How did Mozart Compose?
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.
to The Mozart Myth
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