Mozart and the Keyboard Culture of His Time

How did Mozart Compose?
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The story commonly told about Mozart's genius—widely popularized by Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus, and later by his Oscar-winning film of the same name—portrays the composer as a divinely inspired idiot savant, who could see the piece whole in his imagination, like a painting or a statue, and who needed only time to write it down. While surviving historical documentation is by no means adequate to explaining Mozart's creativity, it does suggest a different narrative.

In the 1790s Constanze Mozart made a fateful decision about her late husband's musical manuscripts: those containing sketches or drafts of unrealized works would be kept for possible completion by others, while those containing sketches or drafts of completed works could be discarded. Nonetheless, enough sketch leaves of various sorts survive to enable us to see that, although Mozart never sketched to the extent that, for instance, Beethoven did, he used sketches in various ways throughout his career.

continue to The Mozart Myth

Introduction
From Sketch to Completed Work
From Print to CD
How did Mozart Compose?
The Mozart Myth: Tales of a Forgery
Mozart's Images
Mozart's Images Imagined
What the Score Doesn't Tell Us
The Piano Lesson
The Cult of Mozart
Commodification & Kitsch
Credits
Cornell University Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections Cornell University Library

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