Flute sonatas by the eight-year-old Mozart -
'... superb advocacy ...'
For any eight-plus-year-old the degree of inventive musical precocity displayed here is nothing short of mind-boggling. In the boy Wolfgang's case it appears to have been second nature, or God-given; call it what you will. Having said that, a little of the junior 'wunderkind' goes a long way and six largely insubstantial flute sonatas [ 52 minutes ] at one sitting is, for me, a feat of endurance lacking in unalloyed enjoyment.
It was not until he was 21 that Mozart (1756-1991) truly realized his early potential with the Piano Concerto No 9, K271 erroneously subtitled 'Jeunehomme' (young man) by early 20th century French scholars Théodore de Wyzewa and Georges de Saint-Foix. German-American musicologist Alfred Einstein called the 9th concerto 'Mozart's Eroica'.
In a letter to his father Mozart referred to K271 as 'one for jenomy' while as recently as 2004 Viennese musicologist Michael Lorenz identified 'jenomy' as Victoire Jenamy (born Strasbourg 1749), wife of wealthy merchant Joseph Jenamy and daughter of Mozart's friend, dancer-choreographer Jean Georges Noverre (1727-1810). Dr Lorenz's research in the City Archive of Vienna (2003) established that Victoire was an excellent pianist, and it was she who commissioned the concerto in Vienna in 1776.
At the age of sixteen, Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) completed his pivotal String Octet in E flat and a year later his overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, mature works far in advance of anything Mozart produced as a child or a teenager.
Copyright © 12 September 2007
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand