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Salieri-Mozart cantata sheds new light on their fervid rivalry

Lost for over 200 years, a cantata co-written by classical maestros Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri rang out in public for the first time on Tuesday, shedding new light on their reputed intense rivalry.

Salieri-Mozart cantata sheds new light on their fervid rivalry
Czech musician Lukas Vendl plays after the recently discovered music notes composed by the Austrian and Italian composers. Photo: Mikel Cizek/AFP

The Italian composer was allegedly so jealous of the Austrian prodigy that he once tried to poison him – a claim rejected by experts as the collaboration was performed in Prague.

“The part composed by Mozart is, shall we say, more ingenious and dramatic, while the other two verses are more lyrical,” musician Lukas Vendl told reporters after playing the four-minute composition on a harpsichord.

“But it's impossible to deduce from it who was a better composer.”

The cantata from 1785 is “key to a new understanding of the relationship between Mozart and Salieri,” according to Timo Jouko Herrmann, the German musicologist and composer who found the work.

Herrmann said it suggests the men were “colleagues who worked together” rather than rivals and undermines a legend suggesting Salieri may have played a role in Mozart's untimely death at 36 in 1791.

Titled “Per la ricuperata salute di Offelia” (To Ophelia's health) the cantata was jointly composed by Mozart, Salieri and an unknown musician named Cornetti.

It accompanies a libretto by Italian poet Lorenzo Da Ponte and is dedicated to popular English soprano Nancy Storace (1765-1817), who returned to the stage after losing her voice for a spell.

The score lay unidentified in the Czech Museum of Music since the 1950s but Herrmann was finally able to attribute it to the two composers thanks to access to new information on the Internet, according to a museum statement.

Scores of the cantata had been distributed at the time by a Viennese merchant, Artaria and Comp. The Prague copy is the only one to have survived.

False portrayal

The discovery is especially interesting in light of a legend discounted by historians: Salieri was said to have fatally poisoned Mozart out of jealousy over the Austrian wunderkind's talent

First appearing in Alexander Pushkin's 19th-century poetic drama “Mozart and Salieri,” the rumour was later featured in the play and 1984 film “Amadeus”, which historians say grossly exaggerated Salieri's rivalry with Mozart.

“We all know the film 'Amadeus.' Salieri is mischaracterised in it,” said Ulrich Leisinger from the International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg.

“He didn't poison Mozart. The two composers regularly met up and collaborated in Vienna.”

The film was shot in the Czech capital, where Mozart spent considerable time in the 18th century as it was then part of the Austrian Empire.

Prague played host to the premiere of his celebrated opera Don Giovanni in October 1787, which later had a lukewarm reception in the empire's capital Vienna.

Mozart debuted another opera, The Clemency of Titus, in Prague in 1791.

This year marks the 260th anniversary of Mozart's birth and the 225th anniversary of his death.

“As far as I know, it's the only piece jointly written by Mozart and Salieri,” said Herrmann.

“But who knows: in a treasure house like this, anything can happen,” he said of Prague's music museum.

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MUSIC

What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.

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