The Mozart family arrived in Paris on 18 Nov 1763, remaining nearly five months, before departing for London on 10 Apr 1764. They spent two weeks of their Paris sojourn at the French court in Versailles, from Christmas Eve 1763 to 8 Jan 1764. In the weeks following their return to Paris, Wolfgang’s first two publications were engraved and issued, both dedicated to prominent members of the court: op. 1, two sonatas for harpsichord with violin accompaniment (K. 6 and 7), dedicated to Madame Victoire de France, second daughter of King Louis XV; and op. 2, likewise a pair of sonatas for harpsichord and violin (K. 8 and 9), dedicated to the Countess de Tessé, lady-in-waiting to the Dauphine, Maria Josepha of Saxony, mother of the king’s eventual successor, Louis XVI.
On Mon, 5 Mar 1764, the weekly journal L’Avantcoureur (meaning “precursor” or “harbinger”) published an article on the Mozart children, focusing primarily on the astonishing talents of young Wolfgang. The article is well known and is included in Dokumente (30–31); less well known is that over the following months, versions of this article appeared in at least seven German-language publications, in two independent translations, making it the most widely distributed description of young Mozart prior to the famous report by Daines Barrington, published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1771 (Dokumente, 86–92).
The text of the article from L’Avantcoureur given in Dokumente is incomplete: Deutsch omits the entire final portion, having to do with Wolfgang’s op. 1. This omitted portion includes the full text of the dedication to Madame Victoire de France (Deutsch understandably felt that he did not need to give the dedication again, having transcribed it from the edition itself in the immediately preceding entry), as well as two sentences introducing the dedication (given in blue above) and two sentences following it (likewise given in blue) explaining when and where the printed edition would be available—implying that it was not yet available as of the date of publication of that issue of L’Avantcoureur, 5 Mar 1764. This is the first public announcement of op. 1, and can thus be regarded as the earliest known advertisement of music composed by Mozart:
These sonatas by a composer aged seven years
will appear in an engraved edition within a few days.
They can be had at the usual music dealers & from
the author at the Hôtel de Beauvais, Rue St. Antoine,
until the child’s departure for England, around the
20th of next month.
The address refers to the residence of Count Maximilian Emanuel Franz van Eyck, the Bavarian ambassador, where the Mozarts had been staying while in Paris (Dokumente, 27). In the event, the Mozarts departed Paris on 10 Apr, ten days earlier than predicted in L’Avantcoureur.
Gertraut Haberkamp, in her standard reference work on Mozart first editions, gives Feb 1764 as the date of issue for op. 1 (Haberkamp 1986, i:67), but the notice in L’Avantcoureur on 5 Mar suggests that the edition was not yet publicly available by the time the issue went to press. In a letter to Lorenz Hagenauer on 22 Feb 1764, Leopold Mozart writes that they will be going to Versailles again within two weeks (that is, by 7 Mar) to present op. 1 to Madame Victoire:
Wir werden in längstens 14. tägen wieder nach Versailles fahren um das œuvre 1er der gestochenen Sonaten des großen H: Wolfgang der Madame Victoire, zweyten Tochter des Königs, zu überreichen, welcher es dedicirt wird. Das Œuvre 2:d wird glaublich der Madame la Comteße de Teßé dedicirt werden. [Briefe, i:130]
We will go to Versailles again in 14 days at the latest in order to present opus 1, the engraved sonatas by the great Herr Wolfgang, to Madame Victoire, second daughter of the King, to whom it will be dedicated. Opus 2 will likely be dedicated to Madame Countess de Tessé.
The precise date of this second trip to Versailles is unknown, but if we take Leopold at his word, the presentation of op. 1 to Madame Victoire could have taken place as late as 7 Mar, two days after the announcement in L’Avantcoureur. As it seems unlikely that op. 1 would have been made publicly available before its official presentation to its dedicatee, the announcement in L’Avantcoureur and Leopold’s letter to Hagenauer suggest that it is safer to assume that op. 1 was issued in Mar 1764, rather than in Feb.
