This anonymous review discusses five sets of variations published by Heinrich Philipp Carl Boßler (1744–1812), whose publishing house was originally based in Speyer (here written variously as “Spira,” “Speier,” and “Spire”), before relocating to Darmstadt in 1792. The first and last titles given at the head of the review refer to publications of individual variation sets: an arietta with fourteen variations for solo keyboard, op. 37, by Johann Baptist Vanhal (1739–1813), and a set of variations for solo keyboard attributed to Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel (1750–1817) on the song “Lison dormait,” which also served as the theme for an earlier set of variations by Mozart (K. 264), to which the reviewer compares those under review. The confusing combined title of the other three variation sets is taken directly from the title page of the publication, but without the typographical separators that would have helped clarify who wrote what (see the facsimile of the title page of Boßler’s edition in Schneider 1985, 143, also in Haberkamp 1986, vol. 2, 106):
pour le Clavecin
LA BERGERE CELIMENE
pour le Clavecin avec un Violon
pour le Clavecin
M:R W. A. MOZART.
Fünftes, Sechstes und Siebenstes Stük.
The word “ARCHIV” in the title refers to Boßler’s series Archiv der auserlesensten Musikalien which began to appear in Mar 1786. The Vanhal variations and the two sets by Mozart thus represent a combined publication of numbers 5, 6, and 7 in that series, as the title page indicates. The Mozart variations are those for violin and keyboard on the song “La Bergère Célimène,” K. 359 (Boßler had already published the companion set, K. 360, as number 4 of the series), and his variations for solo keyboard on the song “Unser dummer Pöbel meint” (from the German version of Gluck’s La Rencontre imprévue), K. 455. The sets K. 359 and K. 360, as well as K. 455 were published by Artaria in Vienna, who first advertised them in the Wiener Zeitung on 5 Aug 1786. (According to Haberkamp 1986, no copy of an alleged 1785 publication of K. 455 by Torricella in 1785 is known to survive.) Schneider places Boßler’s edition of K. 359 and K 455 in Sep of that year (Schneider 1985, 145–46). However, because Boßler’s edition had already been announced for July, it cannot be ruled out that it may have appeared before Artaria’s (Haberkamp 1986, 153–54; because of the uncertainty over priority, Haberkamp includes Boßler’s edition of K. 359 along with Artaria’s in her comprehensive study of Mozart first editions). In any case, it appears that Boßler’s edition of K. 455 was not based on Artaria’s (Haberkamp 1986, 224–25). Schneider (1985, 175) dates Boßler’s publication of the variations attributed to Sterkel to 1790.
The reviewer is dismissive of the variations attributed to Sterkel, calling them the “weakest” that the reviewer has ever seen from that composer, who has not even bothered to write the gavotte theme in the correct meter. Sterkel was motivated to respond in a letter dated 27 Mar 1792, and published in the first issue of Musikalische Monathsschrift (Jul 1792, 26), claiming that the variations in question were not, in fact, by him.
The review is also of interest for the general critique in its opening paragraph of variations as a genre. On the “neue berlinische Musikhandlung” mentioned after each title at the head of the review, see our entry for 24 Oct 1791.