Nov 14, 2014

The Continuing "Jeunehomme" Nonsense

In October 2014 Warner Classics released the following CD:

In the booklet of this recording the musicologist Nicolas Southon let his stunning ignorance run wild as follows:
Did the composer originally intend to perform it himself or did he write it specifically for Miss Jeunehomme? It was certainly she who gave the work its first performance when she was in Salzburg at the end of January 1777. Little is known about this French pianist referred to in Mozart family correspondence as Jenomy or Jénomé. She came from Paris and, as such, probably embodied the broader horizons for which the composer was yearning.
No "Miss Jeunehomme" ever existed, the name being a deliberate early 20th-century invention. The nickname of Mozart's piano concerto K. 271 has been corrected to "Jenamy" since my discovery in 2004 of the identity of the person for whom Mozart wrote it. Further discussion concerning the name has become pointless, as "Jeunehomme" is a fantasy appellation invented by Théodore Wyzewa and Georges de Saint-Foix, who simply transferred «le jeune homme», their favorite place-holder for «Mozart», to a pianist whose real identity they were unable to determine. Jenamy on the other hand is what the real woman who commissioned and premiered the work was actually called, and I think one can fairly expect musicians and record producers to replace a spurious name with that of the flesh-and-blood musician for whom the concerto K. 271 was actually written.

Victoire Jenamy's death certificate (she died on 5 September 1812), issued by the City of Clermont-Ferrand for Joseph Jenamy who in 1813 wanted to get married again (A-Wstm, SP, VKA 11/1813). The deceased, who around 1776 had left her husband, had taken her maiden name again.

The transcription of Victoire Jenamy's death certificate (with thanks to Ian Allan)

I recently had a little discussion with the embarrassingly cocky deputy editor of the BBC Music Magazine Jeremy Pound who told me that "my work might enjoy a wider audience, if I made a greater effort to publish and disseminate it properly" – the word "properly" of course referring to publications in print which (at least in the world of some bemused journalists) will always be taken into consideration by other scholars, and eventually by the public. But of course, this is not how things work in the real world where people cannot be made to read scholarly articles and accept scientifically proven facts as the truth. The continuing "Jeunehomme" nonsense, spread by ignorant musicologists and the recording industry, is a case in point. In 2010, one clueless producer even went so far as to tweak the fantasy name "Jeunehomme" into something new:

My identification of the French pianist Victoire Jenamy (1749-1812) as the dedicatee of Mozart's piano concerto K. 271 was published and disseminated (properly) as follows:

The name "Jeunehomme concerto" did not originate in a misunderstanding or through "a corruption of a name" (as some ignoramuses claimed). The name is a total fabrication. Most authors, who dealt with this issue in the last decade, either did not read my publications, or simply did not understand this central point. Some Mozart handbooks, which were published in the 2006 Mozart Year, included my discovery, some authors included it – for reasons of jealousy – without giving my name (as if the truth had dawned on Mozart scholarship from a magical "collective wisdom") and some of them ignored it altogether.

The "Jenamy" entry on p. 232 of The Cambridge Mozart Encyclopedia (Cambridge University Press 2006). The author does not provide a bibliographic source, because he has obviously received his knowledge from a messenger that visited him in a dream.

Some renowned pianists have shown how to proceed honorably on the occasion of a new recording of K. 271. Before Paul Badura-Skoda in 2006 wrote the booklet for his new recording for ARCANA, he asked me to provide him with detailed information concerning my latest research and later sent me a copy of the recording.

In the booklet for her 2011 recording of K. 271, released on the Hyperion label, Angela Hewitt writes the following:

On the occasion of the publication of his book Über Musik. Sämtliche Essays und Reden in 2005 Alfred Brendel, who of course is far above the pettiness of some scholars, updated his 1985 essay "Ermahnungen eines Mozartspielers an sich selbst" ("Admonitions of a Mozart Performer to Himself") to include my discovery. In this essay Brendel writes:
Wer die mysteriöse »Mlle Jeunehomme« war, ist dank der Nachforschungen von Michael Lorenz inzwischen geklärt: Sie hieß Victoire Jenamy, wurde in Straßburg 1749 geboren und war das älteste Kind des Tänzers Jean Georges Noverre. Mysteriös geblieben ist die plötzliche höchste Meisterschaft, die sich in dem für sie komponierten Werk entfaltet.
Thanks to the research of Michael Lorenz the identity of the mysterious »Mlle Jeunehomme« is now clarified: Her name was Victoire Jenamy. She was born in 1749 in Strasbourg and was the eldest child of the dancer Jean Georges Noverre. What remains mysterious however, is the sudden highest mastery that unfolds in the work composed for her.

Very soon after in May 2003 I had discovered the truth about K. 271 and Madame Jenamy, I decided not to become the "Jenamy police" who would call out all the uninformed musicians and recording producers who refuse to accept the historical facts. After all, I have more important things to do than to pursue this kind of propaganda work. But as time went by, I had to realize that the continuing use of the nonsensical fantasy name "Jeunehomme" is a grave injustice towards the artist who paid Mozart good money for composing one of the greatest masterpieces of classical music. We simply owe it to Victoire Jenamy to give her name together with the concerto that she commissioned.

The signatures on Joseph Jenamy's and Victoire Noverre's 1768 marriage contract (A-Ws, Merkantilgericht, Fasz. 3, 1. Reihe, lit J, Nr. 2). The undersigned persons are: Joseph Jenamy (1747-1819), Victoire Noverre, the guardian of the groom and merchant Leopold Wührer (1712-1776), Noverre's landlord Franz Xaver von Stegnern (1704-1772), the jeweler and brother-in-law of the groom's stepmother Joseph Fleischhäckl (1700-1795), the state official and poet Franz Heufeld (1731-1795) and "comme pere de l’epousée“ Jean Georges Noverre. This document was first published in my article "»Mademoiselle Jeunehomme«. Zur Lösung eines Mozart-Rätsels". In Mozart Experiment Aufklärung. Essays for the Mozart Exhibition 2006.

The 1768 marriage entry of Joseph Jenamy and Victoire Noverre (A-Wd, Tom. 64, fol. 206v)
dispensati in tribus
[iationibus] et Sp[on]sa etiam
in defu domicilij
[ito] lib:[ertatis] juram:[ento]
[ulati] sunt 11. Sept:[embris] [1768]
a C

Der Wohl Edle H:[err] Joseph Jenamÿ Bürg:[erlicher] Handels
Man led:[igen] St.[ands] geb: alhier des Hl: Franz Jenamÿ
Bürgl: Handelsmans et Franciscæ Ux:[oris] ehl: H:[err] Sohn
obtinuit veniam ætatis et declarationem fuit majorrenis
ab Aug
[ustissi]mo teste Leopoldo Wirer. Cambij Judice
et ejus majore.

    Mit der Wohl Edlen J:[ungfer] Victoria Noverre geb:[ürtig]
Von Straßburg. durch 15. Monath allhir des Johan Georg
Noverre K K: Ballet M[ei]st[e]rs Ludovicæ Ux:[oris] ehl:[iche] T:[ochter]
P:P:[arentes] sponsæ ambo adfuerunt in copulatione.
Testes. H:[err] Joseph Fleischhackel K: K: Jubilir
Hl: Baron Xaverius Freÿher V. Stenger[sic]. H:[err]
Franz Heüfeld K: K: Rechnungs officir.

In 1784 the couple filed for a divorce. And by the way: there is no proof that Victoire Jenamy ever visited Salzburg.

Note to journalists: owing to lack of time and peers this post was not peer-reviewed.

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2014. All rights reserved.

Updated: 25 August 2017

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