August Diedrich Friedrich Wilhelm Baron von Münchhausen (14 Feb 1756–5 Aug 1814), born 18 days after Mozart, was a skilled amateur composer with several musical publications to his credit, including the three sonatas under review here (on Münchhausen, see principally Ottenberg & Sellack, 2016). From around 1787 to 1798 Münchhausen was chamberlain at the Rheinsberg court of Prince Heinrich of Prussia, younger brother of Frederick the Great, and himself a great music lover. Münchhausen is said to have taken composition lessons in Rheinberg from Prince Heinrich’s Kapellmeister, Johann Abraham Peter Schulz—although these lessons were probably not extensive, as Schulz left Rheinberg to take up the position of court Kapellmeister in Copenhagen in 1787. Münchhausen’s travels in the early nineteenth century brought him to Paris in 1808, and he subsequently became an ambassador for the King of Westphalia, Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte, youngest brother of Napoleon. When the Kingdom of Westphalia was dissolved in 1813, Münchhausen was left without a position, and he committed suicide in 1814.
Münchhausen’s known works include 8 symphonies, 2 piano concertos, several chamber works (most with keyboard), and a small amount of keyboard music, notably the three sonatas for piano four-hands discussed in this review: the Sonatas in G major and E-flat major, published as Münchhausen’s op. 2, and the Sonata in C major, op. 3.
The reviewer states that Münchhausen’s sonatas do not show the musical sophistication of Mozart’s works in the genre and some of Sterkel’s, but are nevertheless tuneful and harmonious. All of Mozart’s mature four-hand sonatas had been published by the time of this review: K. 381 in D major and K. 358 in B-flat major, first published by Artaria in Vienna in 1783; K. 497 in F major, first published by Artaria in 1787; and K. 521 in C major, first published by Hoffmeister in Vienna in 1787. Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel (1750–1817) published several four-hand sonatas over the course of his career; those that appeared in the 1780s include his op. 21 (2 sonatas), op. 23 (a single sonata in F major), and op. 28 (4 sonatas).
One suspects that the reviewer’s phrase “die ursprüngliche wahre Art, das Klavier zu spielen” (“the original true art of playing the keyboard”) is an intentional reference to the title of C. P. E. Bach’s famous treatise, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen.
For another reference to Mozart’s four-hand sonatas, see our entry “A four-hand piano sonata by Mozart in a story by Musäus” (1788).