The dedicatee of op. 1, Madame Victoire de France (Victoire-Louise-Marie-Thérèse, 1733–1799; en.wikipedia, fr.wikipedia), was a daughter of King Louis XV. The Mozart literature generally follows Leopold in referring to Victoire as the king’s “second” daughter, but this designation may be misleading for a modern reader. She was, in fact, his seventh legitimate child and fifth legitimate daughter (regarding the king’s numerous legitimate and illegitimate issue, see fr.wikipedia). The king’s third daughter, Marie-Louise, lived only from 1728 to 1733, dying shortly before Victoire’s birth, but three other sisters survived into adulthood. While all three older sisters were alive, Victoire was known as “Madame Quatrième” (literally “Madame Fourth”), thus helping explain her depiction as one of the “four elements” in Nattier’s portraits of the four sisters in 1751. However, the king’s second daughter, Anne-Henriette, died in 1752, and the eldest sister Louise-Élisabeth (the king’s first child) died in 1759. So by the time of the Mozart family’s visit, Victoire was the king’s second surviving daughter (the first was Marie-Adélaïde, 1732–1800), and his third surviving legitimate child (behind Marie-Adélaïde and the Dauphin Louis, 1729–1765). This is what Leopold means by “second daughter” (“zweyte Tochter”).
The dedication to op. 1 is said to have been written by the Mozarts’ principal champion in France, Friedrich Melchior Baron von Grimm, who is generally thought also to have written the article in L’Avantcoureur (see Dokumente, 31)—a plausible hypothesis for which there seems to be no direct evidence. In any case, the text of the latter appears to be modeled on Grimm’s report published on 1 Dec 1763 in his Correspondance littéraire, a confidential newsletter circulated in manuscript copies to subscribers among European royalty and nobility (the report on Mozart is given in Dokumente, 27–28). An article in the German-language press in Jun 1764 states that Madame Victoire rewarded Wolfgang with a snuff-box (tabatière) worth 80 Louis d’or (see the entry for 7 Jun 1764).
Mozart’s op. 2 (K. 8 and 9) was published soon after op. 1, with a dedication to the Countess de Tessé. According to Leopold Mozart’s letter to Lorenz Hagenauer on 1 Apr 1764, the publication of op. 2 had been delayed by the Countess herself, who rejected the first draft of a dedication composed by Grimm because she did not like to be complimented (Briefe, i:141); negotiations over a revision were slow, as the Countess was mainly at Versailles, while Leopold and Grimm were in Paris. The second paragraph of the dedication as finally printed in op. 2 is a rather tortured compromise:
Vous ne voulez pas, Madame, que je dise de vous ce que tout le Public en dit. Cette rigueur diminuera le regret que j'ai de quitter la France. Si je n'ai plus le bonheur de vous faire ma cour, j'irai dans des pays où je parlerai du moins tant que je voudrai, et de ce que vous êtes, et de ce que je vous dois. [Dokumente, 33]
You do not wish, Madame, that I say of you what the entire public says. This severity will diminish the regret that I have on leaving France. If I no longer have the pleasure of paying compliments to you, I will go to those countries where at least I will speak as much as I wish, of what you are and of what I owe to you.
(Regarding the date of issue of op. 2, see the entry for 9 Apr 1764.)
The original title pages of both op. 1 and 2 refer to Wolfgang as seven years old (“Agé de Sept ans”). Leopold himself writes this in a letter to Maria Theresia Hagenauer dated 1 Feb 1764:
Nun sind 4 Sonaten von Mr: Wolfgang Mozart beym stechen, stellen sie sich den Lermen für, den diese Sonaten in der Welt machen werden, wann am Titlblat stehet daß es ein Werk eines Kindes von 7 Jahren ist … [Briefe, i:126]
Now 4 sonatas by Monsieur Wolfgang Mozart are at the engraver’s; imagine the uproar these sonatas will make in the world when it states on the title page that it is the work of a seven-year-old child ...
