In Mozart’s Words provides multilingual access to an annotated version of the voluminous correspondence of Mozart and his family - approximately 1,400 letters - that will progressively be made available online on this website. The conceptual idea of the project is i) to offer a univocal database of all references to people, places and musical works contained in the letters, facilitating the systematic search of all cited occurrences, and ii) to provide access to background materials like reviews, newspapers, documents, objects, paintings, engravings, and books as a corollary to the historical-critical annotations.
The Mozart family letters are the most extensive and richly detailed correspondence of any composer of the eighteenth century or earlier and a fundamental source of information concerning daily life at the time and Mozart's own biography. Numerous details of his life - including details of the early tours and the composer's time in Vienna - are known only from the letters. By the same token, they also give information concerning his compositional activities, including otherwise unknown works. Even beyond illuminating the genesis, authenticity and chronology of his music, however, the letters also give evidence concerning its performance, including questions of ornamentation, scoring, tempo and the size of the orchestras he played with, in Salzburg and elsewhere.
This is why we chose to call the project In Mozart’s Words. The undertaking will be carried on over several years and will be made public on the European Mozart Ways site in the form of thematically or chronologically homogeneous modules. In this initial stage, the website hosts the 114 surviving letters sent by Mozart and his father Leopold to his mother Maria Anna and his sister Nannerl - plus a few other correspondents - during their three journeys to Italy, considered a fundamental destination of that epoch’s ‘Grand Tour’, so essential in the education of youth. The letters are given in the original German and, for the moment, in Italian, English and French translations. Nevertheless, the aim of the website is to present them in other languages as they become available, even if only partially.
At any time, a letter can be compared with the original holographs, duly accompanied by a diplomatic transcription and by the innovative, educational tool of a German version transcribed with modern spelling, provided by the Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg.
In dealing with a correspondence, and one originating in the 18th century at that, a pure textual approach does not suffice to guarantee effective search results, not only because the spelling of many names, both personal and geographical, is often inconsistent from one letter to another, or has been modified through the years, but also because in any correspondence - especially a family correspondence - more often than not people are not referred to through their names. Many references, in fact, remain implicit or allusive, the result of conventions or habits more or less established among the correspondents, or references to previous letters - including ones that are now lost - and live conversations.
It is for this reason that each letter has been analysed with great attention and, on the basis of the existing research, every reference has been identified and then manually connected to a subheading of the multi-lingual authority file. Thus, in a passage like 'There`s a Dominican priest here, a German from Bohemia, to whom our court sculptor used to confess, and so we performed our devotions in the Parish Church today' (letter from Bologna, 25 August 1770), the Dominican priest is identified and connected to Pietro Zerovnizky, our court sculptor to Johann Baptist Hagenauer, and the Parish Church to San Giacomo Maggiore, the parish church at the Croce del Biacco, near Bologna, where the Mozarts were hosted by Count Pallavicini-Centurioni in his villa.
Even when it is not possible to identify a reference, at least for now, the latter is nevertheless connected to a univocal dictionary heading ‘not identified‘. In this way, the entry can be completed at some future time, if more information becomes available.
Moreover, only a reference selection freed from its verbal formulation makes multi-lingual navigation possible, allowing the meaning of each citation to remain semantically unequivocal. Once a specific reference has been identified, the relevant dictionary identifier remains constant for every language.
With respect to inconsistencies of spellings, like Innsprugg, Insprug, Insprugg, or Mislievecek, Mislivececk, Mislivecek, Misliwetschek and Misliwetschek, they are always connected to an unequivocal identifier, in this case Innsbruck and Josef Mysliveček respectively. The various orthographic variants are nevertheless rendered accessible by a full-text search menu. Here, and here only, the user must be informed that the various linguistic versions might call up different numbers of results, due to editorial choices made by the publishers which provided the texts for the site. While the Italian publisher, for example, chose to respect the original spelling / wording, even when clearly wrong, the French publisher chose always to use the correct, normalised, current spelling / wording. We thought it preferable to mantain a strict correspondence between the published, printed versions of the letters and their digital versions, to allow their parallel use.
In some other limited cases the choices of the translators had a slight influence on the running of the database. The sentence ‘die frl: Schwester der Oberhofmeisterin grafin Lodron’ cites only two people (Schwester and Oberhofmeisterin) while the translations cite three: ‘la sig.na sorella della moglie del maggiordomo maggiore, la contessa Lodron’, ‘la comtesse Lodron, sœur de l`épouse de notre premier majordome’, ‘Countess Lodron, the sister of our chief steward`s wife’. This is because the German tendency to feminize the profession of one’s husband, thus indicating his wife - as in this case - is less used in other languages or was not the choice of the translators. On the contrary, in phrases such as ‘ich gieng ein paar stunde darauf zu den 3 Königen’ (letter of 21 September 1771, where Leopold Mozart refers to the no-longer-existing hotel ‘Ai Tre Re’ in Milan), the link to the dictionary identifier remains constant in every linguistic version: ‘Qualche ora dopo sono andato a trovarla ai 3 Königen ’ - ‘A few hours later, I went to call on her at the 3 Kings’ - ‘Je lui rendis visite quelques heures plus tard aux 3 Rois’. In other words, the choices made by different translators may be different (in this case, the question is whether to translate the name of the hotel or not), yet none of the versions has an influence on the identification of the reference.
In Mozart’s Words was initially been made possible thanks to the support of the Italian Committee ‘Le Vie di Mozart’, created by the Italian Ministry of Culture (MIBAC) as part of the Mozart 2006 celebrations, of the Milan Municipality, Cultural Direction, and of European Mozart Ways itself.
A further leg of the project was assured through a grant of the 'Mozart and Italy' EU project, which also provided the expert partnership of the HRI (Humanities Research Institute) of the University of Sheffield, managed by Michael Pidd , making possible the adoption of internationally recognized standards of software, text encoding and metadata.
The project is also based on long-time collaborations with several prestigious organizations, including the Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg, which provided the digital version of the original texts, checked and revised by Anja Morgenstern, allowed links to Mozart’s works as published by the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe and to all the letters in their original holographs as well as diplomatic transcriptions and modernised versions; the publisher Gruppo Editoriale Il Saggiatore, who provided the still-to-be published Italian translation by Elli Stern, Cesare De Marchi and Anna Rastelli; and Flammarion, publisher of the French edition: Correspondance. Lettres de Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, translated by Geneviève Geffray, Paris 1986. The English translation - there being no stylistically homogeneous and up-to-date integral version currently available - was commissioned expressly for this website from Stewart Spencer.
The project is under the academic direction of Cliff Eisen, Professor of Music at King’s College, London, and is coordinated by Patrizia Rebulla, partner at Castaliamusic s.n.c., Milano, a provider specializing in music data management.
Finally, some figures: the letters total 114, the places mentioned 173, locales within places 303, persons 452, Mozart’s works 42 and other composers’ works 50, generating a total of more than 14,500 citations.
Project Manager ‘In Mozart’s words’
Eisen, Cliff et al. In Mozart's Words, 'Introduction' <http://letters.mozartways.com>. Version 1.0, published by HRI Online, 2011. ISBN 9780955787676.