A Sketch-Leaf for Mozart's Contredanse 'La Bataille', K. 535
The last few years have seen the uncovering of a large number of new Mozartiana: autographs believed lost generations ago (such as K. 475 + 457, to cite only the most spectacular case) have suddenly reappeared; fragments and other small items of which we have known nothing but their Köchel numbers (K. 452a, for instance, or the forgery K. Anh. C 29. 40) have all at once come to light; we have even been vouchsafed quite new manuscripts whose existence was previously wholly unknown to modern scholars. One such recently discovered item is a composition sketch for the minuet of the String Quartet K. 590;1 comprising the entire movement, it significantly modifies and increases our understanding of Mozart's working methods in the latter--the very last--part of his life. If we are to talk of sensational developments in Mozart studies--and why ever not?--then discoveries like these are the real sensations.
The sketch-leaf that I would like to introduce in this essay cannot be compared in importance and significance to the K. 590 sketch--a contredanse is not a piece of 'great music', after all. But that is the nub of the matter: those who have believed until now that Mozart used to produce his dances and similar trifles out of a hat will have to change their minds. And those who may then wonder why, or feel surprise that, Mozart devoted this amount of attention to a not especially demanding piece like 'La Bataille' K. 535 should look at the matter the other way round. It is time to recognize that making sketches was part of Mozart's normal working practice, whether the piece of music in hand was 'great' or not. If it is less than great, then____________________