Sep 29, 2013

Tadeusz Krzeszowiak: Freihaustheater in Wien 1787-1801 (Vienna: Böhlau, 2009)

The following is an extended version of a review that I published in 2010 on the Web and in the Newsletter of the Mozart Society of America. This book – which is the most amazing festival of Mozart related nonsense published in the last ten years – would normally be of very little interest. But the fact that it was partially funded with Austrian taxpayers' money, makes it worthy of a more detailed treatment. I recently came across a "scholarly" Mozart project (initiated by the Mozartgemeinde Wien and also funded by the City of Vienna's culture department) whose results are so ludicrously worthless that I decided to revisit Krzeszowiak's book and to concern myself with other enterprises of this splendid public institution called "Kulturabteilung der Stadt Wien".

This book makes a formidable initial impression, containing numerous reproductions of well-known images and some less known documents. The author, a professor of engineering, has approached his topic with great enthusiasm; he attempts to collect all the research on the history of the Theater auf der Wieden in a single volume, a project made possible with the financial support of the Austrian Ministry of Science and two Austrian federal state governments. Unfortunately closer inspection reveals serious problems characteristic of many amateur historians.

Krzeszowiak presents himself as a pioneer, offering new sources to the reader, yet he seems unaware of nearly all previous scholarly research on Vienna's Freihaus and the Wiednertheater. He has obviously established his own parallel universe of make-believe Mozart scholarship, where he pretends to be a pioneer of archival research. With the exception of a few theater posters (given with erroneous shelfmarks), there are actually no "photos and documents presented here for the first time" as advertised in the blurb. It has been decades since Otto Erich Deutsch and Else Spiesberger published the Linz archival material on the Freihaus, and the plans in the state archive of St. Pölten were the subject of my presentation in 2006 in Brussels and my 2008 article "Neue Forschungsergebnisse zum Theater auf der Wieden und Emanuel Schikaneder" in the Wiener Geschichtsblätter. Ignaz von Seyfried's "Journal des Theaters an der Wien", parts of which Krzeszowiak presents in transcription (rife with amusing errors and Seyfried's signature presented as "illegible"), has been available complete since 1997 in Stephan Punderlitschek's transcription, and Anke Sonnek also transcribed much of the manuscript in her 1999 book on Emanuel Schikaneder. Had Krzeszowiak been aware of David J. Buch's publications over the last twelve years on this theater's repertory, he would have been able to give correct dates and titles for pieces, for example Emanuel Schikaneder's "Der wohltätige Derwisch" was already in the repertory of the Theater auf der Wieden in 1791 and was not first performed in 1793, as Kreszowiak claims. He would also have been aware of the surviving musical and textual sources from the theater that Buch has discussed in numerous publications.

Krzeszowiak's citations from eighteenth-century periodicals and cited archival shelfmarks are taken almost exclusively from older German-language secondary literature (particularly the writings of Anton Bauer and Carl Glossy). Because he uses shelfmarks that are outdated by decades ("Archiv des Landes Niederösterreich, Wiener Stadthauptmannschaft, Akt Nr. 161 ex 1800 ƒƒ."), sometimes from archives that were disbanded right after WWII ("Archiv der Ministeriums für Inneres und Justiz") and because he faithfully repeats the errors in the secondary literature, it is obvious that he never personally examined the majority of these documents himself. Concerning the Freemasonry documents in the "Vertrauliches Archiv" in the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv Krzeszowiak diligently copies all the shelfmarks from the secondary literature and presents them as if this material had not been published elsewhere decades ago, thereby staging himself as pioneering researcher. Moreover, there is not a single transcription in this book without mistakes. No archival source is cited with the correct shelfmark. Countless words easily recognized by readers familiar with contemporary Kurrentschrift are merely indicated as "illegible". The fact that the author has only a marginal knowledge of the Mozart literature results in a continuous stream of absurdities. For example, Krzeszowiak claims to provide the "first" transcription of Mozart's marriage certificate. In actuality this document has been transcribed and published decades ago, and in a far more accurate and complete manner than Krzeszowiak's botched transcription. Krzeszowiak reproduces the plans of the Freihaus in black and white, failing to understand the significance of the colors that separate actual structures from proposed building projects.

Roughly half way into the book the author suddenly changes to a topic that has nothing to do with the title of the book: "Mozart 1756-1791. Aspects of Biography." Here too we encounter a jumble of inaccuracies and errors that have long since been corrected by Mozart scholarship. The nonsense compiled in this book never fails to amaze. We learn that Schikaneder used "live[!] lions, monkeys and snakes" in the performance of "Die Zauberflöte"; that "Gluck himself chose Mozart as his successor as court musician"; that Mozart received "a fee of 900 gulden" for Così fan tutte (only 450 gulden are documented); that Franz de Paula Hofer "was a violinist in Schikaneder's troupe" (he was a court employee) and that Schikaneder "was expelled from the freemasons, because in the 'Zauberflöte' he had betrayed one of their secret initiation rituals". Josepha Hofer's 1790 contract with Schikaneder is copied right out of Rudolph Angermüller's flawed book "MOZART 1485/86 bis 2003" (Tutzing: Schneider, 2004). But Krzeszowiak did not realize that Angermüller's version of this document is a mere torso (presenting only three of nine paragraphs), because Angermüller just copied the text from two pictures which were published on the internet when the contract in 2006 was auctioned by the firm Otto Haas. Just like Angermüller, Krzeszowiak is unaware of the fact that Emil Karl Blümml already published this document in its entirety in 1923, when it still belonged to Franz Josef Böhm.

