PARIS — A French museum has found a previously unknown piece of music handwritten by Mozart, a researcher said Thursday. The 18th century melody sketch is missing the harmony and instrumentation but was described as an important find.
Ulrich Leisinger, head of research at the International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg, Austria, said there is no doubt that the single sheet was written by the composer.
"This is absolutely new," Leisinger said in a telephone interview. "We have new music here."
"His handwriting is absolutely clearly identifiable," he added. "There's no doubt that this is an original piece handwritten by Mozart."
The work, described as the preliminary draft of a musical composition, was found by a library in Nantes in western France as staff were going through its archives. Leisinger says the library contacted his foundation for help authenticating the work.
"It's a melody sketch so what's missing is the harmony and the instrumentation but you can make sense out of it," he said. "The tune is complete. It's only one part and not the whole score with eight or twelve parts."
"One can really get a feeling of what Mozart meant although we do not know how he would have orchestrated it."
The city is planning to hold a news conference on the find later on Thursday.
There have been about 10 Mozart finds of such importance over the past 50 years, he said. If sold, the single sheet would likely be worth around $100,000.
"The fact that an entirely new sheet shows up is extremely rare," he said.
The sheet was bequeathed to the library by an autograph collector in the 19th century and was catalogued back then as part of the library's collection, he said.
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But it was later "entirely forgotten," essentially becoming lost to scholars for more than century, and was only rediscovered by the library as it re-catalogued its archives in recent years. It was unclear what happened to the library's 19th century catalogue.
Circumstantial evidence, including the type of paper, suggests Mozart did not write it before 1787, Leisinger said. Mozart died in 1791.
Mozart was interested in church music and at that time was planning to become the choir and music director of Vienna's main cathedral, although he died before he could take up the post.
In all, about 100 such examples of musical drafts by Mozart are known about. Many are notes for works that he went on to complete.
But the rediscovered sheet is the "draft for a piece that Mozart did not work out for what ever reason," said Leisinger.
The sheet appears also to have been examined in the 19th Century by Aloys Fuchs, a well-respected autograph hunter who collected works from more than 1,500 different musicians. Fuchs wrote "authenticity of this present handwriting of W.A. Mozart is confirmed," in an annotation dated Aug. 18, 1839, in Vienna.
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