A lost and recently rediscovered Mozart symphony will be heard for the first time in North America at 9 tonight on the Arts & Entertainment Network.
Titled "The Mozart Miracle," the hour-long program concludes with the performance of Mozart's Symphony in A minor (K. 16a), taped Dec. 9 in Odense, Denmark, where the music was discovered in 1982 after lying neglected in a bundle of old manuscripts for nearly 200 years. If genuine (and there seem no serious reasons to doubt its authenticity), it was probably composed when Mozart was 12 and is his first symphony in a minor key.
Since the symphony takes only 15 minutes to perform, most of the program is devoted to glimpses of the life of Mozart and discussions of the music -- how it was found and whether it is by Mozart. Experts talk about the origin of the paper (in the 1760s), the handwriting of the manuscript (not Mozart's), and how it came to Odense (bought in 1793 by a musical society that gave weekly concerts). Most listeners will be inclined to agree with Prof. Jan LaRue of New York University: "I'm happy to say that I enthusiastically believe that this is a work of Mozart."
The music itself, in a bright, neatly played performance by the Odense Symphony Orchestra and conductor Tamas Veto, sounds like the work of the young genius, particularly in the songlike slow movement and the lilting, well-crafted rondo finale.
The program -- a cable TV offering -- is hosted by Tom Hulce, who played Mozart in the movie "Amadeus" and fills out the time by talking about Mozart, his music and his character as portrayed in the film:
"Some people couldn't stand him -- his off-color jokes, his arrogance and, more and more, his drinking," Hulce says. "It took me a while to get that through my head." This is as simple, and perhaps exaggerated, as his description of the symphony as "a little masterpiece." It is more of an apprentice piece, but it does have a Mozartean charm.
Among the bonuses in the program is a film clip of one of the best scenes in "Amadeus" -- where Mozart sits down at a piano, begins tinkering with a little march by Salieri and transforms it into the brilliant "Non piu andrai" from "The Marriage of Figaro." That scene is a masterpiece.