Haydn, Mozart, & Beethoven: Studies in the Music of the Classical Period

By Sieghard Brandenburg | Go to book overview

10
'N.N.' Revisited: New Light on Mozart's Late Correspondence

JOHN ARTHUR

As students of Mozart's correspondence will know, around twenty of the composer's letters from 1789-91 fell victim, in places, to the obliterating hand of (evidently) Georg Nikolaus Nissen.1 To date, a reading of roughly two thirds of all the words rendered 'illegible' in this ill-fated correspondence has been achieved. It is my chief purpose here--putting it at its tersest --to improve on the fraction of words read. The four letters which form the focus of this study will be considered without further preamble, an examination of the wider context of their (and the other late letters') deletions being unfortunately beyond this article's scope.

____________________
This article, written in 1992, was first published, in abridged form, with the title "'N.N. Revisited'", Musical Times, cxxxvi ( 1995), 475-80. For valuable assistance with some of the translations I am indebted to Edward Olleson.
1
The letters in question (all addressed to Constanze Mozart) are those of 16 May 1789 (No. 1099), 23 May 1789 (No. 1102), first half of Aug. 1789 (No. 1110), ? 2 June 1790 (No. 1129), 28 Sept. 1790 (No. 1135), 30 Sept. 1790 (No. 1136), 12 June 1791 (No. 1161), ? June 1791 (No. 1163), 24 or 25 June 1791 (No. 1167), 25 June 1791 (No. 1170), end of June or beginning of July 1791 (No. 1172), 3 July 1791 (No. 1176), 5 July 1791 (No. 1179), 5 July 1791 (No. 1180), 6 July 1791 (No. 1182), 7 July 1791 (No. 1184), 9 July 1791 (No. 1187), 7-8 Oct. 1791 (No. 1193), 8-9 Oct. 1791 (No. 1195) and 14 Oct. 1791 (No. 1196) (the numbering of the letters here and elsewhere in this article is that found in Mozart: Briefe und Aufzeichnungen. Gesamtausgabe, ed. W. A. Bauer, O. E. Deutsch, and J. H. Eibl, 7 vols. ( Kassel, etc. 1962-75 [henceforth Briefe]; line numbers are also those of Briefe). Only those letters which are at present known to me for certain to contain obliterations are catalogued here: further study and the recovery of lost autographs will probably increase the number of letters in the list. NB: earlier examples of Nissen's deleting handiwork can apparently also be found. See, for instance, Briefe, iii. 188 (No. 651 (= letter of Mozart to his father, Vienna, 22 Dec. 1781), line 120): obliterated here is a slanderous reported utterance by the composer Peter von Winter ( Mozart writes that he--and the following are the cancelled words--'called my dear Constanze a slut' ('meine liebe konstanze ein luder heißt')).

-127-

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