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The Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation is delighted to be able to report on one of its most valuable acquisitions in the last ten years. Thanks to the generosity of Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler-Thumann, a letter
that Wolfgang Amadé Mozart wrote to his friend Anton Stoll in 1791 is now a part of the Mozarteum Foundation’s Biblioteca Mozartiana, a library that houses its collection of original Mozart autographs. The last time that the Foundation was able to acquire one of Mozart’s original letters was in 2001. As the Foundation’s president, Johannes Honsig-Erlenburg, explains, “This is a very special moment for the Foundation and a stroke of the greatest good fortune that the family that owns this particular Mozart letter approached the Mozarteum Foundation directly. We are grateful to the family for saving us from having to compete in the sort of bidding war that a charitable institution like the Mozarteum Foundation has long been unable to afford. And what a gift Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler-Thumann has made us by financing the acquisition of this letter! As a result we are able to make Mozart’s frivolous joke accessible to a worldwide audience.” Rolando Villazón, who is the Mozarteum Foundation’s official ambassador and the intendant of the Mozart Week Festival, has the following to say about the significance of this priceless acquisition: “Every letter that Mozart wrote opens up a new door that grants us access to the soul of the greatest musical genius of all time. To discover a new letter from Mozart is like finding a new flower in a wonderfully beautiful garden.” Mozart’s letters have always fascinated music lovers as much as musicians and musicologists. They provide us with a wealth of information about his life, his works and his thinking. They reveal the composer not only as an artist who planned and conceived everything very precisely but also as an unbelievably witty human being with a very real sense of humour and a propensity for the occasional coarse joke. All of these aspects can be found in what at first sight may appear to be the unassuming letter that Mozart wrote to his colleague and good friend Anton Stoll (1747–1805) on 12 July 1791, less than six months before his death. Stoll was then based in Baden near Vienna. Mozart often sent his wife Constanze to take the waters at Baden, and Stoll helped him to find suitable lodgings for her. In June and July Constanze again took the waters at the Antonienbad in Baden. These baths were particularly expensive and as a result they were “visited only by sick people from the upper classes”, to quote a contemporary account. Mozart visited his wife on several occasions during this time and used the opportunity to perform several of his works in the town’s parish church, where Stoll was choirmaster and, as such, responsible for performances of sacred music. It was for Stoll that Mozart wrote one of his best-known sacred works, the Ave verum K 618. Composed on 17/18 June 1791, it was performed on the Feast of Corpus Christi (23 June) that same year in the Baden parish church. The contents of Mozart’s letter are briefly and easily summarized. In it he asks his friend, the choirmaster Anton Stoll, to send him the scores of two works that they had previously performed together in the church in Baden. But Mozart went to great lengths to embed this simple request in a typical web of jokes.