Krzeszowiak presents us with a "Constanze van[!] Nissen", a "Franz Xaver Mozart" (all through his life his name was Wolfgang), a "National-Hoftheter", a month by the name of "rber" (recte "7ber", i.e. September), a monthly rent of 130[!] gulden for one of Mozart's apartments and syphilis as cause of Süßmayr's death. The author claims that Mozart was buried in a mass grave with other corpses; that a painting of a supposedly Viennese lodge includes portraits of Mozart and Schikaneder and that a photograph of Max Keller's family shows Constanze Mozart. The first issue has been settled recently in a post of mine on this blog. The erroneous assumption that the painting of a lodge in the Wienmuseum actually shows Mozart was caused by the late H. C. Robbins Landon, who a freemason himself, failed to realize that the two persons on the far right of the picture both wear a golden angle on their chest. In my aforesaid article about Schikaneder and the Theater auf der Wieden I pointed out that these angles are the exclusive insignia of the lodge's chairman and the first supervisor which precludes the identification of the two individuals as "Mozart and Schikaneder".

Painting of a masonic lodge (Wien Museum Inv. Nr. 47.927)

The notorious "photograph of Constanze Mozart" issue was caused by a hallucination of an Altötting archivist, who was so heavily afflicted by the "2006 Mozart anniversary craze" that he dug up a carton curio which had already been published by E. H. Mueller von Asow in 1958. But of course neither naivete nor gullibility of journalists can alter the well-documented history of photography. Owing to the lack of doublet achromatic lenses which were not yet available in 1840, there are no short-exposure open air group portraits from that time. The earliest daylight photograph of this kind is Carl Ferdinand Stelzner's group portrait of the "Hamburger Künstlerverein" from 1843 (one year after Constanze Mozart's death).

Stelzner's 1843 group portrait of the Hamburger Künstlerverein, the earliest open air photograph of a group of people (Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg)

We encounter such faulty readings as "Jacob …. CugHauptmann" (actually Jacob Edler Herr v Schickh Kreishauptmann), "Johann Thams (actually Thomas) von Trattner" as godfather of Mozart's son, as well as the note that "Herr Mayer" in 1800 performed the role of "Anraux" (actually this singer's name was Meier and the role was Aeneas). Mistakes also occur when Krzeszowiak reads printed sources, for example, he was not even able to correctly transcribe the Zettel of the "Zauberflöte" premiere (turning Mozart from a "Kammerkompositeur" into a "Hofkompositeur"). Benedikt Schack's opera "Die  geplagten Ehemänner" ends up as "Die geplanten Ehemänner" and Neukäufler's "Der Rothgärbers Sohn" repeatedly appears as "Der Rothgräbers Sohn" (this is not a typo, the author simply does not know better). One finds numerous incorrect proper names such as "Karl Gorifchet's Buchhandlung" (recte Gorischek's), "Oskar Teuber" (recte Teubner), "Reghini" (recte Righini) and "Händl" (recte Händel), and flawed original citations presented as if they are complete and accurate (for example the quotes from Blümml's and Gugitz's book Alt-Wiener Thespiskarren on p. 72 and Friedl's Vertraute Briefe on p. 169). How Josepha Hofer, "ein Mädchen von 8 Grafen[!] in 1799 performed "im[!] Conzert auf dem Pianoforte" at a "muskialische[!] Akademie" has to be seen to be believed - and keep in mind that these goofs illustrate the general quality level of the whole book.

The book lacks a bibliography and a list of primary sources; instead the end of the volume contains a series of advertisements by sponsors. More than 100 typos are proof that the book never received a thorough proofreading and editing. But even with such corrections, one would be left wondering why the author did not consult experts in the field in order to produce a credible and more focused study.

Two questions remain after the reading of 496 pages: 1) Did Professor Krzeszowiak really think that he was doing pathbreaking new research? And 2) Should such a bizarrely flawed book not be taken as an opportunity to rethink the funding of such publications with taxpayers' money and try to involve independent, if possible foreign experts into the distribution of these funds?

1 comment:

  1. The problem of false transcription is reminding me the Barenreiter editions where they just can't make correct transcripions of the scetches in major Mozart operas even in the most recent editions! I don't even mention the "urtext" editions.