Artists > Interviews > Luca Bianchini & Anna Trombetta: Fall of the Gods - Engaging the Mozart Myth
by Georg Predota | June 25th, 2018

standard Luca Bianchini & Anna Trombetta: Fall of the Gods
Engaging the Mozart Myth

parte prima aIn the historiography of Western Classical music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is commonly considered an exceptional and singular musical genius. This glowing assessment is partially based on countless myths and legends that have, for a variety of reasons, resisted critical and scholarly scrutiny. In a number of recent publications, musicologists Luca Bianchini and Anna Trombetta have set themselves the task of separating fact from fiction. So we asked them to share their insights:

Q: Thank you for an illuminating and informative study. What initially prompted you to take up the “Mozart Myth” as a topic of investigation?

A: We have been studying Mozart for 20 years. In 2001 we published our first book Goethe, Mozart and Mayr: Fratelli Illuminati. Working as editors of 18th and 19th century Italian operas for 30 years, we found that a number of practically unknown masterpieces were hugely successful during Mozart’s time. Naturally, we wondered why that might have been the case, and furthermore, why composers such as Mozart had become almost mythological creatures. During our musicology studies at the University, Mozart was held up as a god, and we were convinced that he was a miracle of nature. We assumed that all the anecdotes about Mozart were credible, but when we started the fact-finding process, the myth of Mozart collapsed. Instead of a god we found a common man who had musical talent like many others of his time. To discover the real Mozart it is necessary to eliminate all what was fabricated about him over two centuries.

MOZART (actually NOT by Mozart; a forgery): Adelaïde Concert

Q: Musicology as a scientific field of study—at least as it was understood in the 19th and part of the 20th century—has recently been reshaped to include various aspects and methodologies borrowed from other disciplines. With this in mind, what questions should we be asking when it comes to Mozart in the 21st century?

Anna in Milano, Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi, Library

Anna in Milano, Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi, Library

A: Musicology, as a scholarly discipline, has recently accepted scientific research methods. This is why it does no longer use subjective categories, and it is based on historical sources, which have to be read with a critical eye. This approach should be applied to every musician and composer, but for some reason, this does not apply to Mozart. Biographies written at the end of the eighteenth century and in the early nineteenth century are primary sources that do not follow a scientific methodology.

Their purpose was to elevate Mozart to the status of a national hero, and to celebrate him as the creator of a German school of music. These biographies are based on anecdotes, unverified sources, or even fake news, intended, as Mozart biographer Nissen stated, to glorify Mozart. Others had commercial reasons, such as Niemetschek’s biography linked to Breitkopf & Härtel’s publication of Mozart’s Opera Omnia. The biography of Abert in the early twentieth century is entirely nationalistic, as it considers Mozart a god. Given these varying premises it is difficult to uphold a critical and scientific approach. These biographies are actually hagiographies, and musicologists act like theologians commenting on the miracles of their god.

Luca

Luca

Another problem is the reliability of the Mozart’s epistolary, which consists for the most part of letters sent by his father Leopold. In order to deal with Mozart, it is necessary to discuss the issue of authenticity. Some letters are unfortunately fakes; autographs of some are missing, while others have been censored by either his wife or his sister or his father. So, there is a heavy tampering. Leopold Mozart was not always sincere, because his letters had the purpose of promoting his prodigious child at any rate. Leopold was writing to his sponsors about the success of his travels, and sometimes he lied. For example, in one letter, Leopold said he was ill and had to stay in Milan, but in the corner he wrote to his wife that he was actually well. He asked her to cut that piece of paper after reading it. The wife forgot to do so, and so we know about the deception against the archbishop. How many other letters like that did actually exist? Leopold fabricated facts, as for example, that Mozart transcribed the Allegri Miserere after hearing it once, that he brilliantly passed the exam in Bologna when instead he copied his work from Padre Martini. It is not true, for example, that he improvised Fugues in London with Johann Christian Bach, or that in Vienna he kissed and hugged the Queen. Musicology around 1800 was non-objective data, and for Mozart the facts are distorted. First there was nationalist propaganda, which Nazism got ahold of in the twentieth century. In the post-war period, instead of verifying these anecdotes, musicologists of various nations perpetuated these non-scientific facts. Only in recent years have we seen proper revision and verification, which led to a new picture of Mozart.

Q: Construction of national identity on the bases of arts and culture—popular or otherwise—was not a new concept during Mozart’s time, and it is clearly still ongoing. Does the “Mozart Myth” as a political instrument still wield influence today?

