4 pages, oblong 4to (23.3 x 32.1cm), paper ruled with a 12-stave rastrum, Tyson Watermark 95, untrimmed, retaining deckle edge, a few later manuscript annotations in pencil and crayon, attestation of authenticity in ink by Heinrich Henkel to upper margin of first page ("Von Mozart und seiner Handschrift. Heinr. Henkel"), pinholes, modern cloth-backed folder, no place or date [Vienna, 1787-1789], splitting along hinge, a few minute tears to upper edges
Mozart composed music for piano four hands throughout his short life. A domestic music-making form par excellence, the keyboard four-hand medium drew forth some of his most scintillating and inventive scores, including the attractive pair of sonatas K.358 (186c) and K.381 (123a) of 1773-1774, written probably in the first instance for Mozart's sister Nannerl, the flashily difficult C-major sonata K.521 of 1787, written for Franziska von Jacquin, the sister of Mozart's great friend Gottfried von Jacquin, and, of course, the towering masterpiece of the genre, the great F-major sonata K.497 of August 1786, possibly written for Theresia von Trattner, the dedicatee of one of Mozart's finest solo piano works, the C-minor piano sonata K.457 (sold in these rooms, 21 November 1990, lot 90).
Although unfinished, the Allegro in G is equal in quality to the best of Mozart's music for piano duet. Written in the marvellously dynamic script of Mozart's maturest years, it is remarkable for the boldness of its thematic conception and its harmonies: notably ear-catching is the harmonic purple patch in the second group, where an expected cadence in the dominant key is supplanted by a feint to the flattened sixth degree of the scale, E flat. The circumstances surrounding its composition are unknown, although the paper-type places it between the end of 1787 and 1789, i.e. sometime between the composition of Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte; the dating in the sixth edition of Köchel's catalogue (1964) - supposedly late summer 1786 - is mistaken. As to the intended performers - one may easily imagine Mozart himself and one of his numerous female friends or pupils. In this latter regard, one unusual feature of the score deserves particular mention - the respective designations of the treble and the bass staves: 'Mano dritta [right hand]' and 'Mano sinistra' [left hand], rather than the more common labelling 'Primo' and 'Secondo'. One must assume therefore that Mozart's designations here indicate that the left hand of the player seated to the right and the right hand of the player seated to the left are crossed throughout - a mode of playing which will have facilitated a particular intimacy between the two players. Such a positioning of the hands can be seen in the Mozart family portrait of 1780-1781, which shows Wolfgang and Nannerl at the keyboard (with Wolfgang on the left).
The Allegro was first published by Johann Anton André in 1796 with another fragmentary movement in G for piano four hands, the so-called 'Andante' K.357 (500a); a later edition of the two fragments, with completions by Julius André, followed in 1853. There is, however, no actual connection between the two fragments, K.500a dating probably from Mozart's last year, 1791. When the present fragment came to be edited in the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe in the 1950s, it was Julius André's edition which provided the main source, the autograph then regarded as lost. The music of the autograph differs in a number of details from the NMA edition.
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