Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri had a rivalry for the ages—at least, according to gossip. But that didn’t stop them from making beautiful music together.
According to the BBC, a lost piece co-written by the composers and an unknown songwriter named Cornetti was recently found in the archives of the National Museum in Prague. On Tuesday, the 231-year-old composition was performed for the first time since it was identified by German musicologist and composer Timo Jouko Herrmann last November.
The 4-minute cantata was played on harpsichord at a press conference held at the Czech Museum of Music. Called "Per La Ricuperata Salute di Offelia" (or "A Salute to the Recuperating Ophelia"), the piece was written in 1785 and features a libretto by Vienna court poet Lorenzo Da Ponte, the Associated Press reports. It was created for famed English soprano Nancy Storace, who took a brief career hiatus after she lost her singing voice. The composition was meant to celebrate Storace’s return to the stage.
Musical experts knew of the song’s existence, thanks to newspaper advertisements from 1785 announcing that Viennese music dealer Artaria had distributed copies of the work. However, none of these copies had been located for years. It’s “a really valuable work … long thought to have been lost,” Czech National Museum spokeswoman Sarka Dockalova told the AFP. The original sheet with the libretto had actually been acquired by the Czech Museum of Music in 1949-50 in a collection of material. It sat in the archives for decades until Herrmann spotted it while perusing the museum’s online catalogs.
The composition is the only known work jointly created by Mozart and Salieri. It’s also notable because it discredits the widely held notion that the two were bitter musical opponents, CNN points out. Historians discount the idea that a jealous Salieri poisoned Mozart—a theory popularized by the 1984 movie Amadeus. This long-forgotten collaboration shows that the two were on good terms, and is, according to Herrmann, "key to a new understanding of the relationship between Mozart and Salieri.”
Watch the harpsichord performance of the Mozart and Salieri composition above.
All images courtesy of YouTube.