A: The Habsburg dynasty governed with the lyre and the sword, that is with music and armies. The myth of Mozart was born to make German music great, and it is still influential today. Austro-Germany needed to create a national school of music, and musicology in the 1800s helped to support the process. Viennese classicism, for example, is an abstract label invented by an Austrian politician in the 1830s, and stipulates that national ideas could be spread through music. In Romanticism, art and culture were the heritage of a nation, and music was the primary means to create its identity. Mozart thus became a symbol of German music. He was a myth that turned into an icon in the Nazi era, as did Wagner. Many nationalistic distortions that originated during the Second World War reappeared in more recent books of music history, allowing the cultural Pan-German colonization. The musicians of other nations, Czechs, Bohemians, Slavs, French, Spanish, Italians, even though at the time were much more famous and appreciated than Mozart, were forgotten.

MUZIO CLEMENTI (1752-1832): Sinfonia n.3 in G major

Please join us next time for the second part of our interview with Luca Bianchini & Anna Trombetta.

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9 Comments

  1. “Musicology, as a scholarly discipline, has recently accepted scientific research methods. This is why it does no longer use subjective categories, and it is based on historical sources, which have to be read with a critical eye. This approach should be applied to every musician and composer… ”

    Thanks to these studies (that take more than 20 years!!! ) it is possible to doubt and get out the truth from the story of all the musicians of every historical period. Our System likes that we remain ignorant and “sheep-being”… Fortunately we’ve got such editors that go on with these works and spend their time for the pleasure of the conoscence! Thank you for this article and I wish to read thousand more of this kind.

    1. Dear Erika
      If you trust a book that, in order to discredit Mozart, is based largely on the lies of ufologists and distorts the authoritative opinions of those who think differently, then it is the ideal book for those who do not love Mozart and wants to denigrate and diminish at all costs. According to you it is correct, after twenty years of studies (!), Publish a full book from the first pages of historical, geographical, musical inaccuracies and typos absolutely unworthy of a scientifically serious work? The gentlemen Bianchini and Trombetta act as illusionists; enchant the reader with a flood of news (many of which are absolutely trivial and irrelevant, as well as known) aimed at disorienting those who are naive in the subject, but that are soap bubbles for those with a minimum of familiarity with history, geography , philosophy, musical composition and (above all) with common sense. It’s like a mirror for the larks and I’m sorry that a lot of people (sometimes even smart) fall into the trap! Very cordially!

  2. “No lie will stand forever…” Martin Luther King, Jr

    These words resonate deeply as the Trombetta-Bianchini team dares to do right by the many other talented composers who were cast aside because they weren’t of German birth. There are many of us who happily receive this uncovered truth, as we could not reconcile the many inconsistencies in Mozart’s complete oeuvre. Finally the story makes sense. Mozart was just a posthumous political construct! I’m thankful for this news. I’m anxious to program “new” works from that era, instead of the tired list of Mozartian beauties that have doubtful origins.

    1. Dear Mr. Renaldo Canton,

      it is enough to know how to read to understand who tells lies: the artistic history of Mozart is made of masterpieces, that of its detractors, like Bianchini, Trombetta, fake news and a lot of dishonesty, moral and cultural.

      Best, MG.

      1. Most esteemed Mr. Martino Guarneri,

        Thank you for your response to my praise of the Trombetta-Bianchini team’s book. If I may say so, just about every page has footnotes that provide the reference material containing the accounts of several generations of musicologists, biographers, historians and other collectors of information of the Mozartian era. I am very interested in knowing what conclusions you would arrive at if you should assemble all of these references, investigate their claims, and lay them side-by-side with the Mozart myths. When lies on a large scale are being told across history, the attempts to extinguish the evidence confirming what really took place are never extant. There always remains just enough information in the simplest of places to confirm what is true. Why else would the court of Emperor Joseph II exclude the music of Mozart from its recorded “playlist”, except that the Salzburger was simply not as brilliant as his father put him up to be? The list of aberrations is as obvious as day!

        Dear sir, I invite you to examine all of the material that Ms. Trombetta and Mr. Bianchini have, and report upon it. Could the moral and cultural dishonesty of which you speak be a simple case of telling Mum about Daddy’s affair even though it means that your family life will disintegrate? Some of us are willing to live in a musical world forced to face the truth and work through the laborious process of discovering who all were left behind simply because it was wrong to create a Mozart myth, just like “Daddy was wrong to have the affair”. Mozart may have contributed a great deal to music of the 18th century, but surely not in the way that others for political, nationalistic and racist motives have claimed.

        I await your conclusion after examining all the sources presented, Mr. Guarneri.

        Respectfully,
        Renaldo Canton

        1. Dear Renaldo Canton,

          I have examined the book from top to bottom, the notes are captious, and often based on incorrect data. Bianchini and Trombetta want to make scholars say valid things they have never said. They also do not even know what philology is. I invite you to read also this review, which appeared in an Italian scientific journal:

          https://laccademiadellabufalamozartlacadutadeglidei.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/1901-8182-2-pb-1.pdf

          I think he will have no difficulty, since he has managed to read those two volumes and praise them.

          Best, MG.