The article in Grimm’s Correspondance littéraire published on 1 Dec 1763 states that Wolfgang “will be seven next February” (“aura sept ans au mois de février prochain”). Mozart’s birthday was, of course, not in February, and he turned eight on 27 Jan 1764, not seven. The article in L’Avantcoureur on 5 Mar 1764 states somewhat more accurately (although still with the wrong month) that Wolfgang “has completed his seventh year this month” (“a eu ce mois-ci sept ans accomplis”). For his part, Leopold (writing to Madame Hagenauer just a few days after Wolfgang’s birthday) correctly implied that all or nearly all of the compositional work had been done when Wolfgang was still seven, although he was eight when the sonatas were published.
Versions of the article from L’Avantcoureur appeared in at least seven German-language publications between Mar 1764 and 1766, in two independent translations. The earliest known printing of the first translation was on 30 Mar 1764 in the Hochfürstlich-Bambergische Wöchentliche Frag- und Anzeige-Nachrichten, with the dateline “Paris, den 20ten Martii” (“Paris, 20 March”), just fifteen days after the article’s publication in L’Avantcoureur (Dokumente, 32–33). This printing includes the entire article from L’Avantcoureur except for the final two sentences regarding the availability of op. 1, which would not have been of much use to readers in Bamberg. (Deutsch, Dokumente, 33, describes the relationship between the Bamberg version and the French original incorrectly, stating that the Bamberg version reproduces only the first two paragraphs of the report from L’Avantcoureur. The Bamberg translation actually includes the entire content of the article in L’Avantcoureur except for the last two sentences.)
This translation was also printed, with only a few minor variants in punctuation and wording (and misspelling the family name as “Muzart”), in the Wienerisches Diarium (no. 27, Wed, 4 Apr 1764, ), without the Paris dateline, and omitting the dedication, the two sentences preceding it, and the two following it in L’Avantcoureur.
In Apr 1764, the Bamberg translation was printed again in the Kurz=gefaßte Historische Nachrichten zum Behuf Der Neuern Europäischen Begebenheiten, Auf das Jahr 1764 (Regensburg) (14tes Stück, Apr 1764, 273–74 [= images 287–88]). This printing includes exactly the same content as the Bamberg: that is, the entire article from L’Avantcoureur through to the end of the dedication, with only minor differences from the Bamberg printing in spelling, punctuation, and an occasional word. In this printing, the report from L’Avantcoureur is given entirely in quotes, preceded by a new introductory paragraph. This introduction refers to the report on Mozart as “the second” because it immediately follows another report from Paris that had been printed just before it on page 273.
Der andere dieser Berichte betrifft gewissermassen ebenfalls ein ausseror=
dentliches Phänomenon wenn man anders ein Kind von 7. Jahren, das in die=
sem zartem Alter den geschicktesten Meistern der Tonkunst, so zu sagen, den Vor=
zug streitig machet, mit diesem Nahmen belegen darf. Dieser Bericht lautet fol=
The second of these reports likewise concerns, as it were, an extraordinary
phenomenon, if one may apply this term in another way to a child of seven, who at
this tender age challenges, so to speak, the preeminence of the most skilled masters
of music. This report reads as follows: [...]
The immediately preceding report from Paris concerned a notice to parish priests asking them to reassure their congregations at mass on Sun, 1 Apr 1764, that the annular eclipse of the sun taking place that morning would have no moral or physical effects, and did not portend stunted crops, contagion, or war. (See here for an interactive map of the path of the eclipse [Jubier 2015], showing that the path of totality was quite close to Paris.) In essence, then, the writer for the Nachrichten is saying that young Mozart is a phenomenon of nature, analogous to the recent solar eclipse.
The following year, this same translation of the article from L’Avantcoureur was published yet again in the Historisch-Moralische Belustigungen des Geistes (7. Stück, Hamburg, 1765). This is likewise a lightly adapted version of the Bamberg version, with an appropriately revised opening, and a short additional closing paragraph regarding Mozart in England. This version is printed complete in Dokumente, 46–47; oddly, Deutsch does not mention its obvious relationship to the Bamberg translation and to L’Avantcoureur.
