Vienna, 6 December.
Music has suffered an irreplaceable loss:
Herr Mozart, the artist and darling of our age,
surrendered up this past night his beautiful,
harmonious spirit, and now mixes his heavenly
tones with the choir of the immortals. He died
too soon for his family and for art, to which
he would have offered many more monuments
of his abilities.
His last work was the composition of
a cantata, which he provided here to the
Masons, of which he was a member, on the
occasion of the dedication of their new temple,
and which is said to be a masterpiece of noble
simplicity; he was the foremost master on the
keyboard, and out of modesty recognized many
as stronger than himself.
Although not published until 13 Dec, the dateline of this report is 6 Dec 1791, the day after Mozart died. It is thus the earliest dated newspaper report of his death. (The earliest to be published was the notice in the Wiener Zeitung the following day, 7 Dec; see Dokumente, 369.)
The correspondent’s quick filing of the report may suggest that he or she had contacts in the composer’s circle. It is also striking that the report is the lead item in that issue of the Bayreuther Zeitung; the paper’s editors seem to have considered Mozart’s death an event of the highest importance. The effusive rhetoric of the report and its prominent place in that issue is yet another confirmation that Mozart, far from being neglected by his contemporaries, was already widely recognized as one of the great composers of his age.
The cantata mentioned in the report is Laut verkünde unsre Freude, K. 623, the so-called Kleine Freimaurer Cantata. Mozart had entered the cantata into his catalog of his own works under the date 15 Nov 1791; it was first performed at the new Masonic lodge, Zur neugekrönten Hoffnung on 17 Nov 1791. According to a report of that performance in the Brünner Zeitung on 19 Nov 1791, the performance had been public, with printed tickets; thus the mention of the cantata in the Bayreuther Zeitung does not necessarily imply that the paper’s correspondent was a Mason or had knowledge of private Masonic events in Vienna.
Also unusual in this report is the reference to Mozart’s modesty about his keyboard playing: “. . . he was the foremost master on the keyboard, and out of modesty recognized many as stronger than himself.”
Piontek (2009, 138–39, crediting Habermann) mentions this report, but cites only snippets. He points out a similarity of wording between the report in the Bayreuther Zeitung and the one in the Wiener Zeitung: the first line of the former is “Die Tonkunst hat einen unersetzlichen Verlust erlitten,” whereas the last line of the latter is “. . . und diese geben das Maß des unersetzlichen Verlustes, den die Tonkust durch seinen Tod erleidet.” This is, however, a common trope in German-language obituaries and other writings about death, as one can easily verify by doing a Google search on the quoted words “unersetzlichen Verlust.” It is the only similarity between the two reports, and thus too slender a thread to support an argument for a direct relationship between the two. Piontek seems not to have realized that the item in the Bayreuther Zeitung is the earliest known dated public report of Mozart’s death.
It has not yet been possible to consult Habermann’s original article, which appeared in a monthly supplement to a regional German newspaper in 1991.
On the report in Brünner Zeitung, see Brauneis 1993 and Neue Folge, 73. The date of the performance at Zur neugekrönten Hoffnung was first published in NMD, 71, based on a pre-publication copy of Edge 1992, 161, which cites a slightly later publication of the same report in Das Wienerblättchen on 26 Nov 1791.
Brauneis, Walther. 1993. “‘Wir weihen diesen Ort zum Heiligtum. . .’ Marginalien zur Uraufführung von Mozarts ‘Kleiner Freimaurer-Kantate"’ und des ihm zugeschriebenen Kettenliedes ‘Zum Schluß der Loge’.” Österreichische Musikzeitschrift 48:12–16.
Edge, Dexter. 1992. Review Article, Mary Sue Morrow, Concert Life in Haydn’s Vienna: Aspects of a Developing Musical and Social Institution. Sociology of Music No. 7. Stuyvesant, New York: Pendragon Press. In: The Haydn Yearbook, 17:108–166.
Habermann, Sylvia. 1991. “Bayreuth und der ‘unsterbliche’ Mozart.” Heimatbote (monthly supplement to the Nordbayerischer Kurier) 2:1–3.
Piontek, Frank. 2009. “Rätsel, Spuren und Verweise. Mozart und Bayreuth.” Acta Mozartiana 56:133–67.
Credit: DE (following Piontek and Habermann)
Search Term: tonkunst, mozardt
BSB, 4 Eph.pol. 56-1791
First Published: Sun, 20 Jul 2014
Updated: Sat, 16 Dec 2017
Edge, Dexter. 2014. “The earliest dated report of Mozart’s death (6 December 1791).” In: Mozart: New Documents, edited by Dexter Edge and David Black. First published 20 July 2014; updated 16 December 2017. https://www.mozartdocuments.org/documents/6-december-1791/
Edge, Dexter. 2014. “The earliest dated report of Mozart’s death (6 December 1791).” In: Mozart: New Documents, edited by Dexter Edge and David Black. First published 20 July 2014; updated 16 December 2017. [direct link]