The extraordinary news from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, that the 82-year-old librarian, Joseph Havashvilli of the city’s 380-year-old conservatory of music, had concealed for the last sixty years, Mozart’s Symphony No. 42, has amazed the music world.
Musicologists have known ever since 1791 that Mozart sketched in the greatest detail a symphony to rival the “Jupiter,” his Symphony No. 41. But at the time of his death and amidst the ensuing confusion, many of his late manuscripts including this last symphony were lost. In the intervening 200+ years, the work has been sold to aristocratic collectors across Europe, finding its way via St. Petersburg and Uzbekistan to the collection of Havashvilli who admitted his priceless possession on his deathbed last Sunday. His wife Inashvilli will be awarded an undisclosed sum from the Salzburg Mozarteum in Austria for the symphony’s return. The Mozarteum is already planning its first performance tentatively scheduled for January 27, 2012, Mozart’s birthday, when it will be conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Musicians who have already see the work have praised its brilliance and creativity. The first movement begins with a theme similar in many ways to the last movement of the “Jupiter” but, some have opined, more original and discursive with its rapid question and answer characteristics.
The slow movement has been described as prescient of the opening of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, and the Minuet and Trio, more scherzo in character than any previous work, foreshadows the faster variations from Elgar’s Enigma Variations. But it is the last movement with its driving rhythms, use of trombones, marimba, bass drum, and off-stage chorus that has already earned the work its sobriquet “Uranus.”
In the meantime, those who have read and consumed Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will smile at the thought that the answer to life, the universe, and everything, really is 42.