The second, independent translation of the article in L’Avantcoureur was published in the Ordinari=Münchner=Zeitungen on Tue, 3 Apr 1764 (no. 54, 215–216), just three days after the first publication of the Bamberg translation; this version was discovered by David Black, and has apparently not previously been cited or transcribed in the Mozart literature. This Munich version omits the dedication of op. 1, but includes the final paragraph from the original report giving the Mozarts’ address in Paris and the presumptive date of their departure for England. It includes a new introductory sentence, with a dateline (“Paris, 18 March”) two days prior to that of the Bamberg version:
Paris, den 18. Martii. Je sel=
tener es überhaupt sich zuzutragen
pflegt, daß man in allen Theilen der
Wissenschaften und Künste, beson=
ders grosse und glücklich Geister an=
trift, die sich über die gemeine Gren=
zen derselben merklich empor schwin=
gen, je mehr Ursachen hat man der=
gleichen Vollkommenheiten bey an=
noch unreiffen Jahren zu bewundern.
Um so gerechter also ist der Beyfall,
den ganz Paris einem so ausserordent=
lichen Geschäfte dieser Art in der Per=
son eines deutschen Knaben opfert.
Paris, 18 March. Given how seldom
it occurs in general that one finds
in all fields of the sciences and arts
those especially great and fortunate
spirits whose achievement markedly
surpasses the usual boundaries [of those
fields]; all the more reason is there
to wonder at the same perfection in
one of immature years. All the
more justified, then, is the acclaim
given by all Paris to such an extraordinary
example of this sort in the person
of a German boy.
That the Munich translation is entirely independent of the Bamberg is evident from a side-by-side comparison of the first few sentences:
|Munich version||Bamberg version (Dokumente, 32)|
Seit einige Monaten befindet sich
In Paris findet sich seit etliche Monaten
Apart from the striking phrase used in both,“ein wahres Wunder” (“a true miracle” or “true prodigy”, translating “un vrai prodige”), the vocabulary of the two translations diverges at nearly every point, and this degree of difference is maintained throughout. There can be little doubt that the two translations were made independently.
The Munich translation of the final paragraph from L’Avantcoureur reads:
[...] Diese Erstlinge ei=
nes Meister=Kindes werden in wenig
Tägen bey dem Verfasser in dem
Hotel de Beauvois, der St.
Antoni=Strasse und in allen Musik=
Läden zu haben seyn. Den 20sten
dieses, werden sich diese Bewun=
derungs=würdige Kinder nach En=
This is the only known German version of the article from L’Avantcoureur to include the complete final paragraph.
The Munich translation was reprinted in nearly identical form in the Real-Zeitung (Erlang) on 28 Apr 1764 (no. 34, 279–80), lacking only the final phrase with the prospective date of the Mozarts’ departure for England, and with a different introductory sentence:
Etwas für die Liebhaber.
Paris hat bisher ein Wunder der Geschicklichkeit
an einem jungen Knaben zu sehen gehabt, davon die
Erzehlung also lautet: [...]
Something for the Amateur
Paris has recently had the opportunity to see a miracle
of expertise in a young boy, regarding whom the story reads: [...]
A condensed and revised version of the Munich translation appeared yet again in 1766 in Des neueröffneten Historischen-Bilder-Saals Vierzehender Theil (1766, 810), a widely used and often reprinted textbook of “universal history” (we give a transcription of this version on our site here). This version omits any mention of op. 1. The appearance of this article in the popular Bilder-Saal would have made it the first text that many Germans of the time would have read about the young Mozart.
It is possible that Baron Grimm (a native German speaker from Regensburg) was himself responsible for one or (less likely) both of these German versions of the report in L’Avantcoureur. However, L’Avantcoureur seems to have been widely distributed in German-speaking lands (the original of the scan linked here is from the Austrian National Library), and the translations may have been made locally by writers involved with the periodicals that first published them.