  3. Dear Mr. Predota, do you really believe in the hoaxes that Messrs Trombetta and Bianchini distribute everywhere in the two volumes written to denigrate the genius of Mozart? Please, read:

    Messrs Bianchini & Trombetta Rewrite The History of Classical Music

    by The Buffalo Cheese Academy

    Reviewed book: La caduta degli dei (The Fall of The Gods), Voll. I-II / Luca Bianchini & Anna Trombetta, Tricase: Youcanprint Self-Publishing, 2016-2017, 945 pp.

    To assume, as this book does, that Mozart signed as his own several works he had bought or stolen would require that he: 1) faked his activities as reported in his correspondence and in contemporary testimonies; 2) faked his own catalogue of works; 3) planted fake drafts among his papers to have them found after his death and lead future researchers astray. We quickly land on a scenario far less credible than any improbabilities it purportedly explains.

    Messrs Bianchini and Trombetta lay themselves open to the same criticism they level at their predecessors, i.e. that they have largely tampered with primary and secondary sources. The problem lays in their remarkably unscholarly and contradictory use of them, as much in their libellous smearing of anybody, whether living or dead, who stands in the way of their wild speculations. Matter of fact, it is Bianchini’s and Trombetta’s methodology that is bankrupt. Mozart’s life was substantial enough, his career bare open in front of public opinion throughout, to de¬feat any historiography that cannot locate his compositional activity or its development.

    Of course, Mozart had admirers and detractors during his lifetime, but the statement that he was an incompetent, overrated composer, a middling pianist abandoned by the Viennese musical public, is simply ludicrous. To put it after Cliff Eisen: “don’t forget, he was the second most-commissioned opera composer during that decade, and he obtained postings both at the court and at St. Stephen’s cathedral”. Was his stellar reputation a late fabrication by the Nazi film industry in the 1940s? To maintain such a lunatic point, Messrs B&T would deny the credibility of a long row of obituaries appeared in the international press just after his death. Thus they devote entire (unsavoury) chapters to the ad-hoc theory that any journalist is just a corrupt sycophant. Does this apply to those journalists – a Fabrizio Basciano, to name one – who are venting their claims on the Italian daily press?

    Towards the end of Vol. 2, we come to the darkest and most astonishing mystery novel on Mozart’s death. The foul plot leading to his alleged assassination was organised, B&T maintain, by the Freemasons from a secret Illuminati lodge who were anxious to secure imperial favour by promoting music by ‘Aryan’ composers at the expense of sundry ethnic groups. Like Haydn, Mozart happened to be a convenient receiver of high-quality music composed by a number of Italians, Czechs, Spaniards, Frenchmen, Mulattos, etc. If the Illuminati aimed at suppressing evidence of the plot, why didn’t they slay Haydn, too? Despite some minor variations (Fascist-style clubbing instead of poison, Illuminati instead of Jesuits), this is neither original nor better supported stuff than much previous fiction in the same vein. Moreover, B&T’s heavy reliance on the scribbler Francis Carr, one who endeavoured to ‘prove’ that both Don Quixote AND Shakespeare’s plays were authored by Francis Bacon (!), shows their blind faith in the main tenets of amateurish pseudo-science: “anything that is printed is a fact” and “anything that has footnotes is scholarly”. So does their book’s dedication to the late Giorgio Taboga, a grassroots historian of music who admittedly couldn’t read music and nevertheless preached that the whole Wiener Klassik was a complete fabrication for the glory of the Habsburg dynasty.

    Last and foremost, B&T’s sheer blindness to historic evidence is rivalled only by their deafness in matters musical. Besides the upstart ‘revelation’ that a quarter tone is an interval virtually inappreciable by the human ear (whose ear? probably B&T’s), their scanty attempts at musical analysis don’t stretch beyond the limits of elementary harmony primers (parallel fifths, octaves). In their excavation of the ‘real Mozart’, they simply do not hear or describe his music other than in such derogatory terms as ‘plagiarism’ and ‘incompetence’. Add to that several egregious blunders in decoding German, English and even early-Italian expressions, as well as in general history and geography (e.g., they locate Dresden in ‘Southern Germany’). They boast they are rewriting history. Fine. But before they come to that, they should study some.

    In italian: http://www.rivistamusica.com/2022-2/

  4. The premise of this book, namely, that Mozart was merely a talent, not much better than some other composers of his time, is outlandish. Although it is true that he wrote some not particularly distinguished music when he was very young, by the time he was 20 years old, and for the remaining 15 years of his life, he was operating on a stratospheric level of mastery that, in terms of complexity, architectural perfection, and sheer beauty, no contemporary except Haydn even approached . Throw all the biographical information in the garbage if you like – all you need to consider is the music. Had he written nothing but the last four string quintets, to take just one example, he would still be one of the very greatest composers who ever lived. The idea that Mozart was ordinary, in terms of musical talent, is beyond inaccurate: it demonstrates such an extreme lack of discernment, such ignorance of the structure and aesthetics of music, that I cannot imagine there could be anything of value in this author’s work.

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