Reporter 463, 12 March 2001

Halifax hiding place for rare ĎMozartí manuscript

A unique musical manuscript, showing a previously unknown Mozart adaptation of Handel's Judas Maccabaeus, has been discovered by Department of Music researcher Rachel Cowgill.

Dr Cowgill came across the late 18th-century manuscript full score of Handel's work in Calderdale record office in Halifax. The title page notes that the score contains additional wind and brass parts by Mozart.

Although musicologists had found references to Mozart's arrangement of Handel's piece, they assumed these were a mistake as the manuscript was never traced Ė until now.

Rare find Ė Dr Rachel Cowgill, above left, unearthed the Mozart manuscript in Halifax

Mozart produced arrangements of much of Handel's vocal music, adding wind and brass parts to make them more accessible to contemporary audiences. Some instruments used by Mozart, such as clarinets and trombones, were relative newcomers to the orchestra.

This manuscript suggests that Mozart's modernisations of Handel were more numerous than previously thought and adds more detail to his activities in the late 1780s, shortly before his death.

The score also sheds new light on Handelian touches heard in works such as the Requiem and The Magic Flute, dating from the last year of Mozart's life.

The manuscript was presented to the Halifax Choral Society in 1850. It's likely it came from a Moravian settlement in Germany. At least one prominent Moravian clergyman in England had connections with music publishers in Leipzig, who sold him a number of manuscript scores in May 1817. One might have been this arrangement, subsequently passed to William Priestley, a known collector of German choral music and an early member of Halifax Choral Society.

"Itís a very exciting find", says Rachel. "From the work Iíve done so far, the evidence that this is indeed an unknown Mozart arrangement of Handelís oratorio is very persuasive".

Instrumental parts also found in Halifax show that the Choral Society regularly performed the Mozart arrangement in the mid 19th century. Dr Cowgill is planning to edit the arrangement, and is discussing a performance with Halifax Choral Society.


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