Este artículo se encuentra también en español (anterior)
Here is the first part of an article I wrote en 2008 on the relationship between Mozart and the Spaniard Vicente Martin i Soler. I’ll post the other two parts soon.
I would like to leave written evidence, in this modest article, of a fact about which I do not know any references, in spite of the amount of time that I have spent looking into it. I am talking about a second quotation that Mozart dedicates to Martin i Soler, apart from the well known one in the second act of his Don Giovanni. I will also venture in trying to find the reasons that encouraged him to quote the spaniard’s music in two of his most perfect works, as the mentioned Don Giovanni and the Clarinet Concert.
As I said, the quotation to Martin I Soler in Don Giovanni is well known enough. Both, Mozart’ s quotation and the original from Soler’ s Una cosa rara can be listened to here. Besides, it is true that the Valencian composer, fell into oblivion for a long time and, if his name was never deleted from the musical archives, is mainly due to the little gift by the Salzburger of placing in his most outstanding opera a complete quotation, in music and in text, from Una cosa rara.
It must be taken into account that Mozart is not the librettist of his opera. It was Lorenzo Da Ponte, a friend and collaborator of Soler’s. Therefore, Mozart could turn out to have nothing to see with the inclusion of the mentioned quotation, being it an idea from the librettist, who quotes himself as the libretist of Cosa rara. This hypothesis may lose weight if framed inside the aesthetic digressions of musicians and philosophers from the Enlightenment about the pre-eminence of either music or text in an opera. Mozart, Kidnap from the serail occupying his mind, had written to his father in October 13th 1781 his famous statement: poetry must be obedient servant of music. Precisely because of this, it wouldn’t make any sense that Mozart folded himself before Da Ponte for such an obvious quotation. Consequently it must be concluded as a basic premise, that the famous quotation to Cosa Rara in Don Giovanni was probably an idea of Mozart’s or, perhaps, an agreement of the two of them. It may not be a wrong idea that Da Ponte could have been satisfied with his autoquote, while Mozart took advantage to criticize Martin y Soler’s fashionable music. Tradition has it that this quotation hides a double sense: First, that of showing that Martini “lo Spagnolo’s” music was on fashion then in Vienna, more than any other successful music of that time, till the extent of a servant like Leporello being able to recognize it in its first chords (Bravi! “Cosa rara!”). Thus, the excerpt is one of the usual scores of that amateur orchestra hired by Don Giovanni. On the other hand, it confirms the the servant’s cultural superiority over the lord -who does not seem to recognize the pieces he hears-, as a person cultivated enough to have attended the opera theatres of the city. In fact he already knows those pieces, one of them by Sarti (Fra i due litiganti) and the other from his Mozart’s Figaro (At this point I make the following reflection: If the action takes place in Spain, where these operas hadn’t still been premiered, how could Leporello know them so well? According to his “catalogue”, he had lived in Germany though not in Austria -it wasn’t really the same thing-. All right, signore Da Ponte, we can accept that he could have listened to them in Germany-Austria.).
Let’s see the enigmatic answer by Leporello, which is totally opened to irony:
–Che ti par del bel concerto? (What’s your opinion about this beautiful concert?) -asks Don Giovanni, to what the servant answers:
–È conforme al vostro merto (Good enough for someone like you).
This could be taken as a proof of submission to the lord, just a kind of flattery. Nevertheless, the audience, who knows the thoughts of the servant, also knows that he is been sarcastic in his answer. I personally think that those merits (il vostro metro) that Leporello mentions are not really honourable (Don Giovanni’s low moral condition), so Mozart wants to “unmask” the lower quality that he considers Martin y Soler’s opera has, which was much more appreciated than his own works. We know the scorn that Mozart often used to treat some mediocre musicians. An example of this could be the cruelty applied on the dedicatee horn player of his K. 412 concert. Thus, we could guess that, behind this quotation, there might be all the contrary to a tribute to our beloved Valencian. (To be continued)