Lost Mozart music played first time in 200 years

Museum of Prague hosts performance of lost piece that provides glimpse into rivalry between Mozart and Antonio Salieri.

Raphael Poch ,

Musician Lukas Vendl plays a recently discovered music manuscript composed by Wolfgang Ama
Musician Lukas Vendl plays a recently discovered music manuscript composed by Wolfgang Ama
David W Cerny/Reuters

An old and lost piece of Mozart music that had been missing for more 200 years was performed in Prague on Tuesday night, for the first time since being rediscovered.

The piece was a collaboration between heretofore thought rivals Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Italian composer Antonio Salieri. A third unknown composer, by the name of Cornetti, also collaborated on the composition. While Mozart and Salieri have been thought of throughout history as being bitter rivals, the piece proves that the two composers could work together and therefore is considered to be of particular historical significance for the world of classical music. 

The piece, a cantata by the name of "Per la Ricuperata Salute di Offelia" (A Salute to the Recuperating Ophelia) spans over four minutes of music. It was composed on a libretto by Vienna court poet Lorenzo Da Ponte in 1785 and was first found in the archives of the Czech Museum of Music in November 2015 by a German musicologist and composer, Timo Jouko Herrmann, who first recognized name of the cantata while browsing the museum's online catalogs. "We knew the title from advertising from 1785," said the German musicologist. "I was thrilled when I read it. I thought 'could it be that the piece is in Prague and no one detected it?'" 

The music was played for a live audience in the museum on a harpsichord (plucking piano). 

Museum spokesperson, Sarka Sockalova, told reporters that the piece is "a really valuable work." Not only does it prove that Mozart and Salieri could work together, but it was written to welcome Vienna-based English soprano Nancy Storace back to the stage after a brief loss of her singing voice. This was not the first collaboration between Mozart and De Ponte in honor of Storace - the two also wrote the part of Susanna in "The Marriage of Figaro" for the soprano. 

Hermman told the Associated Press that in spite of it being assumed that a terrible rivalry took place between the two composers, even to the point that rumors had spread about Salieri having poisoned Mozart, the cantata "shows a quite friendly outcome between the two composers."

The original piece had been acquired in 1949-50 when the museum gained ownership over a collection of materials. The musical piece had gone unrecognized until November, 2015.