SHARE
COPY LINK

MUSIC

Salieri-Mozart cantata sheds new light on their fervid rivalry

Lost for over 200 years, a cantata co-written by classical maestros Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri rang out in public for the first time on Tuesday, shedding new light on their reputed intense rivalry.

Salieri-Mozart cantata sheds new light on their fervid rivalry
Czech musician Lukas Vendl plays after the recently discovered music notes composed by the Austrian and Italian composers. Photo: Mikel Cizek/AFP

The Italian composer was allegedly so jealous of the Austrian prodigy that he once tried to poison him – a claim rejected by experts as the collaboration was performed in Prague.

“The part composed by Mozart is, shall we say, more ingenious and dramatic, while the other two verses are more lyrical,” musician Lukas Vendl told reporters after playing the four-minute composition on a harpsichord.

“But it's impossible to deduce from it who was a better composer.”

The cantata from 1785 is “key to a new understanding of the relationship between Mozart and Salieri,” according to Timo Jouko Herrmann, the German musicologist and composer who found the work.

Herrmann said it suggests the men were “colleagues who worked together” rather than rivals and undermines a legend suggesting Salieri may have played a role in Mozart's untimely death at 36 in 1791.

Titled “Per la ricuperata salute di Offelia” (To Ophelia's health) the cantata was jointly composed by Mozart, Salieri and an unknown musician named Cornetti.

It accompanies a libretto by Italian poet Lorenzo Da Ponte and is dedicated to popular English soprano Nancy Storace (1765-1817), who returned to the stage after losing her voice for a spell.

The score lay unidentified in the Czech Museum of Music since the 1950s but Herrmann was finally able to attribute it to the two composers thanks to access to new information on the Internet, according to a museum statement.

Scores of the cantata had been distributed at the time by a Viennese merchant, Artaria and Comp. The Prague copy is the only one to have survived.

False portrayal

The discovery is especially interesting in light of a legend discounted by historians: Salieri was said to have fatally poisoned Mozart out of jealousy over the Austrian wunderkind's talent

First appearing in Alexander Pushkin's 19th-century poetic drama “Mozart and Salieri,” the rumour was later featured in the play and 1984 film “Amadeus”, which historians say grossly exaggerated Salieri's rivalry with Mozart.

“We all know the film 'Amadeus.' Salieri is mischaracterised in it,” said Ulrich Leisinger from the International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg.

“He didn't poison Mozart. The two composers regularly met up and collaborated in Vienna.”

The film was shot in the Czech capital, where Mozart spent considerable time in the 18th century as it was then part of the Austrian Empire.

Prague played host to the premiere of his celebrated opera Don Giovanni in October 1787, which later had a lukewarm reception in the empire's capital Vienna.

Mozart debuted another opera, The Clemency of Titus, in Prague in 1791.

This year marks the 260th anniversary of Mozart's birth and the 225th anniversary of his death.

“As far as I know, it's the only piece jointly written by Mozart and Salieri,” said Herrmann.

“But who knows: in a treasure house like this, anything can happen,” he said of Prague's music museum.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

DRUGS

Italian Eurovision winner tests negative for drugs

Damiano David, the frontman of Italy's Eurovision winners Maneskin, has passed a drug test he took on Monday to clear his name after speculation that he had snorted cocaine at the song contest's grand final.

Italian Eurovision winner tests negative for drugs
Damiano David of Maneskin performs at the Eurovision final. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

A drug test was “voluntarily undertaken earlier today by the lead singer of the band Måneskin which has returned a negative result seen by the EBU”, the European Broadcasting Union announced on Monday evening. 

“No drug use took place in the Green Room and we consider the matter closed,” the EBU said in a statement, adding that it had checked all available video footage as part of “a thorough review of the facts”.

READ ALSO: Italian Eurovision winners ‘really offended’ by accusations of drug use

David, who was shown on camera leaning over a table backstage in what some speculated could be drug use, had strongly denied the allegations. 

He said the footage showed him sweeping up some glass broken by one of his bandmates.

Måneskin with their trophy after winning the final of the 65th Eurovision Song Contest. Photo: Sander Koning / ANP / AFP

There had been calls for “total transparency” from officials in France, which came a close second in the song contest, after the clip went viral following Saturday’s final in the Netherlands.

The French minister for Europe said that drug use should be grounds for disqualification, though the head of France’s public broadcasting group said they did not plan to challenge the result.

David told interviewers he was “really offended” by the speculation, which he said had marred Italy’s first Eurovision victory in 31 years.

“We are alarmed that inaccurate speculation leading to fake news has overshadowed the spirit and the outcome of the event and unfairly affected the band,” the EBU said, adding that it was looking forward to “a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest in Italy next year”.

SHOW COMMENTS