alla Turca).  More to the point, the wind divertimento K. 253 also begins with a theme and variations (and with a not-dissimilar theme), so this would not be unprecedented.

My putative sequence would either be
  • [6] Theme and Variations
  • [4] Menuet/Trio/Trio
  • [5] Romance
  • [7] Finale
  • [6] Theme and Variations
  • [5] Romance
  • [4] Menuet/Trio/Trio
  • [7] Finale
Six of one and half a dozen of the other?  I'm not sure.  It is hard to make a very firm argument either waybut both of these sequences present the movements 6 and 5 out of their present orderwhich would explain why those fascicles would be numbered to get them right.  I favor my second suggested sequence because:
  1. The last variation of Movement 6 is too similar in style to the Menuet for them to be adjacent movements, and
  2. I think if the first order was correct then the fascicle for movement 4 would also have been included in the reordering enumeration.  The present movement 4 may have been an afterthought, anyway, given the change in paper-types:  thus Mozart would have composed 6, 5, and most of 7 on Tyson 56, then switched to Tyson 57 for the end of the finale, after which movement 4 (and subsequently the first three movements as we know them now) were added.  But Tyson finds that Mozart was mainly using these paper types in 1781:  the performance in 1784 is of four movements (if the account is to be trusted), and surely all seven movements were notated by then.  (I allow that if one were going to choose four movements to perform from this marvelous work, I cannot imagine leaving out the sublime Adagio.)  And why the four blank pages at the end of the Theme and Variations (the No. 5 fascicle)?  Like Leeson, I am left with mysteries I cannot resolvebut trying out playlists in these alternate sequences has at least enabled me to hear this very familiar piece with new ears.
One further point about all of this:  Spitzmuellers evidence is the sort of thing that is not transmitted in either a facsimile or scan of the page (which often serve us now as surrogates for an original):  the sewing holes become evident only when the manuscript is taken apart.  Unsewn and unseen these may be, but SpitzmuellerX-marks are vitally suggestive of a hidden layer of this remarkable works history.  And yet the value of X remains unknown.