A previously unknown piece of music handwritten by Mozart has been found in France, a researcher said Thursday. The 18th-century melody sketch is missing the harmony and instrumentation, but was described as an important find.
Ulrich Leisinger, head of research at the International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg, Austria, said there is no doubt that Mozart wrote the single sheet.
“This is absolutely new,” Leisinger said. “We have new music here.”
“His handwriting is absolutely clearly identifiable,” he added. “There's no doubt that this is an original piece handwritten by Mozart.”
The work, described as the preliminary draft of a musical composition, was found by a library in Nantes in western France as staff members were going through its archives. Leisinger says the library contacted his foundation for help authenticating the work.
“It's a melody sketch, so what's missing is the harmony and the instrumentation, but you can make sense out of it,” he said. “The tune is complete. It's only one part and not the whole score with eight or twelve parts.
“One can really get a feeling of what Mozart meant, although we do not know how he would have orchestrated it.”
There have been about 10 Mozart finds of such importance over the past 50 years, he said. If sold, the single sheet would likely be worth about $100,000.
The sheet was bequeathed to the library by an autograph collector in the 19th century and was catalogued back then as part of the library's collection, he said.
But it was later “entirely forgotten,” essentially becoming lost to scholars for more than a century, and was only rediscovered by the library as it recatalogued its archives in recent years.