The original score of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major has been found in the forgotten recesses of a Hungarian library. One of the composer’s most famous pieces, with its charming variations on a simple, lyrical theme and catchy Rondo alla turca finale, the Sonata (K331) was written around 1783, probably in Vienna or Salzburg.
Scholars have long suspected that that original manuscript was still in existence, but had no idea where it might be. Cue musicologist Balazs Mikusi. Head of the music collection at Budapest’s National Szechenyi Library, for the past five years Mikusi had been going through all the uncatalogued material held in the archives. Earlier this year, he came across four pages that caught his attention.
‘When I first laid eyes upon the manuscript, the handwriting already looked suspiciously “Mozartish”,’ said Mikusi to Agence France Presse, ‘Then I started reading the notes and realised it is the famous A Major sonata … My heart rate shot up.’
Mozart scholars around the world have agreed that it’s the genuine article. The final page of the Sonata was already preserved in Salzburg , which helped in identifying the newly discovered pages. It’s not known how, why or when the manuscript ended up in Hungary.
Last Friday (26 September), pianist and conductor Zoltán Kocsis played the Sonata as written in the manuscript to a public audience for the first time, at the National Szechenyi Library. It’s reportedly pretty similar to what we know, though there are a few subtle rhythmic differences, and even some different notes. ‘It won’t change our view on Mozart, and it doesn’t change the character of the music, but we get a lot better sense of what Mozart wanted to achieve,’ said Mikusi.